It was a great article by L.E. Leone, of San Francisco Bay Guardian “Cheap Eats” fame, on both the greater urban farming movement and the more personal act of slaughtering livestock one raises one’s self:
I’ll own it: There’s a part of me that likes to kill. When I do what I do with a hatchet and a chicken, I feel like crap, and I feel like God. I feel alive and in love and closer than ever to death. So I guess that is, for me, mixed feelings, yes. And the mix itself is welcome and intensely gratifying.
Farmer or no, the slaughter of an animal for food is an exercise most of us should probably try at least once, if we eat the meat of that animal. Other than the fish many of us have probably caught and gutted, a chicken seems the easiest — both because you can buy them live at some markets and because you likely either own or could easily obtain a small ax. Not to mention they don’t have large, doe-like eyes to stare back trustingly at you as you raise the bolt gun to their forehead.
But if we eat beef, it would be morally honest to at least be willing to slaughter and butcher a cow. I know I don’t relish the thought, but it seems like hypocrisy to happily munch on the end product without being comfortable with the rest of the production line.
Unless you are a farmer or a very determined (and well-connected) individual, it will probably be difficult to get the opportunity to participate directly in the slaughter and butchering of a cow or other large mammal. Breathe your sigh of relief, but know you can at least familiarize yourself with the process. A good place to start is the photo series on Chris Cosetino’s Offal Good blog.
The executive chef of San Francisco’s Incanto documents a beef cow’s journey from live animal to cuts of meat with a directness and compassion that makes the whole process as close to palatable (and real) as you’re probably going to get.
As Leone and Cosetino rightly illustrate, not all parts of meat production are as pretty or appetizing as a perfectly cooked and plated cut, but done with the right attitude and technique, the process seems to be immensely rewarding and grounding. It’s something I’ll probably have to try at some point, but maybe it would be better to think about it in more detail after lunch.
[Photo: Beef cows before slaughter, via Offal Good]