Country Living Series

Friday, April 6, 2012

Looking meat in the eye

About ten years ago when we still lived in Oregon, we were faced with butchering a steer for the first time. And I do mean this was our first time. A friend put into words what I was privately wondering myself: would we be able to eat the meat? We had raised that steer from infancy. How could we eat him after looking him in the eye for two years?

In fact, this friend made a joking wager that we wouldn't be able to eat him. I won the wager when she and her husband invited us for dinner one evening and we brought the steaks. (They were delicious.)

This issue sparked a half-humorous piece I once wrote called The Cuteness Factor. But all joking aside, the issue of eating what you raise is actually quite a serious one. It's one thing to be brought up on a farm, dealing with the realities of butchering on a regular basis. But for those embarking on country living after a lifetime shopping at conventional grocery stores, it's not an easy issue to overcome. If you're striving for greater self-sufficiency, eating one's own livestock is something that must be faced.

This was brought home by an email I received this morning from a gentleman named Christopher. This fellow had written before with some basic questions on chickens, and in response I put up a blog post on chicken basics. Christopher has made tremendous progress in the livestock end of things, but still had an additional question as follows:

You may remember me from an email last year that you wrote an article about. I very much appreciated your wisdom, and I have since made your blog a daily read. By the way, thanks to your advice, my wife and I currently have approximately 40 chickens and 13 ducks in varying ages, and we get about a dozen eggs a day. We also have 24 goats and a horse.

I find myself in another situation that I want to ask your advice on, regarding chickens. Well, specifically, roosters. When we realized back in November that we had too many, I took 11 of them over to a friend's house and "processed" them. I left my house with 11 roosters in a tub, came back with 11 freezer bags. Well, because my wife and daughters had raised the roosters from chicks, they couldn't eat the roosters. They still sit in my freezer.

How do you overcome this, um, hurdle? Please keep in mind that while some were brought up doing this and accept it as normal, we were not. We are trying to get there, but it isn't happening very quickly. My wife loves chicken, but she says that when she sees it in the plastic container in the market, she didn't ever look it in the eyes and feed it, watch it grow, that sort of thing.

I would like to open this up for discussion among readers. How DO you overcome the "squeam" factor? How do you eat something you've looked in the eye?

Along with Christopher and his family, there are undoubtedly countless others who have the same issues, but who are striving for independence (which includes raising livestock).

So let's give Christopher your best shot. How do you overcome the squeam factor?


  1. Hubby and I were just talking about this. Looking forward to what others have to say.

  2. Growing up on a farm we always thought the new babies were intended to be pets for us kids. It took a lot of reminders from our parents that these were animals that were intended to be eaten by our family when the time came.
    My Dad put it best when he used to explain that these animals were specifically born to be our food and that it was our job as good stewards to care for them in a proper manner so that when the time came to butcher, we could look them in the eye and know we had given them a good "life" and that they would now be fulfilling their destiny.

    1. Your comment really resonated with me -- I haven't even finished reading all of them yet - Your dad sounds like a wonderful man who taught you well to respect your animals.

      I'm one of the vegetarians here (semi actually, I still eat fish and some chicken now and then) - but I've never been militant about it. I've cleaned my own fish, but never my own chicken.

      It's always been my personal belief that it's our responsibility to give food-destined animals a good life until their time comes. If that happens, I can live with the end result, even if I can't partake of it myself. You father said it best.

      But I'm still staying a semi-vegetarian...

      Just Me

    2. Even though I'm semi-vegetarian, I KNOW I would eat meat if I was starving. No question. It's a luxury for me to be able to make the food choices I have. If I get truly hungry? All bets are off. You don't sound heartless.

      Just Me

  3. We've raised our own meat (chickens specifically) for several years now, nearly 7 I believe. One of the biggest helps for me and my kids was to view them from the VERY beginning as FOOD. We even had a goat once that we KNEW would be butchered, his name was "Dinner". We don't name our "food animals". From the very beginning we know that any animal that makes it's way to our farm could eventually become dinner, but we love them and care for them. It's the way God intended it, they are to help sustain us and nourish us. Sure, we get attached to certain animals and it is NEVER easy to see them die, but we always have to remember that their purpose is to feed our family.

    We currently have a cow that we bought as a bottle calf. Our goal is for her to become our milk cow, but we honestly don't know how she will do in that job. As much as I love her, I also know that she may end up in our freezer. That will be VERY hard for me, I love her, but I also know each time I look at her that she is food. One way or another, she is food.

    I shed a tear over just about every animal we ever butcher. I think having a bit of heart in what you are doing is important in being able to care for these animals. I don't ever want to get to the point where I don't care, or it doesn't seem hard to butcher and then eat what we've raised. The alternative is unthinkable, harsh and cruel. Eating what he grocery store provides is equally unthinkable...if you know how that meat is raised. Watching "Food Inc." helped us come around quickly in that thought.

  4. I suppose I am an atypical female...I have no problems with it. Logic overrules it- but then, I was raised seeing animals (cows and chickens) as a meal- reminded by my parents. Don't name them, cuddle them or start thinking they are "cute". Every time you feed them, remember them as MEAT, means to an end.

    And on the flip side...its easy to be squeamish when you are well fed. Bet if they were *truly* hungry (in a way that most, if not all americans never have experienced) that they would have a problem. Don't want to sound cold and heartless...but sometimes you just have to "get over it"

  5. Have someone else prepare it for your family the first time. Once your wife has a chance to taste the difference between store chicken and your own chicken she will hopefully change her mind. Also, she must keep in mind what all goes on behind the scenes of the supermarket chicken. Yuck! She raised those chickens with TLC, now she should be proud to serve this wholsome delicious food to her family. If she is still go ahead and prepare it for yourself. Don't let all that good food go to waste! :)

  6. I eat some of the healthiest food in the world. Food that I have carefully and lovingly nurtured through generations of life. I don't eat pets. And that's the problem many people have, they are raising pets instead of food.
    I don't eat inhumanely raised factory protein, subjected to chemical and antibiotic laced feed and water by uncaring faceless profiteers.
    I give the animals under my care the best food available, at harvest time it's their turn to provide me the best food available. (fair is fair.)

  7. I can't say that I have ever had this problem but I would say they should eat it in things like soup and casseroles and things like that instead of whole where it looks like chicken. I would also probably not tell them that they are eating the roosters from outside. That is what I did with my daughter-in-law. I didn't tell her until she told me a few days later that she had liked my casserole. Then I told her it was the rooster I had killed two days before and so was the soup she had eaten the night before. She was suprised but then admitted it was good.

  8. I would suggest looking at it as a gift. The animals that you raise have a better quality of life than anything packaged in a store. Providing the food for you is the animal's way of thanking you for that life that you gave them.

    Just my Native American 2 cents worth.

  9. .

    It's easy with fava beans and a nice Chianti, Patrice. (smacksmacksmack)


  10. I grew up on a small (10 acre) farm where we butchered our own meat. The big animals like steers, goats, and hogs were done by a meat packing house where we also rented freezer space but we did all the small animals. I also hunted, fished, and trapped. My dad couldn't eat something he had butchered for about a week but at the time, it didn't bother me.

    About 10 years ago, I went vegetarian. We have backyard chickens for eggs only. We buy either pullets or sex-link chicks. I've been vegetarian long enough that I don't like to handle raw meat anymore let alone think about butchering. I'm not a militant vegetarian and think that people ought to be allowed to make their own choice but do it responsibly.

    I would recommend for newbies to participate in other people's butchering or even see about several visits to the meat section of their local grocery BEFORE they decide to raise livestock. The problem is that most people are so far removed from their food sources that many don't really have a grasp on where that shrink-wrapped package at the grocery comes from.

  11. We swapped butchering duties with the neighbors, and put the fresh chicken in the freezer for a while. It makes it a lot less personal. It is easy for me to process, but I still cannot do the actual execution--working on it.

  12. I very much appreciate everyone's response. And thank you very much, Mrs. Lewis, for posting another article helping me out. I have to say that it makes sense to look at it logically, and we do, but I do have to confess that our animals are very much like our pets. It is something that comes from us being new to the homestead life.

    I know that if we had to, if we were starving, there would be no hesitation, no problem with eating our chickens.

    Thanks again, everyone. I know we will get there in time.


  13. This is easy. If you go to a friends house to "processs" the chickens, just trade the chickens. You bring 11 chickens, he puts up 11 chickens. Process 22 chickens, you take his, he takes yours, done. If he doesn't raise chickens, have him buy some store chicken and swap, or swap for something else. After a while the issue will fade. Kids will get used to the idea that you grow the animals for food, and become less attached. When they are mature enough let them help with the processing part of the program, starting with the last step first.

  14. That is a difficult situation. My neighbor had the same thing happen when he raised sheep many years ago when his children were young. He sent a few of the lambs off to butcher then after he picked up the meat, they sat down for a meal which included lamb. The kids burst out in tears & no one could eat it. He ended up taking the packaged meat back to the butcher. Now that the children are grown with families of their own and live away from the sheep, it doesn't make any difference.

    So, with the case of Christopher and his family, they may want to sit down and write out or discuss what their goals are for their poultry. Are they going to be completely egg layers/pet or dual purpose (meat/eggs)? If they are going to keep them strictly as 'pets' then what to do with the roosters or low egg producers? You don't want to waste your money feeding non-producing birds - feed is expensive. And how are you going to handle your aging flock since hens will slow down in egg laying after about 2-3 years (not all but they do at some point in their life).

    If they do decide on raising dual purpose birds, then enter into the poultry husbandry with the mindset that these may be the guest of honor at dinner, which sometimes the easiest by culling the least friendly of the flock. Not all chickens have the same temperament either so culling the least friendly of the bunch is, well, less of an 'ordeal'.

    For example, we have two barred rocks - one sits on the back door mat & would come in the house if you left the door open. The other is rather skittish, more difficult to handle and she, too, was raised in the laundry room. So culling the latter of the two would not be all that difficult to do, if that was our goal for our flock. My family did that when I was a kid but right now all the hens are pets until we can get to some place where we can have roosters and raise our own. Plus the kids are older now.

    With goals established for your flock, that the goal is to be self-sufficient and that the poultry being raised are to be dual purpose and are not to be kept as 'pets'. This doesn't mean that you disregard their well-being and proper care, it is just that you don't become so emotionally attached to them that you turn them into a surrogate child. Easier said than done, eh?

    But if they decide that they just absolutely cannot butcher and eat them, sell off all of the excess cockerels (roosters) for a few bucks or make trades/purchase from other neighbors for butchered poultry/livestock, various produce or whatever in kind. Then you can eliminate the emotional attachment.

    Another option is to save up money by selling your excess eggs to use for purchase of pre-sexed chicks from the feedstore or online hatchery (not that that is a guarantee that you'll end up with hens - sometimes you'll get a roo .... ask me how I know! ha!) to rotate into your aging flock.

    Setting your goal for your flock is the starting point & will set your mindset as to where you are to proceed. If his children are fairly young (or girls) then it may be wise to just go with the pre-sexed feedstore chicks route instead of hatching them out until they are old enough to get past that emotional attachment to that fluffy chick cuteness.

    Just my thoughts and do look forward to reading how others get beyond that emotional attachment factor.

  15. I, too, had to deal with this issue two years back when I began raising "backyard" chickens (we live in a suburb). I'm the Dad, so it was of course my job to cull the excess roosters. What I did was to literally thank God for the food He provided us, before I quickly and humanely killed and butchered each chicken.

    But it never occurred to me to think of my stewardship of the animals as somehow a "fair trade" for me to get to eat them. Yes, I raised them properly and with attention to the details of their living conditions that commercial farms will NEVER duplicate, but I did that simply because I knew it was the right thing to do. I expect no gratitude from the animal, nor do I look to the animal for any "permission" to eat it because I treated it well.

    An interesting book is out now, called "Eating Animals." This book is, and is not, what you think it might be based on the title. The author writes from his perspective very well, but it is a perspective that I do not share (except as it refers to our DUTY to be good stewards of the animals).

    What the book certainly accomplishes for each reader, however, is to make them thoroughly examine their own beliefs regarding the consumption of animals as food. This makes the book worth reading for most folks, even though it did get a bit tiresome after I got about halfway through. Patrice, you may want to do a full-up review of the book; the author makes many good points, but also engages in some intellectual sleight-of-hand and in many episodes of classic faulty logic.

    But regarding chickens in particular, I can also heartily recommend a book that will likely seem incomprehensible to anyone who did NOT grow up in the 1960's and 70's: Jonathan Livingston Chicken. It's a farce, but with some nuggets of Truth scattered throughout. Just remember, "Isn't that what chickens are FOR?"

  16. being raised on a farm, my whole life as some of the other people have commented. I think that some times the real problem is, telling your family that the meat is such and such animal, that they were playing with yesterday. For me, being around them all the time & being able to feed them was the best part,& being able to see them grow. However I think, that even though i played & fed the animals, it didn't ever seem to bother me, even watching the animals be butchered. However for your problem, I think as others have said, just start it out in like fajitas, or soups or casserole where it doesn't look like a whole chicken.

  17. We had the same problem when we bought our farm 2 yrs ago. We explained to our children(2,4,6 and8) that any animal on this farm has to have a purpose or it goes.(excluding our very old yellow lab). Our first set of chicks were meat chicks. I kept reminding the kids they arw to eat! So they jokingly named them 'chicken nuggets', ' fried chicken' etc. When it came to butcher day we had taught so much on eating what we grow they wanted to watch!! They handled it great and now help. To make eating it easier I bought some chicken and packaged it the same. After eating a few meals of our chicken they realized its ok and tastes soo much better. Same problem with our milk. We would milk the goats and after chillingthe milk, put it in a storebought milk container. Once they commented on the wonderful taste we'd tell them. Now no problem and in fact they appreciate the farm food and hate purchasing or eating out!!

  18. Interesting timing, because the grandsons (4 and 7) participated in their first chicken butchering and processing today. They were very interested in the mechanical chicken plucker, the propane-heated scalding bucket, catching the roosters, and looking at the inside parts.

    Children seem to be less squeamish than adults.

    1. Yes my 8 yr old step son cannot WAIT to help butcher his first rooster. He's helped pluck, gut and cook the last. Plus he eats our steer meat with gusto, enjoying the fact that it was our steer and not from the shops.

  19. When we first moved to the country and bought those cute little fuzzy things, I thought, "Oh, no, we're in trouble. NO WAY those kids are gonna eat these guys, EVER." 8 weeks later, they couldn't WAIT to get those broiler birds in the truck; smelly, obnoxious things. Same with roosters. After being chased by a few, sending those to the soup pot was easy-peasy. When we moved up to lambs and a calf...Well, it made it easier that we named the calf Jr. Cheeseburger, and that he once chased our daughter up a fence post. We rescued the screaming adolescent, and she said, "I will be glad to eat that thing!" I admit, I do have regrets when I take my old laying hens to the butcher, as much as I appreciate the chicken noodle soup in the winter. And our daughter still will not eat goat meat; lamb, yes, goat, no. But it all boils down to, "Do you want to take care of these critters forever and ever, amen?" It is, sadly, their purpose. No one would keep a full-sized pig as a pet. Not once it gets hormonal and grows out those teeth. In the end, I guess that's it. MOST things we eat can kill us, as well. That makes it a little easier to avoid getting attached.

  20. Patrice ,
    I have raised egg and meat birds for 6 years now. Like many, my egg layers ( aka "the girls") started as pets with benefits (eggs) , each one complete with a name and a little personality. The girls will all die a "natural death and be buried " as they WERE pets and I don't eat pets.( thank goodness times don't dicate that I have to ) But, we enjoyed them sooo much we took the leap into meat birds. Right from the start we all agreed, these meaties were not pets, they were not named. They are feed, watered, moved around on clean pasture, provided shelter and all their needs are met as humanely as possible ( realizing that someday they WILL be food and we only want good things for them while alive). I do not talk to them or even "look at them" like I do with the girls. You have to totally dettach yourself from them. We have a butcher come to our place as it is less stressful on the birds then carting them TO the butcher's ,which is an hour away. We help the butcher process them. He brings all the tools and equipment, he slits the throat and does the eviserating, my husband and I do the rest. I know in my heart they were taken good care of , got the best food possible, were not confined to a cage and were happy birds for 9 weeks. We say a prayer of thanks over them for their sacrifice before we start and proceed in a quick fashion as to not prolong any suffering. I have no problem with eating them as I know that compared to industrally raised chicken mine were treated like kings and queens . Everyone is different and has to learn to come to terms with excepting sacrificing the animals your benefit.


    1. Many good posts today, and this is my favorite.


  21. I don't have livestock so I haven't had to confront this personally. I can recommend the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It covers many of the trials of homesteading from a personal perspective, including butchering.

  22. Until this year, I've gotten around the issue by hunting our meat. I didn't raise it. I just shot it and butchered it. We used the butcherings for anatomy lessons for the kids. They aren't bothered. This year, we are getting chickens. They are dual-purpose breeds, but we ordered more than we can overwinter, knowing that survival rates in the hands of neophytes like us are around 50%, and most of them are straight run, so I expect a bunch of roosters in the mix. Anyway, we've explained they aren't pets - we are going to eat most of the roosters, and they are getting names like PotPie and Fricassee. I did make a small exception, and ordered a few Polish Top Hats, and THOSE might be pets, if they are friendly, just because I think they are hysterical to watch. I honestly don't expect this to be a problem. My youngest was three when she informed a museum full of people that the difference between bunnies and rabbits is that bunnies are pets and rabbits are dinner.

  23. My husband and I are new "farmers", only having started our homestead seven years ago, but we absolutely knew going into it that we would be raising and EATING most of the animals on the farm. We don't name our eating animals, unless it's "Steak" or "Ribs", etc. The eating animals are cared for, scratched and given our time, but not treated like pets (i.e.,the dog, cats and mule).

    As for Christopher's wife & daughters, I would tell them that they are disrespecting the lives of those roosters by letting the meat go to waste. (I don't mean to say that in a harsh manner.)

  24. I was raised on a chicken farm and never have enjoyed handling raw chicken. As an adult I still prefer to buy my chicken in pieces rather than whole. I need to get over it as my daughter is getting 20 chicks and has informed me that I can't name them or get attatched and any roosters will be in the soup pot or become fryers. I guess if I want "pets" I will have to get some bantys like my Grandpa use to do for us. We never named the steer that was raised for meat and they usually were so ornery that it wasn't a problem. I think raising kids to understand that it is a responsibility to treat all animals well and to be grateful for all of our food is the best way to get started on the right foot.

  25. When we first started raising and butchering chickens when our two daughters were young, they were very involved in every aspect of their upbringing. We explained that God gave us the chickens to raise with love and care, with clean water, sunshine, and a great life. In return for giving the chickens a wonderful life, they in return nurture us with nourishment. I know that may sound ridiculous to some folks, but our daughters never batted an eye and helped butcher and eat the chickens with no problems.

    The problems began with raising their own hogs for 4-H, selling them at market (to be butchered), and then the other pig we had butchered for home consumption. The girls would not eat Fred bacon, or Wilma chops. At least not for the first year. After that, the tears did not flow quite so freely. And they would enjoy the prepared food on the table.

    Funny, when I asked my younger daughter a couple of years ago to help get the store bought roast chicken ready for the oven, she would have nothing to do with reaching her hand in there and pulling out the neck and gizzard. She wasn't about to touch that raw chicken! I couldn't believe it, after all the years of taking care of animals, sick, injured, mucking pens, washing pigs, cleaning the hen house, plucking feathers, you-name-it. She would not touch that store bought bird. I had to retrieve the parts from the cavity and she grudgingly helped prepare that chicken the rest of the way for dinner. I never did understand what her squeamish factor was with the store bought chicken. Do you think that maybe she knew it had led miserable life, and that held her back from wanting to be a part in preparing it for the table?

  26. We raise our own meat. We have butchered chickens, rabbits, pigs and venison. It is never really easy for me to kill these animals. My husband usually kills and we all process. We have 5 children. Our girls are twins 13, a 12 year old a 10 year old and my son is 2. They are constantly reminded not to name and make pets out of the animals. It still happens but they do eat our home-raised food. There really isn't a choice as we don't purchase meat from the store as a rule except ham and bacon occasionally. We've been homesteading 7 years now and it can still be difficult but the alternative is not acceptable for our family as we CAN raise our own meat.

  27. when i was a kid we had chickens...we also had a cat and a dog..the chickens were being killed and we finally caught the dog in the act of murder.. daddy killed the dog. then he got so mad he killed the cat. and then he ordered all four of us children into the barn where he had killed the chickens, every one of them, and ordered his children to assist in the dipping, plucking, etc...let me tell you that was the biggest stink i have ever experienced in my life and i could not eat chicken of any kind for about fifteen years without smelling that smell and getting sick. i like the fella who earlier said to just trade chickens with whoever is gonna do or help with the butchering. these days, i do not raise any chickens, and i actually like eating chicken now and i have two dogs and numerous cats.

    1. What a terrible experience! A good example of what NOT to do.
      Thankyou for sharing!

  28. Im so glad I stumbled upon this because we as a military family (with most gracious landlords) live on 80 acres and have 21 laying hens, a rooster, 6 Guineas, 8 baby chicks and 2 baby ducks... just jumped in head first and bought 2 jersey x bull calves. I grew up with chickens. "Repackaging" chickens has never been an issue for me. I was raised doing it. Now... looking at these adorable brown babies makes me wonder... am I going to be able to do this?! We are raising them as bottle calves... so Im doing my best NOT to bond (as a current mother to 2 human babies as well as 3 dogs).. They are very dog like and I find myself cooing over these 2 babies that must someday feed our family. I guess the fact of the matter is that they aren't pets... they aren't dogs... they are the best way we can feed our family... grass fed home grown, know whats in it beef. Just like the Organic free range chickens... Human family first I guess!

  29. We have raised animals for our own table and also to sell to the slaughter market (rabbits, goats, chicken, beef). At one time we had the largest herd of meat goats in the state. " The kids ARE SO CUTE". I realized i had two choices. Get over the fact that they would go to slaughter to be eaten or get rid of the animals. Not always easy but those are the only two choices you really have. It is a case of TUFFEN UP. Everything dies in the is simply a mindset.

  30. I've grown up on a farm, but have never butchered anything. In a quest to be more self sustainable we currently have a flock of 10 chickens. These chickens are for eggs only, but I know in the near future we will be getting meat chickens for the first time. I've struggled with the thought of raising something just to butcher and eat it. I am a die hard animal lover, but I do know certain animals are for food. My tips would be...

    1. Remember how the chickens you buy in the store were raised. You never looked them in the eye but they were treated inhumanely.

    2. You raised these roosters wonderfully, you had to many, and you butchered them. You have right to mourn their lives. However, if you do not eat them that is a life given in vain.

    I hope to remember these when the day comes that I, myself, am butchering for the fist time.

  31. Gosh, what a terrific topic with great comments!

    I'm kind of surprised to hear that many of the veteran farmers and homesteaders had to face this hurdle and found it difficult.

    This has been eye-opening for me, since I'm a "sort-of" vegetarian (absolutely no beef, pork or any mammal, but occasionally some fish or chicken.) I've been one for decades and expect to be forever. I can't get over that last hurdle. It's what keeps me from getting goats again: I don't want to deal with the male babies.

    It's what makes me hesitate with getting chickens: I can't face the prospect of the stewpot.

    On the other hand, I have eaten chicken that was raised properly and butchered that day. It was OUTSTANDING! No comparison.

    For now, I guess I'll just keep raising my garden, and continue to make sure the chicken I do buy has been raised humanely. It costs a lot more, but it's important to support responsible food producers, not "Food, Inc."

    Just Me

  32. I was also raised on a farm. We had horses, dogs and cats as 'pets'. The hogs, cattle and chickens were WORK! We were taught from the time we could toddle about that the sows could kill us if we entered the pens and the cows, although gentle, were able to hurt us as well. Running barefoot in a yard with free range chickens was always an adventure, and some of the hens pecked hard when we tried to take their eggs. Moving cows from one field to another or raising calves in the winter took away any sense of affection toward the animals. They had to be taken care of, not cared FOR. The best beef I ever had was out of those two holstein steers.


  33. I haven't been through all the comments yet so I'm sorry if someone else brought up this viewpoint already.

    This might sound strange but I look on it as the final act of respect for the animal. Instead of 'wasting' it's death by leaving it to rot or giving it to the dogs I honor it by allowing it to give me and my family strength and nourishment.
    I make it's death purposeful, not just 'I'm going to kill you because you're just a nusiance now'.

    Works for me.


  34. I grew up on a farm and for us it was never a question of if we would eat an animal. What made it easiest was the fact that I would watch grandpa butcher a cow in the morning and grandmother would collect the brain. I vowed and declared that I would never eat that part of the cow. well for dinner (8 hours later) we had "beef stew". It never connected for me because someone else prepared the food.

    If you have the chicken already cooked, then after wards find out that it was one of "our" chickens it may help them get over the ewww.

  35. When the feed bill goes up and there are more chores it becomes easy to see the load lightened. We also start from the very beginning that these animals are for meat. We have breeders that are here and everything else is food. The kids are ok with that. We don't name animals that are for meat. I grew really attached to our pigs last year and they were probably the most difficult. However, with their feed bill sky high and the mess they were making of their pasture I was a bit relieved to see them go. And they taste sooooo good. Best bacon ever! Blessings, Kat

  36. Our approach to the whole show is a bit different. We have raised most kinds of small and midsize stock. We always avoided beef only because of their size.

    Pigs and kids and lambs and chicks are so cute and growing up on a humane homestead is pretty easy for them and quite entertaining for us. We named every rabbit. Every pig. Every lamb. Every kid. We played with them, we enjoyed their antics, we made their lives as good as is possible for them to be.

    But the cuteness wears off as they mature and by that time we were ready, willing, and able to do what needed to be done for dinner all year. In the spring we would start all over and enjoy the babies as they grew up.


  37. When I was eleven years old, my parents bought their first farm. We also slaughtered some of our own animals. The chickens I had no problems eating, because I thought of them as mostly vegetables on two legs. The pigs I had no problems with eating, because they were hard work, and some of them could be pretty mean. On the other hand, I wouldn't eat the geese. I had helped raise them, like I had helped raise the others, but they had imprinted on me. Even though later I had to slap some of the ganders away from me when I was going about my chores, I still felt like I was betraying them.


  38. We have no problem with our home grown meat. We have butchered our own "old girls" and raised up specific meat birds. We also raised up two Jersey steers, Curly and Smiley, they now fill our freezers and are oh so tasty! Smiley was an escape artist and not very friendly, Curly loved to be scratched, but we have no problem eating them. That is what we raised them for.
    When I was growing up, we also had meat rabbits, they were even better than chicken! Maybe someday we will raise some ourselves.
    When I was in high school, some friends from church raised meat goats and one night, as they sat down to eat some roast goat, just as their father began to carve the roast, a goat outside baaaa'd! Needless to say, they did not eat that roast, or any other goat after that.
    By the way, we did not like the taste and texture of our old girls at first but we found that soaking them overnight in red wine gets rid of the toughness and "gaminess".

  39. It's a tough thing to get used to - we recently started butchering our own meat (last Nov.) and I still have trouble eating it. It tastes good, smells good, husband loves it, but it still makes me vaguely nauseous to eat it and I wasn't attached to the animal it came from.
    I don't know when it will "feel" the same as eating store bought meat. Perhaps I'm guilty of not acknowledging my position on the food chain yet. I'm sure my cat never flicks an eye over any of those mice she catches, etc.

  40. Well I was raised out west and my dad went hunting
    when I was a kid. Now that I am in my 60's and getting
    chickens for the first time, I knew that I had really
    gone south and being soft. so we just got layers.I did
    give a couple of roosters to a neighbor, but at this
    point I don't know what I am going to do when they
    stop laying.And yet on the other hand I am the first one to put one of our dogs down to put it out of its
    misery. And I got really unset with a neighbor, because he would not put a horse down, and yet the horse could not stand on one leg for months. the horse
    could not even hardly walk from the hay to the water.
    thank God he finally put the poor horse out his misery.

  41. I was raised on a farm and we always ate what we grew. Daddy always reminded us that you don't name what you're gonna eat. All 3 of us kids helped with the chores, and yes, the babies were so darn cute, and cuddly. But in the end they all tasted great.
    It is not hard for me to go and pick out a chicken from the pen and "do the deed". But I do thank God for providing my family with good clean food. He gave us permission to eat the animals He created.

  42. Patrice, Many years ago when our 8 children were still very young and we had recently moved to our small farm a neighbor who raised registered Hereford cattle came to me to buy some milk for a calf whose mother had rejected it. Later that same day the neighbor came back and said he just didn't have time to bottle feed a calf so why didn't he just give the calf to us. I was delighted, of course, but I suggested he give it to the kids and then they would have the chores associated with caring for it. He agreed and the next day when he brought the calf to our place the children gathered around and listened intently as the presentation was made. After the neighbor left I explained to the kids that this wasn't a pet, and it would have an "expected end" when the proper time came. But I did tell them they could give the calf a name. Two days later my oldest son came and told me they had decided on a name for the calf. What is it, I asked? We're gonna' call him Big Mac. At that point I knew they understood completely what this animal's fate would be. Subsequent to that we butchered many steers, pigs, chickens and rabbits. And not once has anyone at our farm been squeemish about what ends up on their plate. Keep up the good work, your blog is a pleasure to read. Thanks, Farmergray

  43. Patrice and Christopher,
    We have a self sustainable farm now for 20 years.
    Even in the beginning of our undertaking of animal husbandry, we embedded our belief in God into the practices of our farming and the production of our daily bread and foods we produce.
    We view and take our responsibilities as keepers of our animals, and harvests from the crops and trees, all as blessings and bounty from God. We ask for guidance and give thanks in every endeavor we undertake in order to fulfill one of the life callings he has given us.
    Our animals and crops are raised primarily for our bodies required nourishment. Many of the crops grown are for our animals food.
    We work hard to grow and include quality in our own, and we love it, because it is what we were called to do!
    Everyone must work for their food.
    We are not only blessed with the food, but with a self-assured and healthy respect for the energy and blessings given us that allows us to steward and lovingly care for each one of our animals.
    Without food we will die. Without our work there is no food.
    Without God in our life and farm practices, we are doomed for failure.
    It is all a life cycle. We are responsible for it's success.

  44. So, when Dad retired from the Air Force, we moved to a farm, raised a garden, got 2 pigs, several cows, and a bunch of chickens. Pigs went in the freezer and got eaten - no problem.

    Chickens were processed by the whole family, but couldn't be eaten for a month or so. That "smell" had to get out of our nostrils, then it was OK. If it were a small flock with names, it might have been different, but it was about 5 dozen look alikes.

    A cow went in the freezer, and there were comments about the big brown eyes, but Mom said Dad took ours to market and bought a different one at market to put in our freezer. I don't know how she got us to buy into that story, but once we tried homegrown beef, we didn't care anymore.

    brenda from ar

  45. Wow, it took me a while to read all the comments. I realize I'm a couple of months late, but figured I'd post anyway. Great stories and advice. We are going through the same struggle with our 10 year old. He's totally a softie with the chickens and the calves. Our younger ones are good with it. There are two things that we are doing to help:
    1. We have stopped reading books with animals as characters. The Redwall books were a huge hit in our house, but the effect was that our kids were thinking animals have feelings and minds that are much more like man than animal. There is an important difference in the way a mouse thinks and the way the mice of Redwall think. You can even catch that from movies like Tangled. The animals are given human aspects, and our kids resultantly learn to project humanity on to critters. So for us, we have tried to back away from that input.
    2. We're trying to kill other animals, like rabbits that get into our garden for example, The kids really enjoyed going through the guts of a rabbit and learning what a liver was, etc. It's similar to the idea of trading chickens raised above, but adds the gruesome side of the equation to it.
    We by no means have figured it out yet, though. In the end, Christopher, I wish you well. Love your family, even if the roosters go to waste. Your daughters are much more important!

  46. Two years ago we moved from the city to our little farm, and are slowly learning the ropes, what works and what doesn't. We still struggle with eating things we think are cute, and I'm not sure if my husband will ever be able to eat the sheep and goats that are born here.

    I have saved this post for a while because I think it is so good. I posted it on my website today, with a link back to your site. Hope that is okay!

    I put it here...