For years now, I’ve wanted to regain contact with the food I eat and feed my family. Gardening has been part of my lifestyle for a long time, so the transition to producing our own meat has been the next natural step.
“Getting in touch” with my food sounds nostalgic and homey. However, the reality of that endevour can seem harsh, especially to those who are far removed from coming to terms with where food actually comes from.
About three months ago, we purchased our first meat bird chicks, White Rocks. My 19 White Rocks have had 11 weeks of sunshine, non-GMO food, opportunities to forage and be with other farm animals, not to mention be loved on by my children. Although every one knew that these chickens weren’t going to be here as long as some of the other farm animals, they were always treated with love and respect.
From the beginning, they were being raised as food for our family, everyone knew that. Yet, on the eve of our first time processing, I found myself with a bit of an upset stomach. I didn’t sleep well and began to dread the trip.
Even though I had worked hard to provide excellent quality meat for my family, the entire project came into question in my mind again. Did I really want to be one taking the lives of these birds? Did I really want to do this at all?
As I packed the birds up to take on their “last trip”, I kept my “business” frame of mind. After all, that’s what these birds are raised for. They will never live a long life, regardless of my involvement, they aren’t designed to.
That said, I needed to repeat the logic behind this process to myself. Perhaps the thought process would be helpful for some of you who struggle with the whole life/death thing with raising your own meat.
As I see it, when it comes to consuming meat, you have 4 choices, they are as follows:
#1 -Be a Vegetarian
Enough said. If you’re a vegetarian, you don’t need to deal with how to acquire meat because you don’t eat it. This is a viable option for some and there’s nothing at all wrong with it. I was a vegetarian for 6 years. Problem was that it didn’t agree with my body and I was sicker than ever before at the end of the six years. I needed to reinstate meat into my diet.
When asked if he had ever considered becoming a vegetarian, Joel Salatin replied:
“Never crossed my mind,” he says. The problem that’s leading the “animals-are-people movement”, as he refers to it, is two-fold, in his view. First: “The industrial food system is so cruel and so horrific in its treatment of animals. It never asks the question: ‘Should a pig be allowed to express its pig-ness?’ And the second thing of course is the urbanisation of the world, to the point where people are not now connected to their ecological umbilical, so that the only connection anyone has to an animal is a pet cat or a pet dog. And that really gives you a very jaundiced view of cycles of life – death, regeneration.” Source
#2 – Close Your Eyes and Buy What’s at the Supermarket
Again, this is another viable option, I did this for years as well. I’m not saying that this is a recommended option, but an option nonetheless. You can ignore not only the abuse of animals in “Big Farming” but also turn your head to the link between dirty factories and food-borne disease.
“Food, Inc suggests some shocking links between big government and big business in the food industry, along with some appalling statistics. For instance, in the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled 25% of the market; now the top four control more than 80% – meaning that if ever meat is tainted by bacteria or chemicals it has the potential to reach vast numbers of people; in 1972, 50,000 food safety inspections were conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration, and three decades later that number had gone down to 9,164; 70% of all processed foods have some genetically modified ingredient; in 2007, E coli from food affected 73,000 Americans – something the film correlates directly with the increase in consumption of processed foods and the scale and cleanliness of the country’s huge industrial slaughterhouses. But beyond the statistics, the sheer sight of carcasses being dunked in ammonia, endlessly and mechanically, would make any meat eater want to stop eating meat. The very banality of it – the fact that we could, the filmmakers suggest, change the world with every bite yet somehow refuse to – is horrifying.“
#3 – Support the Organic Farmer
Here’s a good option and again, I did this for years as well. Farmers work much harder than you’ll ever know, unless you become one. I’ve often wondered over the last 11 weeks of raising our first batch of meat birds why chicken doesn’t cost $20 per pound!! Just trying to keep these birds alive and safe from predators should earn $100K per year!
Supporting organic farming practices, whether you purchase organic at the grocery store or have a connection with a local farmer you trust, this is a good option for many.
#4 – Grow Your Own
This is your final option for meat consumption. You know, I think given the space to do it in, that many people would consider raising their own meat….except for the “processing” part. No one likes that.
I’m quite sure that “processing” animals for meat never becomes a pleasant task. However, for those who want to see their own food being raised as well as be assured that they were fed and treated well, it’s a hurdle that must be overcome.