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A toddler’s introduction to butchering

This weekend, my husband Jake and I processed fifty chickens. That’s the politically correct way of saying we butchered, bled out, gutted and bagged fifty birds we raise ourselves and sell locally.

Processing chickens is not my favorite way to spend a sunny Saturday morning, but it’s not the worst either.   The work is oddly satisfying in its own way. There’s a clear beginning and a clear end and I’m dog tired by the time it’s all over.

This was the first year we processed chickens with our nearly two year old daughter June present.

At first, I debated whether to let her witness where her food comes from.  I wondered if her young age meant she’d be oblivious to what was happening or whether she’d be scarred for life.

As you can imagine, processing fifty birds is not a Barney singalong; there is a fair amount of blood and guts involved (don’t worry, I’m not showing any gross pictures).

In the end, I decided to let her watch because butchering animals is the reality of eating meat.

I see no reason to sugar coat this reality.  If she decides one day that she can’t accept these practices, then she’s welcome to become a vegetarian and I’ll be the first one to offer her a tofurkey burger.

But I’d rather she be made aware that an animal’s life was sacrificed so that we may eat meat than grow up thinking poultry grows on trees…..the chicken tender tree.  I see no “right” age to introduce this grisly concept.

Here she is, all smiles right before daddy slit some birds’ throats.

And here she is right after…

Even though June has never seen or heard anything bad (death or otherwise), she instinctively knew something bad was going down; those birds weren’t spurting ketchup.

“We have how many birds left to process?”

But you know what?

She did okay.

Like her mom, she learned to look away when dad was doing the ickiest work.   Though it may be a few years before she appreciates tonight’s roast chicken dinner as much as I do.

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