How I Can Bear to Eat the Animals I Raise – Week #10- 8/10/22
This weekend we butchered the 39 chickens I raise to nourish our family. It is always a difficult, spiritual experience for me.
I raise these birds from chick to slaughter. I do this because my kids LOVE chicken. They were always requesting it, and their father started buying it from the coop. As a farmer who already raises pork for home consumption, I thought it silly to buy chicken. So I built a movable chicken tractor and started raising them myself.
The birds grow quickly, and just two months after they come to the farm, they are ready to be harvested.
I don’t look forward to it.
I often procrastinate scheduling the day it’s going to happen, because I just don’t want to do it. Taking the lives of animals in order to feed myself and my family is not easy.
But here’s the thing, I firmly believe that if I’m going to eat meat, witnessing what it means to raise and kill the animals is vital.
Employees sometimes ask me, “How can you eat the animals you raise? Don’t you get attached? How are you able to eat them?”
What I want to counter with is “How can you eat meat when you have no idea how that animal was treated or what was involved in taking its life?” But I don’t. What I do do is explain how I believe that the fundamental problem with our entire food system and is that each of us is divorced from what it means to actually grow food – whether it’s meat, dairy, or vegetables. By separating consumers from the process involved in production, it allows us to consume in ways we might not otherwise were we to know and feel the whole process.
I want to know and feel the entirety of the process. And I want to eat animals that were treated humanely and well while they were alive. My chickens live outside, eat organic grain, and eat vegetable scraps. They live a good life. A short one, but a good one.
Butcher day is a sad day. Michael and usually some other farm folks will come help out with processing the birds (defeathering, eviscerating, packing, etc.). But I do the killing alone. I hold each bird. I look it in the eye. I thank it for nourishing my family. I tell it I’m sorry. I put it in the killing cone, gently pulling its head out through the bottom. I take the sharp knife and slit its throat. I watch and listen as the blood drains. I hold the feet as the life shakes out of the animal. Once its dead, I cut off its head. Then crate by crate, I bring over the warm bodies to be processed.
It’s horrible. It’s sad. It’s gruesome. It smells awful. I’m splattered with blood by the end of it. Sometimes I have to sit down and cry. But it’s the only way I’m willing to eat chicken.