In my teens, I became a vegetarian and continued as one till I became pregnant with my daughter when I was 30 and my body told me "eat more protein!" Even then, it was another 6 years before I began eating red meat and I still eat meat in moderation. I really enjoy a home-made chicken soup, or a chicken tajine, or making kofte meatballs or spaghetti bolognese. Meat was once something I rarely cooked, and now, it is a few times a week that we eat it for dinner.
Simon was a vegetarian when we met and he has been wonderfully flexible in eating whatever I make, and in fact, relishes the nights I make a beef stew, returning to the pot for thirds (farming is hard work). I am sure it is possible to do the type of manual labor we are doing and feel satisfied with a quickly prepared vegetarian meal, just as quick as throwing a chicken in the oven with some potatoes, but currently, I don't feel capable of that switch.
We both are animal lovers and hate to think that our appetite is causing any being un-necessary pain and suffering, so we buy "humanely raised" meat, though I know this can very much be a lie - the "Supermarket Pastoral" that Michael Pollan talks about. Our longer-term goal is to not buy any more factory meat which seems daunting. We could quit eating meat all-together until we find a reliable resource up here where we live, but we haven't yet. There are so many excuses, (here is one: if we had a larger freezer, we could get our meat in Sonoma County from a farm like Open Field or Split Rail or Tara Firma once a month), and I am a self-proclaimed hypocrite when it comes to this issue. I believe the possible lies Whole Foods tells me about how happy the chicken I am roasting was so that I can just eat it and deny the reality.
This whole issue is about to get even more confusing and require more denial and/or a thought-shift when we welcome our own little flock of chickens to our farm. Our chicks arrive June 1st, and we have been busy setting up their house and making sure we are providing them a safe, comfortable place to live. We can do everything in our power to ensure that these seven birds are happy and healthy...does that help mitigate the fact that we are eating factory meat? Probably not. Simon warns me that once I start bonding with our lady birds, that my relationship to chicken as a food source may change. He is fairly certain his will, and that he may no longer be able to stomach eating chicken.
Many farmers raise livestock, bond with them, care for them, love them as a being of nature ..... and eat them. I feel I may be of this camp, but let's see. The nameless, faceless chicken from the store (or hopefully, local raiser), is not MY chicken, but a source of protein.
This is a bit of a rambling blog today, with no real summation of a decision....but more sharing the process of becoming a farmer and the impacts that has on our life. Let me know what you think and how you feel about this and I will give you an update in a few months once our chickies are here and I've gotten to know their personalities and how it is to be a chicken-raiser.
Thanks for reading!
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