Monday, May 14, 2012

on eating meat (and being a mother hen)

 
I swear these chickies have already grown so much! At just 5 days old, they're sporting beautiful wing feathers and individual personalities. They are (all 26 of them!) doing wonderfully well so far. I'm quite enjoying being their foster mama hen, making sure they are warm enough, have fresh food and water always, and cleaning a couple little pasty bums now and then.


Many people have expressed reservations and concerns about raising their own animals for food, especially citing the fear of becoming too attached; Most especially where children are concerned. I have to admit having these same fears, even at this early stage. Yet, for me personally, I see my choices as either only eating meat I know for a fact was humanely and respectfully raised, or not eating meat at all. So, choosing to eat meat therefore means it must be as local as possible, so I can see and be satisfied for myself that the animals are treated properly. This might be a case of my inner control freak coming out, and although that tendency can oftentimes be a burden, I see it as an asset in this case! Aside from beef, sourcing local meat that meets my standards has proven difficult. And so here we are raising our own birds for food.


And also, here I am, working on fully embracing this process - surrendering myself to the emotions, learning, and self-reflection that is inevitable when one chooses to deal so directly with life and death. And the heaviness of losing an animal as compared to choosing to take an animal's life is something I'm certainly still parsing for myself.


For this moment, though, I'm going to let myself be a mother hen. To let go of trying so hard not to get attached. For I know in two months time I will be letting go again, even more so. Why should I hold back nourishing the lives that will soon provide my family with so much nourishment? Instead, I will chose the path where I need be most brave, yet most vulnerable. Time will tell if that's the wise choice.

16 comments:

  1. When we first got our first chicks, we talked a lot about this very issue - what do we do when they stop laying so productively? How do we learn to butcher them ourselves so we can give them the best life and death we possibly can? Will we actually be able (emotionally) to do so?

    My feelings waver very much on that last question, as well, but you've put it nicely here.

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  2. Brilliantly said... so brave yet so vulnerable.

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  3. I so admire you for being willing to take this on. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it all... yet I happily ate a chicken sandwich for lunch.

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  4. When my children were in high school, we went through a similar situation. Each year, the children participated in the Ag Program in school, raising animals of their choice. Once, we mistakenly named a pig my daughter was raising. It is not easy to let go when the time comes.....but, we did. I guess it is part of living the country life.

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  5. Brave and beautiful. Good on you!

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  6. Jaime, as always, you take the best photos.

    I think you're doing right by your children to start raising your own meat when they are young. They will take all their clues from you, as to how to handle it emotionally. I think part of the problem today, is that folks have been so removed from the process, that they are not emotionally equipped for the realities of eating meat. I had a friend in NC, who from the beginning told her children which animals were for meat (they raised cattle). When they wanted to name them, the only names allowed were "Hamburger," "Beef Steak," "Stew Meat." Those kids turned out very well adjusted.

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  7. When I was in high school, my dad put up hay for two little old ladies outside of Boulder. They called him in a panic one night because Charlie wouldn't nurse. Charlie was newborn Hereford calf. Dad brought Charlie home and my brother and I bottle fed Charlie. He lived with our horses and when the time came dad traded (with a friend of his) Charlie for an unnamed side of beef. And it's not like we hadn't been eating beef our entire lives, but this was Charlie. Lots of memories with that one.

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  8. My parents raise cattle and face similar issues. But their animals really do have amazing lives filled with so much love. Saying goodbye was hard at first but got easier as the conviction set in that their animals lived lives with such kindness shown.

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  9. I think it is really a wonderful idea and something we as eat meaters should face at some stage (I am yet to though). You never know until you try it and I think this is something that will get easier with time. Afterall it's what our ancestors did. I think our modern lives are just so removed from this now that it takes some adjustment. They are cute though :)
    Thank you for your kind comment on my last post x

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    1. They are way cute! Hoping they get ugly ;)

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  10. So happy to hear all this. It does get easier to kill the chickens, and eat them happily. After a good healthy happy life and being taken care of it's time for them to take care of you and your family. It was exciting for us to be able to raise our own chicken, and it's something we all kiddos and all do together.

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  11. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, stories, and wisdom. I think the (no) naming issue is a very important one.

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  12. Oh my goodness, this is so timely. I am going through this very line of thinking right at the moment! I have nearly completed a 'broody coop' to keep two hens specifically for hatching chicks to raise for meat. Several steps behind you, I look forward to reading how you cross the inevitable hurdles. I have to agree wholeheartedly though on the positive aspect of raising your own meat with love and care and treating them with respect come the end, and finally doing the full life justice when it comes to putting it on the plate. ThankYOU so much for this post!! x

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    1. Hi Christine! Wishing you the best with your hatch :) At some point, I'd like to try that more natural way of raising chicks, too - I had been thinking about how "artificial" incubators and heat lamps are, but am happy to at least have a start on the path....

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  13. This interests me enormously, Jaime. You are right about the meat. I hope you will share your journey with us. Given how our meat comes to us, this is certainly a thoughtful and kind solution.

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