Wednesday, May 29, 2013

James' First Chicken Butchering

*** disclaimer: James describes some aspects of chicken processing that some sensitive readers may find upsetting. We didn't want to censor his experience or perspective, and are always very open about all of our processes. ***

As we've noted, farm life is in high gear at the moment, and we haven't had a minute to jot down our thoughts. We promise more is coming, but we hope you'll find Jame's perspective as wonderful as we do as he hits the half-way mark on his internship with us!

When I originally applied for the internship on R’eisen Shine Farm, I indicated I was interested in learning how to process livestock for meat.  As I’ve become more aware of the health and ethical dilemmas wrapped up in industrial farming and particularly industrial meat production of all kinds, I’ve struggled with personal changes that I felt would best effect change on a larger scale.  I tried be a vegetarian and only lasted a year; I found I was loosing energy, weight, and muscle tone all at the same time.  I’ve become more interested in healthy, nutrient-diverse, diets comprised of sustainable food as a lifestyle and a political philosophy.  As a lover of meat, I felt like learning more about what goes into ethical meat processing would be a good idea.  
Ejay and Kim had me watch some videos of farmers dispatching and processing chickens so I could see what that looks like and would be a little more prepared.   Despite Kim and Ejay cautioning me about how difficult it can be to take the life of an animal, I felt like I was prepared and would have little trouble.  In the morning, we caught chickens out of their tractor and loaded them up in the truck with some hay; I’ve gotten fairly good at catching chickens by their feet and was unphased by their flapping and quacking was Kim passed me chickens to load up in the truck.  Ejay demonstrated to me how we dispatch chickens, tying them by their feet so they are more tranquil, and slitting their corroded artery so they die instantly bleed thoroughly; Ejay told me he has processed thousands of chickens, and finds this method to be both the most kind to the animal and the most efficient way of assuring the best possible quality and taste of the finished product.  It was then time to take the chickens off of the dispatch station and dip them in hot water to loosen their feathers so they can come off more easily. when I picked up the recently deceased chicken by its feet, I felt a certain hollowness that shocked me.  It was a little strange and unnerving to feel the difference between picking up a chicken that is very much alive vs a dead one; it was an experience I couldn’t have in any prepared myself for or predicted.  I do feel like it was important for me to experience it and I feel less removed from the food I eat now.  I think above all, respect of plants and animals the provide us with food is necessary.  I will continue to eat meat, but will be far less likely to eat meat from animals whose lives weren’t respected or valued. Working on R’eisen Shine Farm has been an invaluable experience; I’ve learned so much already and can’t wait to learn more in my remaining weeks here. I’m pretty sure Ejay is planning on making friend chicken and I’m stocked to try some; chicken sounds great!

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