Turkeys are wonderful and inquisitive creatures. I found it hard to reconcile with the fact we were growing this one for food.
Thursday is THANKSGIVING. It’s the day of overstuffing yourself on turkey, ham, turducken, or whatever yummy deliciousness you may put on your tables. This year for me, I’ve got a new view of the food we are bringing to the table. For the first time in my life we grew our own chickens, and had our turkeys processed to eat. This, all by itself has changed something. Not in the way that you might expect. I’m still never going to be a vegetarian. It’s changed how I respect my ancestors, how I think about small farmers, and how much waste I’m willing to accept as ok.
It was hard. We started with a bunch of baby chicks of the variety Red Broilers. They were adorable, at one point they were friendly, they would perch on us, and we would laugh about it, remembering that soon these chickens would make a sacrifice for us. We cared for them daily, being careful not to name them. When the first one died of natural causes at 9 weeks, we all were sad. We still knew we would one day eat them. Two weekends ago, we saw that our chickens were now at the size to be slaughtered. This fact fell kind of heavy, but we decided that we grew them for this purpose, that is their purpose (these are heritage meat chickens but they don’t do well if you let them live long), and quite honestly they weren’t looking as vigorous as our laying hens. Two hours later, we had only killed and cleaned two. It was hard, gross, work. It wouldn’t have taken so long, but the plucking part was tedious and time consuming. The actual death part we executed well, with no chance of suffering. We raised those chickens to eat, we processed them, and we have eaten them. Every last piece of meat from those chickens will be used because I cared for them. I looked them in the eye every day and made sure they had food and water and that they ranged out into the grass and woods. Our chickens lived one hell of a life. I don’t think I can purposely eat a factory raised chicken again without thinking about it. This is a game changer for me. It’s been to easy to dismiss the fact that while I’m omnivorous, I don’t have to look anything in the eye that I buy from a grocery store. Neither do you. I think you should.
I think we’ve got all this “civilized” stuff wrong. To be civilized we have to be able to do things with purpose and not abandon. We don’t eat with purpose, we don’t raise our own food so we’re disconnected from the creatures and plants that supply it. We have unplugged ourselves from the most honorable traditions of humanely raising food so that we can ignore the ugly truths that something has to die for us to eat. It really doesn’t matter if it’s a plant or a chicken, to quote a person I watched on YouTube (I can’t remember her name or find the video again) “that’s just a vertebrate predjudice.” I think this is where society has gone wrong. We are too quick to ignore these truths and as such we have no reverence for the effort, the connections, the lives we take. If we did, most of us would eat differently, think more holistically, and recognize that food should be healthy, from it’s pure form to it’s cooked form. we would recognize that to throw a half eaten chicken in the trash is to waste a life. No matter how small and birdlike that life is.
Red Broiler at one week onld
Fully Finished at 12 weeks
So this Thanksgiving, when I sit down with my family to eat the turkey that we finished, and the ham that some farmer grew, and the deviled eggs that my layers produced, and the squash that helps feed a farmers family somewhere, and then when I go pick up my farm grown fresh tree, I will be saying a prayer to thank god for all of these animals, people, and the ability for me to see that living a life of truth is far better than ignoring it.
In case you are wondering if I plan on raising more animals to eat, the answer is yes. Will I kill them myself? The answer is yes whenever possible. I believe that people are omnivorous and if they have the resources may choose to be vegetarian. I am omnivorous. In seeing this truth, I recognize that I eat meat. Meat comes from animals. The only way to ensure that I eat the most humanely and healthfully raised meat is to know where it comes from. My animals will always receive the best care I can provide, making sure that they have natural conditions, a variety of healthy natural food, minimal if any medications, and in the end a thank you, prayer, and a quick death free from horrible factory growing and slaughter conditions. That’s what I can do, and if you are an omnivore, and you have the space to do it, I urge you to do it too.
Be Thankful for all you have, and all those who came before you allowing you to have it.