Meat Birds

I’m having a really hard time this week. Charlie and I caught and penned our meat birds last night because Charlie is going to be processing them tomorrow. (“Processing” is a nice word for butchering.)

I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle processing day, but I barely got through catching them. The idea of hurting anything, or even seeing something get hurt, has always upset me. I won’t watch boxing because the idea of hurting someone on purpose, for money, makes me want to cry. When Cookie was a puppy and broke her leg, I almost passed out at the vet’s office when the vet told us the details of the necessary surgery. I’m not queasy about blood or broken bones, but I couldn’t stand that she was hurting.

Now, meat birds are mean. They pick on the other birds. And they’re kind of stupid. And they eat a LOT. And we bought them as chicks so we could raise them for meat. We know what they’ve been fed, and that they haven’t been exposed to medications or hormones. We also know they’ve had a good life. They’ve had room to run, fresh air, and lots of veggie treats from the garden. And yet none of this makes it easier to know I’m sending them to their deaths.

Even harder than the meat birds, was pointing out which of the older egg birds had to go. One of the hard farm realities is there is no place for “freeloaders.” As egg birds get older, they stop laying, but they keep eating. If we kept every chicken we ever brought home, we’d soon have dozens of “pets”.  I have such a hard time with the idea that they’ve done nothing wrong, but they’ve outlived their usefulness, so it’s time to go. It seems heartless.

We have eliminated an attack rooster because it wasn’t safe to have him around the kids. We would also not hesitate to put down an animal if it were suffering. When Charlie hunts or fishes, we eat what is brought home. We don’t take animal lives for granted.

If I’m able to eat meat from the grocery store, I should be able to accept responsibility for their lives. No doubt I will share recipes and cooking adventures when I’m making 100% homegrown, natural meals. It’s the whole reason we’ve taken on meat birds. I’ll either learn to be OK with it, or will become a vegetarian.