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Monday, September 23, 2013

Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls

...It tolls for thee.

Part of the homesteading life also revolves around taking life to feed man and dog alike. We tend to keep our birds longer than normal. We also give them the best life we can. But as winter approaches we need to lighten our load. 

For the next couple of months we'll be dispatching many of our birds.

It's not pleasant work, but we do it as quickly and as humanely as possible. Nothing goes to waste. Even the feathers are put back into the compost. That in turn will grow the feed that will feed future generations of chickens.

How do you feel about taking life to feed yourself? (That is, if you're not a vegan.) 

Greg says that I'm almost obsessive about cleanliness and a sterile environment when I dress any animal. It's true. I can't control what the USDA allows, but at least I'm sure about the meat I process here.




34 comments:

Darke Conteur said...

I'm not naive about where my food comes from, but I don't think I could do what you do. I get too attached to animals.

Maria Zannini said...

Darke: I guarantee you, it is very difficult both emotionally and labor-wise. But we went into this knowing the final outcome so we reconcile ourselves to the fact that life must be taken.

Given a choice, we'd rather eat the meat we've raised than meat from a commercial processing plant.

PS: Thanks for the tweet. :)

James Garcia Jr. said...

Good morning, Maria. *waves and raises morning coffee high* I don't believe in killing animals for my food. That's why I only buy meat in packages... ;)
Just kidding around. I'm one of those who doesn't want to see how the animal is "dispatched". Big strong horror writer, right? *laughs* I like my blood shedding only between the pages. Ick!

-Jimmy

Angela Brown said...

Given today's conveniences, I'd have to say I'm not sure I could take the life of an animal. But under different conditions, my answer would be different.

I wonder if we've become a world over-convenienced and that will be out downfall?

Maria Zannini said...

Jimmy: That's right! You're a horror writer. How do you manage that? :)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I'd say most of us would do what was necessary especially if it meant feeding our families. But it would definitely be a learning experience.

Re: over-convenienced
This reminds me of bagged lettuce and peanut butter and jelly swirled in the jar.

Mike Keyton said...

It was in the early thirties during the Great Depression, and my grandfather, who was a docker (stevadore?) was desperately short of money for Christmas. He killed one of his chickens - unfortately one my mother, then a child, had adopted as a pet. She sobbed all over the Christmas dinner. Understandably my grandfather was equally upset. Not a good moment, I believe.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: That must've been hard for both of them.

When I've gone to country fairs, I'm struck by some of the kids who raise cattle, pigs or poultry for show can differentiate between pets and food. It's got to be hard for them on some level, but then I suppose they're raised to know that every piece of bacon comes from a live animal.

It's sobering.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I wish i could be like you, but i know it would be very hard for me, if not impossible, to kill the birds. Even knowing i was raising them for meat down the road. And i'm not a vegetarian and i'm pro local farms and doing it all yourself. I just know for me, personally, i wouldn't be able to.

I would probably have to have someone else do it for me.

marlenedotterer said...

I think I could do it. Only what we need to eat, which wouldn't be very much. I haven't killed an animal, but I have been to a butchering class. It was okay.

Once, a friend asked me to get her a chicken from a local CSA. The chickens were already killed, plucked, cleaned, etc. But it was hilarious to get a phone call from my friend, who was very disturbed to see a head and feet still attached to the chicken! I had a good laugh over that.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I don't like touching livestock when it's alive, I can't imagine killing and cleaning one! My stomach just isn't that strong.

I'm sure if I was forced into such a situation, it would be different. I pray I'm never forced!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm not squeamish about stuff like that. Circle of Life... LOL

I tend to eat more vegetarian but because of health reasons not animal rights reasons.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I grew up on a farm so I've been where you are lots of times. My father was also very, very into cleanliness. I'm guessing that not that many people even know how to dress a bird these days.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: This is why mankind has diversified. It's not necessary for you to be proficient in everything. This is why the farmer is just as important as the person who cleans out the animal pens. Sometimes they're the same people, but not always. We lean toward where we do best.

Me? I have an innate need to know how something is done even if I never do it for myself again.

Maria Zannini said...

Marlene:
Re: chicken head
Oh, that is funny! I remember the first whole chicken I saw was at my grandmother's kitchen table. She was chopping off the feet to make soup.

Another time she made a blood soup from goat blood. I was very little, but I was fascinated at how she used every bit of the animals she killed.

And she killed and dressed them herself. My mother didn't have the stomach for such work, but I used to sneak away and watch my grandmother work. She was an amazing woman.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: My mom's the same way, as are the majority of my brothers and sisters. I'm the only one with pioneering blood. LOL. My nieces and nephews like to come down and watch me work. I'm like a National Geographic's special. :o)

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: Good for you. That's a good way to look at it too.

Maria Zannini said...

Susan:
Re: dress a bird
It's not hard. It's just that people don't have the practice unless they hunt or raise their own.

I'd like to see kids learn how to it's done at least once. It'll give them a little more respect for their food the next time they bite into a piece of KFC.

Jenny Schwartz said...

Susan and Maria, I'm one of those who wouldn't know how to dress a bird. And unlike you, Maria, I'm shaming my Nana who could and did despatch her own chickens, dress and cook them. But being aware of the reality of meat-eating does mean none is wasted. Once bought it's eaten, not thrown out. I can't believe people who waste food.

Shelley Munro said...

Raising hand. Vegetarian here. I have, however, plucked a few chooks during my younger days. Not the most pleasant job!

Anne Gallagher said...

I don't think I could kill animal unless I absolutely had to. However I was a chef for a long time and I had to cut up meat, chicken and fish all the time, so dressing a dead creature wouldn't be all that hard. (I tell myself.) I'm a city girl and found a copperhead in my carport the other day -- I had to call my next door neighbor to come and kill it for me. Although, maybe that was Catholic guilt as well...lol

R. Mac Wheeler said...

If I had to kill an animal to survive I'd be an instant vegan :(

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: Oh, my. Wasting food is a post in itself.

I try very hard to use up whatever is in the fridge/pantry. On the rare occasions when I goofed, it'll at least go to the chickens or the compost.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Plucking chickens is my least favorite job of all. I'd rather do most anything but pluck chickens.

Maria Zannini said...

Anne: I didn't realize you were a chef. That's awesome! I envy people who can cook well.

Re: copperhead
Those are bad ones. I'd call a neighbor too if I could. You don't want to get bitten by one of them.

Maria Zannini said...

Mac: Believe it or not when we raised our very first chickens (around 25 years ago) it took me a long while to eat one of our own. I had to learn to see the farm animals as food and not pets. Very hard for a young person.

raelynbarclay said...

Poultry and fish, not a problem. The four-legged critters, I doubt I could dispatch them, even to feed myself.

Hope you have a nice big freezer! But if you need someone to take some of that meat off your hands let me know ;)

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: We have two freezers! But you're always welcome to borrow a chicken if you need one. :)

Cate Masters said...

I don't think I could raise an animal for food. I'd love to have alpacas for their wool, but I get too attached. But it's great you can raise antibiotic-free, free range chickens and not have to worry about what additives your meat contains.

Marian Perera said...

If I were starving, I think I could kill an animal... as long as it didn't feel like a pet. I couldn't even kill a goldfish if I'd taught it to nibble at my fingers when I fed it.

Heck, I couldn't even flush dead fish down the toilet. I always buried them carefully.

Sandra Cox said...

I admit I'm a vegetarian and not big on taking animal life, but I REALLY appreciate the fact that you give your animal's a good life. Some of the stories I hear about the chicken industry are ghastly.

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: I get attached to some of them. That's why a couple of chickens past their prime are still with me. :)

For someone like me, it's extremely hard not to get attached, especially since I raised most of them from babies. But I remind myself of their purpose and my responsibility and carry on.

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: LOL. We used to raise cichlids (tropical fish) and they were very social. But they got so big for our 75 gallon tank we finally gave them away.

I missed watching them swim in the tank, but I didn't miss cleaning that monster. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: We can do no less for something that feeds us. When I think of those commercial processing plants it makes me ashamed that the industry has stooped to that level of barbarism.

Thanks for adding your voice to this post!