Meet your Meat
Six weeks ago, I chopped the head off of a live chicken. Then I plucked, cleaned, and cooked it. All in the name of animal ethics. After almost a full semester in Animals and Ethics class, I said enough to antibiotic-filled poultry. I decided to take my food choices into my own hands”¦literally. So I attended a Meet your Meat workshop at the Duke Campus Farm in Hillsborough, NC. At the farm, I learned how to "kill, de-feather, and process a live chicken in a humane and efficient manner."
As a result of working for my meal, I have been quite responsible with my food choices over the past month. I pledged to eat ethically treated animals only, animals that I feel comfortable enough to kill. But I must admit, the family pressure and tradition got the better of me last Thursday, and I ate a healthy serving of factory-farmed turkey. Sure, this is a small and isolated incidence, but what is a selective omnivore to do as the holiday season ramps up?
First of all, we need to slow down and reconsider our food for a moment. Meat has become so readily available and cheap, Americans rarely stop to think about the life of the critter. However, this holiday season we owe it to the animals and to our families to find out where the turkey on the table comes from. Chances are, she grew up thousands of miles away in a cramped and crowded warehouse. She was surrounded by diseased and crippled birds the entirety of her abnormally short life. These are awful conditions by anyone’s standards, and I’m not even describing the worst aspects.
However, we have the option to choose food products from animals that were treated humanely. Secondly, as a society of omnivores, we need to become more educated as consumers. We deserve good quality food and the animals deserve a happy life. By refusing to purchase poorly treated animals from inhumane companies, the consumers can regain hold of the industry. We can decide to eat the bird that had plenty of ranging space, clean water, and access to sunshine. On sustainable farms, these animals are respected as living creatures and are killed in a dignified manner. They are also healthier for us, and they taste a heck of a lot better than animals raised in a factory.
Ethical farming does have disadvantages, to be sure; it is more expensive and is not as readily available as most of us would like. For instance, most heritage breed chickens are ready for slaughter in no less than 12 weeks. Factory produced birds are engineered for slaughter in nearly half that time. However, the sustainable product’s quality and the quality of life for the animal are exponentially increased.
I am not trying to convert anyone to strict veganism, here. I do believe meat protein is an integral part of a healthy diet. However, I also believe if you can’t kill it, you shouldn’t eat it.
Presently, it would greatly benefit each of us to take a moment and research the closest heritage poultry farm; to attend a farmer’s market; to consider raising backyard chickens; to plant a garden. I met my meat last month. Will you?
For more information on the factory farming food industry and its effect on the environment and human health, go to Factory Farming.
Hen image by the author.