Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Goodbye Red Toe

This morning an era ended at Mucky Boots. This morning we loaded Red Toe, Fluffy Butt and No Name into a crate and took them to Island Farms, the local chicken slaughterhouse.

We said goodbye and thanked them for being good roosters (overlooking Red Toe's persistent attacks on our feet). Then we climbed back in the truck and drove home for breakfast. This afternoon we'll return to the slaughterhouse, hand over $12, and pick up three gutted, plucked and bagged chickens.

It was busy at Island Farms this morning - it must be the time of year people slaughter the meat birds they've been raising all summer. Trucks pulled in and out of the parking lot in the early morning fog, leaving their crates of birds in the orderly configurations dictated by the employees, each crate carefully tagged with the owner's information. A white-coated and hard-hatted inspector cruised through the stacks with her clipboard, looking for signs of illness among the chickens. When we told her it was our first time she smiled and asked how it was going so far.

Some people brought a single crate, like us. Others brought flats and flats of birds. Once their birds were unloaded and tagged people stood around the parking lot with their Tim Horton's coffee cups and chatted - just another day. But for us it felt anything but regular. Kim was a bit teary. I was trying to be philosophical. But there's only so far philosophical can take you.

This is where the rubber hits the road. All those chickens I've eaten in my life have been their own little creatures. Most raised in less than humane conditions. But all I've seen are the neat rows of wings in the styrofoam trays. Later today I'll hold a butchered chicken in a plastic bag and it won't be an anonymous bird. It will be the one who pecked me bloody more than once, or the one whose fluffy tail feathers shook when he stomped his feet in a little chicken dance, or the one who minded his own business so successfully he didn't even get a name. How can I possibly put that bird in the oven for dinner?

Growing carrots is one thing. I am learning that raising chickens for meat is a completely different matter.


Doc said...

I will stick to chicken all packaged, I'm a real wiener when it comes to raising my dinner.

Natalie said...

I wish I could have brought Temple to Island Farms... yesterday I could have stuck a fork in him for attacking Maria!
But probably not really. I like chicken... roasted, fried, in stir fry, but like you, I am challenged by the intimacy and reality of eating a Chicken-pet-friend-backyard-cruiser. It's so hypocritical and irrational of me, but there it is.

Flartus said...

I know, I know how you feel. That is why I imagine if I ever get my own backyard flock I will only buy sexed chicks. As a child, I helped raise the rabbits we ate, and I dealt with it, but when I'm the one fully responsible, I think it will be different.

On the other hand, I do want to one day dispatch and process my own bird one day. Just once. Because I feel that as a meat eater, I need to fully know what it means to take another life so that I may live.

On the other other hand, only we rich people (globally speaking) have the luxury of wringing our hands over the lifestyle of our meat. If we were in the slums of Bombay, a chicken on the way to slaughter would be just a commodity, not a life.

We do what we can, and hope it's meaningful in some way. So long Red Toe, and thanks for dinner.

Paula said...

I think that it's not a good thing that we are so removed from our food. It's one thing to realize that in this world, things have to die in order that other things live, and in the natural world, things die savagely and violently.

You may feel better the more you do this, even to the point where you can dispatch your own birds and ensure they had a fearless and calm death.

I hope to get where you are, someday. I don't know if I'll handle it any easier, but I think it's important that we try. Good luck Miriam!

jeanives said...

I'm with Paula. I think it's a good thing to realize that our meat/fish came from something warm and breathing. This is an opportunity for you to give thanks to the animal for your well being, like many aboriginal cultures do. That doesn't mean it's easy. And if you find you can't give reverance to the experience and enjoy the meal, I'll be happy to take them off your hands, always the friend that I am!

Toni aka irishlas said...

Hi Miriam,
I'm coming in late to this since I've been away...

How did it go??

We will do the same to the girls once they've stopped laying. We're trying to be practical about raising hens, but, when it comes time to do the deed it may be another story... works well in theory..

Congrats on the double yoker! We've only gotten one double. Some very large singles are the norm.

pnuts666 said...

i want to be able to do this someday.. but def not anytime soon:( me=wuss

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