Here’s a hard truth: most people will not meet the animal which will feed them.
Growing up, it’s safe to say I had a face to face encounter, either alive or dead with almost everything that graced our dinner plate. Some people would think that a travesty. I think it was the ultimate teaching of the balance of humans and animals.
We were not ones to make a whole ordeal about it. It was just living. We needed to eat, so something had to die, something that is true today, regardless of your diet.
We had an on-site butcher shop, and there weren’t really many teaching moments around it, especially for girls, because back then the men did the farming and the women prepared the food.
But I was still able to learn a lot. I would watch my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins hoist the cow up onto the chains, skin it, and before they halved it, remove the innards. I would have to run the still warm liver and heart, wrapped in newspaper, up to my grandmother in the kitchen. There she would soak it in milk and I would make a gazillion excuses as to why I should not have to eat it. I hated the texture. (Still do. When I prepare liver today from our cows, it’s raw and in small frozen pieces I can just slurp down for the nourishment.)
It would take our family a whole day to butcher out a pig, rabbits would be hung on a board to be skinned and stewed, and old laying hens would be on the chopping block to make way for new spring chicks.
I didn’t realize until I started raising my own food for my family many years ago, how the reverence for the animal was ingrained in me, even though it was never really spoken of by the men in family.
I’ve had to articulate it out for my children and grandchildren much more often because they don’t live in a world fifty years ago where this was more normal than not.
As we moved the chicken tractor onto fresh ground yesterday where my family has farmed for 200 years, my oldest grandson said “Grandma, those are meat hens, right?”
“Yes, Owen they are. “
“You need to do this because it makes them happy and if you feed them well, they will feed us well.”
“Yes, Owen. That is exactly right.”
The ways, the roles, and the faces may have changed but the reverence for the animal and this life still lives on.
Love Jenn xx