Yesterday we slaughtered a rooster. We had two roosters and 7 hens, and really only need one. Our farmlet was Crownos’ third home, after he got too aggressive with other birds on his last farmlet. For a few months he was just fine here, watching over his two hens and guarding their pen. But as time went on, he became more aggressive to me and to the kids. I became very wary of hanging my laundry out to dry because he would body slam my legs. Little A would come running to me crying because he was chasing her, and he pecked R once pretty hard and drew blood. Once we discovered that our pullet Beulah was a cockerel, we made the decision that Crownos would have to go in the stew pot.
I believe in the ethical and humane raising of livestock for food. As farmers, we are taking responsibility for the lives of these animals. We owe it to them to give them a good life, and a good death. Our nine (now eight) chickens have about a fifth of an acre fenced in for them where they can run around, forage for bugs, dust bathe, and roost. They get to live very chicken-y lives, and I believe they are very happy. They are certainly big and beautiful. In these dark days of the year, we are still getting about two eggs per day from seven hens. We do not provide artificial light, which we are told would help increase their egg production.
Like any other crop, eggs have a season, and right now they are out of season, so we adjust our usage accordingly. Since most of our hens just started laying in September, I don’t know what our full scale egg bounty will be in the summer, but I will learn ways to preserve extra eggs for the leaner winter months.
Because I care about my animals, I wanted to make sure Crownos’ death was as humane and easy on him as possible. Back in September we visited a local farm on chicken processing day and got our hands dirty learning their system. There are places around here who will process your chickens for you, but we had only one, not the ten minimum that is often required. We bought ourselves a restraining cone, and when the day came, we gave him as loving a death as we could.
I held him in my arms so he would stay calm while my husband got everything ready. We told him he was a good boy, and it was time for his soul to go take a rest now. We thanked him for his service as guardian of the hens, and for his next service as food for us. Gently, we placed him in the restraining cone. This took a couple of tries because we were so inexperienced, but finally we managed it. He did not complain through any of this. When it was time, we said one last thank you, and then, as quickly and precisely as he could, DH slit his throat. I held the greatest love in my heart and tried to send it to Crownos as the lifeblood drained from his body.
Loving and killing
This is why gentle-hearted people and children are advised against naming their food animals. Many people could not take the life of an animal that they named and loved. We seem to think that loving and killing are incompatible. Instead, I think that loving an animal perhaps should be a prerequisite to killing them. I believe that Crownos passed on to the next life gently because we loved him, and I believe he knew that. One video I watched considered it a form of midwifery, but in reverse. I like that concept.
When we eat meat, we consume the energy of that animal. If the animal’s life was very stressful, then the meat will be full of stressful energy. If the animal’s life was filled with love and care, then the meat will be full of loving, caring energy. One will poison us, the other will nourish us. It is not meat per se that is good or bad, but the conditions in which it was raised. I fully respect vegetarians’ ethical objections to feedlot and caged animal “farms”, and wholeheartedly agree with them.
That is why all the meat that I feed my family is raised humanely. The only meat I will buy from the supermarket is lamb, and that is because I understand that most lamb meat comes from Australia, where sheep are still raised on pasture instead of feedlots. (Of course, when I went to find some sources for this, I learned otherwise. Perhaps it is time to reconsider.) The rest of the meat I feed our family comes from local farms or the co-op that carries humanely raised meat.
Honoring the dead
I believe that it is necessary to know where our food comes from. Not just which farm, but what kind of a life it lived, and what kind of a death it had. We offered A the opportunity to watch us yesterday, but I am glad she declined. Although things went pretty smoothly, it was still hard on my husband and me to actually take his life. We are honoring him by using all parts of him. I saved his feathers for future use, his body is in the stewpot right now. We gave his head and organs to the puppy, and his intestines will go into the compost to enrich the soil here. No waste.
Do you know where your food comes from? What are your standards?