As the day to process the meat chickens drew imminently closer, I found myself going through an internal process as well. I seriously contemplated becoming a vegetarian (again) - I was briefly vegan in college (weren't we all?!) - and on more than one occasion I questioned my sanity in taking the plunge to raise our own meat. I had a bit of a meltdown at one point, wishing I had someone else to do all this "dirty work" for me. I reminded myself that these birds had a better life and more compassionate death than any other meat I've ever consumed. Still, I wanted to keep putting off the "harvest meat birds" date on the calendar, somehow convincing myself that just one more week would magically make the ordeal easier. But then, my brother-in-law came to stay with us a few days, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to have an extra pair of hands, as well as someone who was willing and had a bit of experience with the process himself. He grew up in Vietnam, where the only way to afford meat was to grow it yourself! So just like that, the day snuck up. The birds were exactly ten weeks. I wasn't sure how to properly say my goodbyes. I thanked them, and kind of wished they could comprehend how much their sacrifice meant to us - Then I became glad they live for the moment and don't contemplate death.
There is such a heaviness to the kind and amount of work it takes to help transition something that's alive into something that's consumed at a dinner table. I'm not sure I can describe it right now, or that I will ever be able to fully comprehend the magnitude of it. As we discussed our experience, though, we were able to articulate the deeply felt connection we have to the life and death of these chickens. Their death allows our continuation of life, and neither of these exists in isolation. Neither is without purpose, and the end of one isn't really an end at all, but a passing to something else. If the life that was taken lived well, and the person taking it is honorable and kind, what passes on is good and honorable as well. What is consumed is nourishing and filling in every sense. And perhaps the opposite of this is also true. Which is why thoughtful consumption of food, most especially meat, is so important (you don't literally have to know your food, as we do, but certainly it is good and wise to know where your food comes from). Truly, this is what it means to eat well.