I don't want to get too serious here, but I had a conversation last night that got me thinking.
My grandparents live on a farm about an hour from me. Growing up, we would go down to visit and help out. I remember driving the Farmall tractor with Mommom and sitting on the piles of hay bales while Poppop and Dad loaded them from the baler onto the wagon. We'd bring lemonade out to Poppop when it was super hot. I loved exploring the barn and searching out the newborn kittens when the mommy cats hid them away safely. We'd ride the bale elevator to the upper level to store the hay and straw for the winter. Poppop and I would go outside after dinner and let the sheep into the barn for the night. That's an amazing sight - all the sheep running like crazy for the open doors of the barn!
Mommom would take me into the chicken coop and show me how to gather the eggs. I'd go out to the steer pens and feed the babies out of my hand. One year, a friend and I named the two steers Peaches and Cream. Of course, being a farm, these steers were being raised for one reason - food. That was the first time I really remember truly knowing what beef was: Oh! I'm eating Peaches and Cream. Mom!!!!! How could you let them do that to them?
(Disclaimer: The next paragraph might be a little gory.)
We went down on several occasions to harvest the chickens. Poppop got them in as baby chicks that he'd keep in the incubator and then he raised them for food. I was too young to be much help, but I vividly remember the process. Poppop would use an ax to swiftly cut off the heads and then the chickens would be left free to roam the yard. Headless. The chickens weren't in pain. They weren't scared before they died. They lived happy lives, pecking away the barnyard like chickens were born to do. But the truth was, they were being raised for slaughter. After they died, Mommom and Mom would hang them up to drain out the blood and then dip them in scalding water and pick out all the feathers. It was a full day's worth of work, but rewarding, too. Fresh, humanely raised, free range chicken!
I think that was when I decided chicken is gross. Since then I've gone back and forth between eating and not eating chicken. Now I'm at the stage where I don't eat it. I disagree with the inhumane treatment of chickens in factory farms. I don't want those pesticides and antibiotics and whatever else in me.
The conversation last night was with Mommom and Mom. Dad made chicken cacciatore for dinner and I asked whether they got the chicken from the Amish farm stand. They had, thankfully! Mommom remarked that no matter what brand she buys in the grocery store, there's always blood around the bones. She was upset because that means that they didn't properly drain the chicken before packaging it up. For a woman used to eating her own farm-raised chickens, this was the ultimate insult. I suggested that she try buying free range, organic chickens and see if it made a different. I'm anxious to see if it does!
Since you made it through this super long post, I thought I'd share a funny picture of the Bup and Dad loading bags with sheep manure to bring home for our gardens. Aren't they cute? :-)