Where Meat Comes From; The Story Of Our First Butcher Day


barred rock chickenMy first butcher day. It is a strange milestone to achieve, never having killed anything more than a bug. We had one Barred Rock rooster and three guineas chosen for the day, having rounded them up the night before. The rooster is one that we had raised from a day old chick and had grown into a mean, abusive bird; mean to us and abusive to his chicken lady friends, scratching all their feathers out on their backs. He had to go.

An old guy at the farm store told us that if you separate the rooster for a couple of weeks and feed him as much as he will eat, he will be more tender, as his stress and testosterone levels will be reduced being apart from the flock. So that is what we did. By Butcher Day, the rooster had been by himself in the shop for three weeks, eating and eating and eating. And he was still trying to scratch our eyeballs out, despite the fact that he was in a cage. Lord how I hated that stupid rooster.

My loyal friend Sue was the impetus to actually getting this done. I don't think I would have had the nerve to ever do it if it weren't for her desire to learn right along with me. The little girls and I rode out to Sue's house in the old beater farm truck, four birds in two cages riding along in back, oblivious to their fate. We stopped at a gas station along the way, and I wondered if the people around me knew what I was about to do, or were just curious as to why the crazy lady in overalls was carting around a bunch of noisy birds. Perhaps they weren't paying attention at all, and it was just my own guilty conscience yelling at me.

We rolled up to Sue's place, the girls in the back of the truck unsure of how this was going to unfold. They wanted to go and I wanted them there, to learn that if a person eats meat, something has to pay for it with their life. It is an unpleasant truth when you are an omnivore, and I truly feel that when human beings are removed from that fact that there becomes a great disconnect from the world, a mental deficiency created in understanding the process of where meat comes from. It doesn't just magically appear in the grocery stores, wrapped in a tidy plastic package from The Meat Fairy. I believe everyone who eats meat should witness this process at least once, if for no other reason than to gain some long forgotton respect for the animlas that die so that we can eat. For most of us, watching something be killed, actually bleeding and dying in front of us, is ugly and uncomfortable, something that we do NOT want to admit has taken place every time we eat meat. It may sound stupid but it is true. It is a fact that at some point in our American history of convenience, truth and respect for life have been discarded, as easily as we now throw out a McDonald's hamburger wrapper.

We had gone to Sue's because her husband has butchered many animals in his 85 years on this planet, familiar with the days of old and of self sufficiency, and we needed someone to show us what the heck to do. Sue and I had discussed this for months, and I had put it off for months. She wanted to use the stump/ax method, while I wanted to do the killing cones/razor blade method. We decided that we would use a stump, prepared with two nails by Sue. Cully had sharpened the ax and Sue had her whole set up ready to go by the time we got to her place. Sue had grown up Mennonite, with her mother's side being Amish, so she remembered chickens being butchered from when she was a kid. I was just hoping those memories would serve us, and the birds, well.dead chicken

Sue hopped up into the back of the truck and got the rooster out of his cage, grabbing him and holding his head tucked under her arm to keep him calm. We walked out to the clearing where her garden is, and there was The Stump. I felt like I was approaching the beheading of one of King Henry's wives. Beheading? What was I doing???? It was a bit surreal, I must admit.

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