Melo Farms

It's all swine with us!


A Relationship with your food

Posted on September 17, 2012 at 8:20 AM

I'm asked on a weekly basis how can I kill the animals I care for. The query as written is not verbatim. The actual questions run the gamut infused with you heartless bastard to true disconnected disbelief. I've honed my sound bite response to 'it's not my favorite day of the week' but this does not cover the true depth of my conflicted feelings about raising animals for food.

So let's begin there, food. I had winnowed down my meat to fish and buffalo by the time I started the journey to raising my own food. I like chicken and as a 40 something, with no actual farming experience I was full enough of myself to think I could raise and kill chickens for food. Well, I was right about learning a skill set but it started a journey that evolved me from consumer to conservator.

The only true flavor of the initial experience can accurately be shared by my best friend Carol. She was the first call I made when the chicks came home and shared loads of phone calls sharing weeks of innocent awe and discovery raising these awesome animals. Chickens! They have a pecking order! They have friends, habits, personality and they go through a tremendous growth change over the span of a short 6 week period. Cute, adorable day old chick. Week old fuzz bugs just showing the tiniest tail feather. 2 week olds, skin showing moving from fuzz to feather in unadorable awkward fashion, no longer really attractive and pooping like mad. 3 weeks old, visually better with most of their permanent feathers filled in to make them pretty again. Week 4, the mini full feathered versions of the adults they'll become. Week 5 through 12 the absolute best of dinner chicken life. They forage, strengthen their friend circles, chase bugs, test their wings, rise with the sun and rest with the sunset. It's a glorious cycle to watch and celebrate.

The first group I raised I took to a processor. So much anxiety in crating the chickens, transporting them 30 miles, listening to their cries and squawks of uncertainty, discomfort and general panic at the changed surrounding and handling. Then the ultimate moment of out of the crate and throats cut. I stayed for it all. The processors were efficient. I came home with a cooler containing 25 well raised chicken bodies. And tears. The yard was empty of the chirping I'd grown accustom to and the life that had thrived just hours before. Plus the true test was to come. Could I actually eat the very chickens I'd held, petting and marveled over? To be honest the first one I cooked I gave myself permission to just serve her and eat the sides. But I did take a bite and the chicken was every taste I'd been wanting. Tender, juicy, clean, fresh. I didn't feel polluted after drinking chicken broth.

The journey had begun. I was no longer a consumer. Chickens were broken down into parts and pieces and vacuum sealed. Chicken served that year was savored and portioned. Friends were judged for chicken worthiness. Once served there was no waste tolerated. 2 per month was the allotted ration. And in the following spring the reality that I'd need to change my on the road work schedule to ensure I was home for a continuous 4 week stretch to begin the raise cycle again was entrenched. My sister was begged into stewardship to help me care for the next 25 when I had business trips in weeks 5 through 8. And in response to the humanness of transporting chickens to kill I made the next leap and steeled myself for learning how to process them myself.

That's another blog entry so I'll stop here. I believe in a relationship with your food as ultimately it's an act of caring for yourself. I own the relationship and the responsibility. And when it's all judged in the end I hope I've given our animals the best life and the best environment. I'm no longer a consumer. And as the years have marched forward I'm thankful to the family and friends who tolerate my non consumption of other animals. I don't eat meat out anymore. Animals are thinking, feeling beings and if they've been raised poorly, confined, and denied the nature of their animalness I refuse the support the system that supports those types of grow operations. Because, by extension I have a relationship and impact on those animals as well.

Categories: Melo Farm Life