Thursday, November 6, 2008

turning animals into food

Part of raising animals for meat is the unsavory fact that at some point they have to be harvested. Now, I'm pretty out there, but butchering my own animals is not something I'm willing to do at this point in my journey toward self-sufficiency and sustainability. There is one exception--about 5 years ago we had a chicken who was eating the eggs, and she had an insatiable appetite. We couldn't keep her around, and we decided that if we were going to call chickens food storage, we should probably know how to process one. So we headed over to Steve and Marilyn Adams' house, because they were lucky enough to possess a stump. They also had a number of their own chickens, and were well-versed in the ways of dispatching them. Steve showed us how it's done:

1. Hold the chicken upside down.
2. Lay it across the stump.
3. Give it a good whack through the neck with a nice sharp hatchet.
4. Let the blood drain into a 5-gallon bucket.

And there's your dead chicken, to do with what you wish! Here are the steps we added:

1. Hang the chicken upside down from the braces of your step ladder.
2. Skin it.
3. Cut the meat off the carcass.
4. Use the meat in a recipe for chicken and dumplings.

Let's imagine for a moment how awesome John and I must have looked as we stood in the backyard of our house, in a Utah County subdivision, butchering the chicken that was hanging from our step ladder. It was like the pre-story to an SNL "Appalachian ER" sketch. The chicken and dumplings were great, though. It's become a favorite at our house, but we do sweatshop chicken now.

Anyhoo, last month when Edna lamed herself with the twine I spent an entire day trying to find a meat packer who could fit us into their schedule because: not going to kill my own goat. At least not on purpose, not right now. And for a lot of reasons (high oil prices, high transportation costs, hay fields being converted to corn fields, corn being turned into gas instead of food, don't freaking get me started down this path), it's become terribly expensive to own animals, therefore the six-months-to-a-year waiting list to get your animal butchered. But luckily Edna healed up nicely (she is at her new home now), and we were able to get an appointment for our two wethers with a mobile packer who took them out to the plant in Tremonton and helped them shuffle off this mortal coil. A week later they were frozen white packages, and they reside in our freezer now. I've said this before, but there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from serving your family meat that you know while it was alive was treated humanely (the wethers are like, "Excuse me? The castration?"), was not diseased, was not given antibiotics or growth hormones, and was raised on a diet of the food it was meant to eat. We do so much damage when we try to circumvent natural laws.

The other day Superman was pointing to an ad in a magazine of mine, advertising those bagel pizza things (the ad was saying how healthy they are compared to the pizza rollup things--seriously, people?) and said, "Those look good! Can we buy them?" And Killjoy Mom said, "No, we can't." And Superman said, "They're plastic?" Does he know me or what? So I'm one of those weird mean moms, but it's something I believe in. I think we're killing ourselves with our food. So if I try to feed them real food as much as possible, then I don't feel as bad when they go somewhere else and eat plastic. And I'm glad that my kids know that when they eat meat, they're eating a tremendous amount of hard work and money, and that a living creature was sacrificed to provide that food, something not to be taken lightly.


highdeekay said...

You are my hero.

Sarah said...

I'm amazed. And, I totally agree with your "real" food philosophy. Olivia often chooses to eat cucumbers or an avocado or any other variety of vegetables and fruit, instead of junk, and it makes me feel like there's one way I haven't completely failed as a parent. Oh, and I love that you call garbage food "plastic." I may need to copy it.

All8 said...

The New York Times posted a huge letter from Mr. Pollan.

"We need to stop flattering nutritionally worthless foodlike substances by calling them “junk food” — and instead make clear that such products are not in fact food of any kind." — Michael Pollan

I so totally agree. Garbage filling a hole but not the need. Being responsible for our bodies can be difficult but the rewards, just like anything else, are huge.

Amy said...

Wow. Fabulous post. I love that you are so committed to this. I'm a long ways away from being able to butcher my own meat. I mean a LONG ways away. I'd rather become a vegetarian. But, I think it's awesome that you skinned a chicken.