life and death and 100 of the cutest things you have ever seen.

I have been wanting to write a blog post about my feelings on the expansion of our co-operative farm for awhile now~ ever since the day I took my first bite of our goat Thunder to be exact. But it is so sensitive to me, and hard to clarify my own internal conflict over eating an animal I cared for.

There was a small period of my life about 10 years ago where I was a vegetarian. From that time I came to the realization that it wasn't eating meat, it was the treatment of the meat when it was alive from both a health perspective and humane perspective that I had an issue with. I have no desire to go into the horrors of factory farming here, but I will say that it breaks my heart, and I have tried to shy away from that option as much as possible. Most of the meat I buy now comes from this incredible farm that is about 20 minutes away.

The past couple of years we have owned milking goats and egg-laying chickens. It wasn't until Thunder was born that we were presented with our first hard choice. Although it can be possible to find a male goat an alternative home, in general male goats are eaten after a half year or so (One of our goat books actually recommends drowning them immediately after birth). As he was our very first baby goat, we named him before he had stood up on his little shaky legs. We knew it was risky since there was a chance we would eat him, but we couldn't help ourselves. Six months flies by though, and soon enough this past winter we were stuck with the choice of Thunder. I will admit there was a part of me that wanted to send him away. Let someone else eat him, just so long as I didn't. There is no logic behind it. Why would I send away meat that I knew had been raised with love and good food, to in turn eat meat from somewhere else where I didn't know the conditions of the animal's life? It made no sense, but my heart sort-of wanted that anonymity.
There is a strange comfort in the disconnectedness with food, esp. with meat. If I can eat a pepperoni pizza without thinking about the cow and what sort of life it lived I am happy. Deep down am I happy with this ignorance? probably not, but on the surface it sure is a lot easier to see it as spicy pepperoni instead of unhappy cow who never saw the light of day.Thunder's Leg

I think a lot of this boils down to the lack of death in our country. I guess there is just as much death as anywhere else in the world, but we don't see it. We see roadkill, and maybe an open-casket funeral every once in awhile, but in general death is absent from everyday life. When I was in Italy dead animals would be prominently displayed in the open air markets~ whole chickens dangling from their feet, pig heads, legs with the bones in them. There was a connection for me between what I was seeing and what I was eating there. But, I don't see that here in the US. I think Americans might even have a pre-occupation with death (think of all the TV shows) relating to this lack of connecting with death.

Anyhow, we stepped up our farm this year when we took on 3 pigs. It was the first time we have gotten an animal specifically to eat. The male goats we will eat, but we are always hoping for female goats. The pigs, and now 100 chickens we bought specifically to eat. I am coming around to the idea, and feeling good that the meat I will eat was raised in a clean, happy place. I think this is one of those times in my life where I am tempted to say that ignorance was bliss, but then again, not really. What IS bliss is eating a good quality food that was lovingly handled. I figured I had to bring this whole conundrum up today because we got our one hundred day-old chicks in the mail today and my first thought was "They are so cute. I can't believe I am going to eat them." Hence getting me thinking about the good but hard choice to eat the animals we touch.

Here is the video Alex took of Lilikoi and me meeting them for the first time (we were running errands when they arrived). I have watched it several times, and the look on her face brings tears every time.


CT said...

I LOVE IT. I love that Lili is growing up with animals. It's a magical childhood that brings the reality of life to small children in such a natural proper way in my opinion. Not to say it isn't heavy, but it seems to work right.

I love you dearly.

Cindy Benson said...

So cute!! You're right about feeling conflicted - I know I would be! Clara told me today that Zach gave them one chick - but it was a "meat chick" and would have to be
"killed" so they could eat it. She almost had tears in her eyes, but she tried to remain resolute about it. Life and death education at an early age - the natural cycles I guess... You guys are doing a great job with your farm and your little girl!! Miss you!

Tinniegirl said...

I think it's wonderful that you are making a connection between your choices and their consequences. I have been wondering about the same kinds of issues lately and feel totally inspired by your post to look for opportunities like this in my part of the world. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a difficult and confronting issue.

Erin said...

Thanks for the great post. It's something I also think about often. I think you are doing a great job about it. I loved the little bit of goat milk that Corbin drank from your little farm. I wish we had the same. I LOVE Lili! That joy and awe of seeing the chicks for the first time. Seriously precious.

cara lou said...

Wow. This post really touched me. You expressed a lot of my same feelings on the subject of meat and how "food" animals are raised.

I too was a vegetarian for about 6 years but had to start eating meat again for health reasons. I have since done a lot of research on factory farming and it has very nearly drawn me back into vegetarianism.

Luckily, I am able to get most of our meat through "alternative" grocery stores that I feel pretty good about. The labels SAY that it's free-range, organic, vegetarian-fed, etc etc. I would LOVE to find a local farm that I could get our meat from that I could really KNOW is raising the animals with care. But...I live in Los Angeles and so far haven't been able to find a source. That is so great that you have a farm so close to you!

I agree that Americans are way too oblivious to death and where their food really comes from. Chicken breasts come in sterile, plastic packaging from the store -- not from an actual living creature.

Those chicks really are the cutest thing ever. At least they're not THAT cute when they are old enough to eat. :)

I love when Lili touched the chicks. Too cute. I can't wait until we have enough room to raise some of our own animals. William is going to love it!

Daisie said...

I would eat any animal if I could guarentee it had been loved when it was alive.

We only eat free-range and organic meat these days so it doesn't happen often as the budget just doesn't reach. A large chicken is a luxury to us.

I could quite happily keep chickens and pigs for us to eat if we had the room (Simon may be another matter). I would call the chickens 'roast' 'stir-fry' 'korma' 'cassarole' etc, you get the picture.

The lessons you are teaching Lili about being kind and humane are amazing and she won't have the issues that you and many of us have when it comes to eating animals because it will be the norm for her.

Well done!


bottomland said...

Ah, yes. We had the first serious experience along these lines this week as Dave brought home a chick for Clara this week, as my mom mentioned. The first morning she saw it, I found her sitting on Dave's lap crying and crying about how we would eat it, and she didn't want us to. It WAS very sad to think about. But I KNOW that this is the right way to eat, NOT something that comes from a CAFO factory farm, all wrapped in cellophane. As you said, it's easy to feel like ignorance is bliss, but in this case it's not. Ignorance is disgusting and inhumane. Thanks for sharing the totally fabulous video, and for sharing your thoughts! Love you,

Sweet Mess said...

Thank you everyone for taking the time to write such thoughtful comments~ It means so much, and gives me hope.

Kate said...

My girlfriend has a VERY small farm and they raise chickens to eat. It's her kids who think nothing of it, come butchering time. And that? That's where it starts. The idea that that's REALLY where food comes from and that it's reality. It's us, who have not necessarily been raised to see that, that take meat for granted.

Usually by the time butchering season comes, the kids are sick of chicken chores. They see it as a means to an end, I guess.