So, I want to preface this post by saying that I have purposely refrained from adding pictures in order to avoid offending anyone. I have been apprehensive about writing about this experience because I’m not sure that I’m ready for the potential hate mail I’ve been warned may come.
I recently went to a ‘Meat Reality’ workshop held by one of my favourite self sufficiency bloggers, Rohan Anderson, of Whole Larder Love. Which is the delicate way of saying that I learnt how to dispatch live poultry for consumption. As I wish to one day wish to keep chickens, initially for eggs, but one day meat too, I thought it prudent to be able to quickly and humanely dispatch them when needed.
There were 23 of us learning this new skill and it was very interesting to go around and learn the different reasons that had brought people to the workshop. There were quite a few like me who were on their own journeys to becoming less reliant on supermarkets and wanting to take more responsibility for their own food. There were a couple of people in the food service industry, a butcher and a chef, who wanted to gain a better understanding of what happens to the animals before they reach their businesses. There was one guy who had to put down a couple of his own chickens after a fox had gotten into his hen house and he just wanted to learn how to do it properly in case he was ever put into that situation again. There was even a long term vegetarian, who would be willing to eat meat only if he had raised and prepared it himself, taking full responsibility for the life cycle of the animal.
There were geese, ducks and roosters that had been raised for this purpose and were ready to be dispatched. The process started with a demonstration on correct technique from Rohan and then one by one the participants dispatched a bird themselves.
Now I just want to touch on my feelings that I had about this experience. Initially, when I booked a spot to participate and all the time leading up to the day I was enthusiastic about learning this self sufficiency skill. It was not until I started seeing the animals and watched Rohan demonstrate that I became slightly apprehensive. I wasn’t sure I could physically do it. None of my thoughts about the ethical treatment of animals for human consumption had changed. Nor had my self sufficiency dreams. But I just wasn’t sure. I was psyching myself out. Because of this I ended up being the very last person to dispatch an animal. It was a rooster and despite Rohan saying that if we wanted to raise poultry we should have a go at catching it, I couldn’t go into the chicken yard and get one. Never having grown up on a farm I am still slightly afraid of chickens, and especially roosters. I quickly put my hand up when Rohan asked if there was anyone left who hadn’t had a go and wanted to. I took the leap and shot my had into the air and proclaimed that I just did’t want to catch one. There was no judgement. I followed Rohan as he went into the yard and caught one with apparent ease and then showed me how to carry him safely. I dispatched him quickly and humanely. I then plucked and gutted him and put him in Rohan’s freezer. It was a fantastically humbling experience. Those birds lived a wonderfully cosy life and weren’t subjected to the traumatising process of being packed up and carted to an abattoir. They were raised for human consumption, but done so in a manner that insured the health and happiness of both the bird and the people that will eventually consume them.
For me, the biggest shock and take away from this whole experience was when another lady asked Rohan how much meat he expected to get off the birds on average. He responded “about 700-800g” per bird. I was shocked and a little horrified to compare this to how much meat you buy in a single package at the supermarket. You can buy that much and more in a single packet of just breast, or thigh. That’s an entire chickens worth of weight in one package. When you go to the supermarket next, have a look at all the packets of chicken stacked on top of one another. Chicken after chicken after chicken. I will not stop eating meat. I believe, that as omnivores, meat should be an essential part of a humans diet, but this has shown me the reality of eating meat and I will definitely be taking this into consideration when contemplating how much meat goes onto my plate and how often.