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Written onDecember 01 , 2009
We’ve always believed that if you eat meat you should be able to kill it. We had our chance to put our beliefs into action this year.
On two very different days, one in early July, the second in late October, we gathered with four friends to kill the 30 chickens and 10 turkeys we had co-raised. Although this past July wasn’t the hottest on record, the day we gathered was warm and the rain held off. On a cold and raw late October morning we met up again to process turkeys and a few older laying hens.
Our friends Treah and John had hired Monte Winship from Rutland, whom they found by word of mouth. Winship has been dispatching animals on-farm for more than 35 years, utilizing the skills he acquired as a young man, and while working for the Davenport family at Wallingford Lockers, where he learned to process a variety of livestock—beef, veal, and later on chicken and other fowl. He believes the animals deserve the utmost reverence and respect and we should thank them for their lives and for the food they provide us with.
One of our assigned tasks was to carry the birds from the barn and deliver them to the cones. We were holding warm, living creatures that in a few moments would be killed—birds that we had all helped raise from chicks and that Treah and John had bonded with to such an extent that their two favorites, one turkey and one hen, were kept as pets. Although witnessing the transition initially caused a level of discomfort and sadness among all of us, these feelings evolved into acceptance of the inevitability of what it requires to raise meat animals and eat them.
We were surprised at how educational the experiences would be. Monte has a vast knowledge of chicken anatomy and he was enthusiastic as he answered our questions and showed us the inner workings of the birds. Monte would like to pass on his skills and he indicated that he would welcome an apprentice. He said it’s hard work, but important work.
The act of participating in the process made us more conscious of life and death. It’s right there and you are part of it. It has also given us a greater appreciation for the meat we will consume from these animals.
The local food movement has brought us in contact with people and practices that we could not have imagined several years ago. And we have gained a deep respect for both.