This post is for the Fresh Foods Wednesday Blog Hop, Week 5!
Say, question for you...after a grueling day of intensive psychotherapy, paperwork, a long ass drive, 2 coffees and a salad dressing spill on your favorite trousers, what do YOU like to do to unwind?
I like butchering things.
Last Thursday, amidst the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, I decided to cull and process my last meat bird. She was HUGE. Absolutely ridiculously and unequivocally the largest hen I have every seen. Hence her short lived nickname of Lusty Busty. She was also very loud and it was time to finish the job I started lo these many months ago.
|All of these meat birds look MAD.|
And let me just say that I have never had a chicken head come off as quickly or as cleanly as Lusty Busty's.
I did my routine. Gave her special cuddles, hung her upside down, put her to sleep (well, at least had her close her eyes...) thanked her for the nourishment she was going to give my family, and then did the deed - humane and quick. And her head just popped off. I was in shock. I had to kind of run away for a bit and then come back. Which has become my signature move - make the initial cut and then turn and high tail it out of there. I don't like to watch. And, despite my bravado, I really am quite affected each time I cull a bird. But I am good at compartmentalizing and the butchering is put in it's box on it's shelf in my brain and there it remains.
But I was thinking that culling and processing my own meat has made me a more conscientious carnivore. And then I was thinking....duh. Of course it does. But it's more than that little understatement. It's a new appreciation for the processing part of eating meat. And it's a new orientation to myself as a badass.
The H is a butcher for a large chain store. Good pay, good benefits, paid vacation and solid foundation for the family. It goes without saying that his paycheck and creative budgeting got us through some tough times in the land of grad school. But - he also has a different orientation to factory meat than I do. He needs it. For his livelihood. And for ours. Without factory meat, he has no job. People just aren't buying enough of the super expensive "free range" stuff to staff a butcher shop.
And therein lies the rub. If people are so used to factory meat and have no real options to buy other meat then they will never change their mind or become used to spending 8.50$ on a pound of ground beef vs. 3.50$. We need bigger change than what we are currently seeing. It's starting slow now, but it's gaining momentum.
That being said - not everyone has had a chance or has the nerve or want to butcher their own meat. It is this select group of people (aka - giant herd of geekwads) like me who want to get closer to the art of raising and consuming their own stock. And it is part science, part art, and part brute intellectual strength. Because raising a cute fluffy chick to a bull brahma baby and then putting her in the kill noose is no small task. It require a certain moral flexibility (I use that term on purpose) and a higher level of thinking to achieve the task of the Sunday Chicken Dinner. It can't all be puppies and sunshine. Sometimes the knives have to be sharpened.
So I think ethically raising backyard meat means many things to me. Not only being a badass for killing and eviscerating meat (because I think all of us who take it to the limit like that are badasses.) It's understanding what type of life each chicken (or rabbit, or goat) should have before they are processed for our own gain. I don't believe that man was given dominion over animals, as it says in the great work of fiction - the Bible (whoops, lost some readers there, sorry.) I don't believe we are better than them, or more equipped in some way or superior. I think we just have different brains that think in different ways that therefore makes it easier to raise, keep and cull livestock for the perpetuation of our species. Or whatever. We should be kind to them, keep them well, treat them as we would like to be treated (respect, good food, proper housing) and then give them a humane slaughter. Everything dies. And everything has to eat. Just the facts, ma'am.
But I will not name them. The meat birds, that is. Or single one hen out of the rest. I will not think of them as any more than animals I get to share space with who provide me with food. They are not my equals. They are my charges. And they are food. And the egg birds don't get named either but they do get the hash tag "ladies" that I chortle out in a sing song voice as I am bringing them treats. And I pet them. Mostly because the egg squat still cracks me up and also because I want them to know on whatever basic level that they are cared for and have a place in this world.
It is at this time that I will remind everyone that a rooster's gonads are bigger than his brains. Why? Because it's effin' hilarious and also because I want to put their smarts into context, lest you think I'm drowning in fuzzies over here.
I have a very convoluted and somewhat haphazard relationship with culling backyard meat. It's not going to take over my brain or make me drown in some sort of existential pool or self realization. But it's not one dimensional either. I have been trained to see the world as "both-and" instead of "either-or" and that therapeutic training has helped me tremendously in my quest to get closer to my food.
Raising chickens for meat is both fun and painful. It's both interesting and hard work. It's both sad and exhilarating. It's both ethical and unethical. And it can be all these things together because that's what life is. Both-And. No absolutes here, friends. Ain't nothing but gray area. Giddyup.
But I will say that she was delicious. 325 for 90 minutes, brushed with olive oil, stuffed with homegrown onions and garlic, sprinkled with garlic salt and pepper and accompanied by new potatoes and yellow wax beans fresh from the garden made for one finger licking good meal. And gorgeous golden stock afterwards.
Both-And is so yummy sometimes.