Jody and Griffin, some friends of ours,are getting into the chicken raising business, with the intention of selling the eggs and meat. Curious about the process, I asked if I could be a part of it. They said yes, they were butchering some chickens on Wednesday, would I be interested in participating?
I said yes, and that’s how I found myself hanging out at a chicken farm this morning.
When I showed up at the farm, I got the grand tour and what I saw was happy chickens. They had lovely enclosures with plenty of room to walk around and spread their wings. They had large, green pastures to peck around in. These were happy birds.
Cindy, the woman who owns the farm, clearly had an emotional attachment to the birds. She told me she’d talked to the condemned birds the previous night, letting them know it was their time to go. And when it was their time to go? It was done with dignity. I suppose there’s no painless way to kill a chicken, but if there’s anything close, it’s the way they did it.
Even though I observed, I couldn’t quite work up the nerve to do the deed myself. I did, however, help pluck and dress the chickens afterward. I learned a lot about anatomy, and feel confident I could prepare a chicken for dinner should the occasion ever arise for me to kill my own dinner.
I’m still processing the experience. I don’t think a normal person can watch something die without feeling that as a spiritual impact of some kind.
For now, though, I can say one thing with certainty: I’m having serious second thoughts about buying our meat from grocery stores. After watching the happy chickens and knowing what their lives were like before they were killed, I’m not sure I want to eat chickens from commercial vendors.
There’s just something very meaningful about looking your dinner in the face. I know, you’d think it would be weird. But it wasn’t. It was really neat to know exactly what the chickens ate, where they lived, and how they were handled. I think of all the food documentaries out there shedding light on the meat industry and think maybe I’d be better off without watching them.
Because I know what I saw, and I know what I felt. It felt…respectful. My friend prayed over the chicken before slitting their throats, and that felt right. When I eat those chickens, I’ll know they were grass-fed, free range birds, and that feels right. I don’t need to know the particulars of the mis-treatment of those animals to know that this is a better alternative. When it’s right, you know.
I don’t know if I’ll ever need to use the information I learned, but I don’t think that was the important part of today. I think the important part was me coming to terms with where my meat comes from. Today was an interesting day, and while I’m certain I haven’t found the bottom of this particular barrel of emotions, I’m confident I’ll like what I find there.
(PS: If you’re local to Seattle and want to get down with local farmers who raise happy chickens, check out Wholesome Eats Pastured Poultry!)