Last week’s post on the challenges of backyard chickens inspired me to make some decisions about our flock. I was able to rehome the two silkies, my favorites. They went to a home that has a silkie rooster, where they’ll get to sit on and hatch their own clutch. I think they’re excited about that.
But today was the hard part. Today we took a chicken “to market.” There’s a local butcher that processes chickens in small quantities for just $4, which is great for folks like us who need a little distance from the process due to unreasonable attachment to their chickens, and also don’t want to go through the mess of the whole setup just for one chicken. I’ve got mixed feelings about it. The chicken we’re culling is a beautiful bird, really gorgeous coloring, and she was such a sweet young pullet. She used to fly over and sit on my shoulder while I worked in the garden. But she hasn’t laid in over 6 months. To top it off, she’s a bully to the polish hens. So the choice is obvious. But still not easy.
My husband and I recognize that this is the necessary part of the food cycle if we intend to eat meat, which we do. He reminds us that even vegetables grow best on a diet of blood and bone meal, a reminder that we’re not the top of the food chain, but rather a link in the cycle. But he admits he, too, is squeamish about culling this chicken. It’s a discomfort that comes from our disconnect between us and our food.
My aunt and uncle raise pastured heritage beef cattle in eastern Washington, and I often arrange for sales of halves and quarters to friends and coworkers. But countless times I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to think of their meal as a happy cow with a name and a hundred acres of green slopes to range. They’d prefer it’s a number in a pen. Beef is beef, cows are cows. Neatly packaged sirloin steaks are unrecognizable from the pink-nosed calf they once were.
It’s a mental block we need to get over.
There are as many diets as there are religions. In my house we are are currently experimenting with a low-to-no grain diet, in line with the trending “paleo diet,” which leans heavily on meats and vegetables. I think there are merits to vegetarianism as well, along with lactofermentation, locavore, etc. If you can dream up a diet, you can find a study to support or refute it. But no diet matters if we can’t feed ourselves. I want to decrease my reliance on global shipping and free trade, key players in my current food supply. I already know how to grow vegetables and raise chickens for eggs. Next I need to learn how to kill and dress a chicken.
We put the cleaned and dressed chicken straight in the freezer when we got home. Once we get a little distance, we’ll make some delicious chicken soup. Because unlike beef, chicken is chicken, whether it’s clucking or under a broiler.
So many thanks to Gerta, we’re grateful. This is where food comes from.