Looking My Dinner in the Face

I learned something new today. An opportunity presented itself to learn about something I’ve always been curious about, and I seized it. And yes, it does have something to do with chickens.

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!)

5 thoughts on “Looking My Dinner in the Face

  1. Bravo to you!

    Probably should avoid Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” also – I don’t think things have changed appreciably since it was published. (I have not read it myself, just know of it.)

  2. This is one of the main reasons why I went vegetarian many years ago…. although I have started to eat meat again in the last couple of years. I hope to be able to shop and eat local. I sort of fail at this sometimes – but I also remember that by going to chains (such as Red Robin!) I’m supporting my neighbors who are working there. If I make an awesome connection with people at a larger company, I will be a steady supporter of that establishment. If it’s a not so much situation, then I will find a local place to support.

    I’m in talks with a friend about doing organic local farm produce delivered to our door since we are embarking on a gluten and yeast free diet together. My sister and her family are also a part of the CSA local farms. They get a box of veggies every week (I think) and it’s introduced them to some amazing things. Brooklyn, my niece, is probably the only 19 month out there who loves veggies as much as she does!

    Congrats on being able to sit through the slaughter, I can’t quite stomach the thought and it makes me second guess being able to eat it. I would most definitely die in the zombie apocalypse!

  3. -Blanche, I have read “The Jungle” and did find it very upsetting. Enough so to turn me into a vegetarian for a few months back when I was in high school!

    -Genay, The CSA local farms are great! We’re thinking about getting some of our produce from one, and of course the farmer’s markets are great during the summer. We love trying new fruits and veggies from local farms! I have no doubt you’d find a way to weather the zombie apocalypse, and you should know it gave me a huge smile to read that part of your comment!

  4. Erika, I found your site googling images for chipmunks :)
    I really dug your entry on your Chicken experience, and after reading it, may actually be another pushing factor for me not to eat meat (any more or as much).
    I don’t feel you had any intention of “converting” people, but I believe we don’t need to eat animals any more to survive and it’s a remnant of our savage survival traditions. Meaning we just eat meat because we are used to it as our ancestors were.

    After seeing the photo of the chicken you posted and how amazing (beautiful and colorful) it looks(ed?) I wondered why I would think I had to kill and eat that animal when there is enough food and nourishment to satisfy me.

    Thank you for sharing :)

  5. -TJ Regno, Welcome and thanks for saying hi! I’m so surprised how many people find my blog after searching for chipmunks!!!

    Interesting that this post affirmed your beliefs! I have a few vegetarian friends and they all do it for different reasons. I think if I weren’t married to an avowed carnivore I might be tempted to head the way of the green leafy eaters myself. As for me, it definitely convicted me to buy local as much as possible. I feel better about eating an animal of I know it was loved and had a happy life.

    Good luck with the decision!

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