Saturday, July 28, 2012

day of reckoning


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.

14 comments:

  1. I think you summed it up well - you gave the birds a much 'better life" than at some commercial plant (I refuse to call them farms) and "their death allows our continuation of life". It kind of takes me back to The Lion King and the circle of life thing they had going.

    Now, remind me of this when my time comes, because I'll be way out on the edge of the ledge!

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  2. Jaime, I don't think I've ever read it more perfectly articulated (if that makes sense). I so agree with everything you've written.

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    1. Thank you, Susan! That really means a lot coming from you.

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  3. A very touching post on a not-so-touching process :)

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  4. You put that all so beautifully. We just finished processing our meat chickens last week, and it is definitely dirty work, but in the end it is all worth it.
    Angela Kelly

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  5. Another definition for nutrition. You said that so well.

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  6. Perfectly stated. Thank you for your intention :-)

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  7. I know I couldn 't do what you've done. You're the bigger girl here. Good for you.

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  8. You did beautifully, Jaime. I may have chickened out (hehe) but what your family is doing is paving the way for others to eat responsibly. I think it's a great way to bring up your kids.

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  9. What a nice job of conveying some of these complicated thoughts. We just went to a poultry processing workshop yesterday and learned the whole thing hands-on, start to finish. It was a humbling, empowering, powerful, and weirdly amazing experience.

    From the practical side of things, how much meat did the chickens give you? We ate one of our two birds last night, and even though it was NOT a meat bird (leghorn rooster), it tasted amazing. We used every last bit of that bird. I kept thanking my bird as I learned to process him.

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    1. That's awesome! I don't have a scale, but they are pretty big! I would guess at least 5 pounds (dressed weight) on average; some of the roosters are more I'm sure. Beautiful birds. I'll do a more detailed post soon :)

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  10. Bravo to you and your family. I'm sure you will savor that meat to it's fullest.
    We just ate our first backyard-grown chicken. It was killed by a raccoon, but opened my eyes to the delicious meat we have right in our backyard (something I've put off because of the, well...killing. But our hens are getting older, laying less, and it seems inevitable)

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  11. I loved reading this. It felt like I was writing what I wrote. Congratulations on getting over the hump. And your first meal looks DIVINE. I could pretty much smell it while looking at the pictures. :)

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