comments_image Comments

Why All Meat Eaters Should, at Least Once, Kill and Butcher an Animal

How one farmer had to break a no-kill promise to his flock.

There's no way around the fact that if you eat meat you have blood on your hands. When I worked on a farm, the long afternoons spent slaughtering chickens helped shape my belief that all meat eaters should, at least once, kill and butcher an animal. It's the only way to really comprehend what you're eating.  

But when I began raising chickens in my yard, I made a promise to never kill them. Living in close proximity made them family to me, with names and distinct personalities. I felt that killing them would cut too close to home.  

Even after they stopped laying, I put the hens out to the happiest pasture I could. All they had to do was survive the coyotes, raccoons, skunks, owls, falcons, ravens, bobcats, neighbor dogs, and chick-gobbling rattlesnakes long enough to hit menopause, and this cushy retirement package would be theirs.  

When I made that promise I hadn't taken roosters into consideration. But eventually, a cock named Rusty triggered a downward spiral that brought me to break the promise I made to my flock.  

I prefer my roosters foolish and aggressive enough to run at intruders like succulent kamikazes, because it's easier to replace a rooster than a hen. But Rusty had a survival instinct, and failed to intervene as various predators pared the flock down to just himself, an old hen named Annabelle 2.0, and another rooster named Marco Pollo.  

Two roosters and a post-menopausal hen is not a flock with growth potential, though you have to give Rusty credit for trying. His days revolved around humping Annabelle 2.0 as often as possible, to the point that she began spending her days hiding in the coop. This compelled Rusty to pursue prison-style intimacy with Marco Pollo, who didn't seem to mind. Marco Pollo was a total gentleman to Annabelle 2.0, which made me resent Rusty all the more.  

A new supply of chicks was clearly necessary in order to jumpstart the flock's population, and I ordered some. And then, unwilling to let Rusty rape Annabelle 2.0 to death, I broke my promise and chopped off his head.  

While my dispatching of Rusty was intended to give Annabelle 2.0 a much-deserved reprieve, Marco Pollo had plans of his own. He filled Rusty's void and proved to the world, and especially to Annabelle 2.0, that he isn't gay. With Annabelle 2.0 no better off than she was before, the only good that came from killing Rusty was the spectacular coq au vin I made.  

Annabelle 2.0 finally died, in her sleep, just hours before the new shipment of baby chicks arrived. She was my first chicken to die of old age, marking the moment with both triumph and sadness.  
As I watched Marco Pollo raise the new brood alone, the memory of that coq au vin, and the lusty red wine sauce that tamed Rusty's sinewy flesh, kept me up at night. Breaking my no-kill promise had opened a door in me. A few weeks later I purchased 12 baby Cornish Cross meat-bird chicks.  

The augmented flock, chosen and doomed alike, integrated happily, oblivious to the fact that in just six weeks the meat-birds would be ready for slaughter. After a week the meat-birds were bigger than the four week-old layer chicks. When I poured feed into the yard the meat-birds would park themselves right in the middle of the feed and clear a circular patch around themselves with a radius equal to their neck length.  

See more stories tagged with: