Today I was glad to read in this New York Times article
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/25/dining/25hunt.html) that some folks are taking the next logical step when it comes to claiming
responsibility for their diets. The trend toward healthy and responsible eating is leading people to take on baking from scratch, gardening, and cooking with unprocessed, local, organic ingredients. In addition to growing their own produce, people are now moving on to killing (hunting/raising/etc) their own meat. That’s the way it should be.
There are some in Montpelier who raise their own chickens – an idea I toy around with (as well as my plans for a neighborhood goat or two and our neighbor’s desire to raise neighborhood rabbits). When I asked after purchasing chicks that would become laying hens at the farmer’s market, the farmer with whom I spoke told me that you almost always get a gender ratio of 50/50 with chicks. “Take twice as many chicks as you want chickens,” he said, “and you’ll have your eggs and a nice pot of stew to boot!” Looking at the fluffy yellow chicks with our daughters, we were always intentional about talking about how they weren’t just pets. Many would give eggs and eventually they would probably all be dinner. Shelburne Farm, a working educational farm south of Burlington and a regular destination for us when we were in Vermont, is also very up front about the role that animals play in human life. In addition to real cows that you get to milk and a sow and piglets that you get to faun over, they have diagrams on the wall showing the various cuts of meat in each animal. When we returned very late in the season last year, the pigs were not in the sty. We asked after them. “Oh, they’ve gone off to be dinner” came the reply. “Do you eat American flatbread pizza? If you buy a pizza with sausage on it, you may see them again.”
Before arriving in China we heard from other Fulbrights with kids that their children gave up meat while in the PRC because meat here is served in such a way that it still very much resembles the animal it is. When we order steamed chicken, the head comes on the platter. Fish arrives at the table intact. A walk past the fish tanks at the restaurant and the live catch section of the local grocery store reveals all manner of frogs, turtles, snails, and water bugs as well as more typical seafood. Our children have not given up on eating animals as a result of these things. In fact, that steamed chicken is Jie-jie’s favorite dish and they are eager to try some turtle soup and ask how the frogs taste. I suspect before we leave they will have the opportunity to find out.
Anyway, I digress. In my estimation, if you want to eat it, you should take full responsibility for satisfying that desire – pulling the trigger or lifting the axe yourself, raising and getting to know the animal you are demanding everything of, and dressing the carcass so you understand meat is more than neat, clean, pre-wrapped boneless skinless chicken breast. My inability to take responsibility for my meat is the primary reason I am a vegetarian. However, I wonder if we raised farm animals, that when it came time to eat them I would feel differently about it.