July 29, 2011

Farm Project: “Chicken Processing”

This blog entry is written by Dylan Seder, Farm Project crew member. This week we were involved in chicken processing. I had, and have, some issues with it. The first is with its title. Chicken Processing. Implying that chickens, like soda bottles in a factory, are just one more American product to be outfitted for civilian consumption. It implies that thinking of the birds as a lifeless product is both of the norm, and acceptable. The true evil here, is that what the name implies is not only an implication. Before I go on, I want to make it clear that at the farm institute, the birds are treated with as much respect as they could be given the situation they’re in. The people at The Farm Institute do not mistreat their animals. People in general mistreat the animals of this earth. I watch one of the processors take a bird from its cage, pin its wings to its side, turn it upside down, and stuff the struggling bird into one of the eight or nine kill cones. As I view this, I remember stories of the Native Americans from my youth. I remember how they thank all animals that die for their needs. They put their hand on the dying creature, look into its eyes, and thank it. They appreciate it. I remember that they use everything they possibly can from the dead animal. I also receive a flood of images from my brain of children throwing chicken nuggets at each other and tossing them in the trash to save space for twinkies and chocolate milk. If you don’t have the guts to kill a chicken, you shouldn’t eat chicken. If you don’t like the idea of digging through the earth to get a potato, you shouldn’t eat French fries. It’s that simple. It should be nobody’s responsibility but our own to get food into our stomachs (unless you happen to be under the age of 14, give or take a year). As soon as we’re physically capable, we should be getting out own food. I don’t have the guts to slaughter a chicken. I have the stomach to shoot it if I’m planning on eating it. Or throw a rock at it. I could even slit its throat if I caught it on my own, but only if it was for food. I cannot slaughter one. I cannot kill a helpless animal so that someone I don’t know can cook it in his or her kitchen and brag to their neighbors about how it came from an authentic farm just up the road. I made myself watch them slit most of the throats anyway. It’s part of the world; I don’t want to forget the images. At first I admired the dexterity of the man killing the birds. He cut into their flesh as if he was washing his hands or brushing his teeth. Then I realize “processing” is exactly the right word for what they do with those birds. I no longer admire the ease with which the man killed. I respect that he can, but have no desire to possess such a quality. I tell myself throughout the experience that at least I’m watching this happen at the Farm Institute. I know it’s probably 100 times worse at other farms. Thousands time worse at the high production farms in the middle of Iowa or Kansas. I just wish we had deer farms instead. Enormous sections of land in which deer can breed without fear of predators. Then, if you want meat, you buy it, and go kill it yourself. You have to track it down, and take the life of your own food. To me, that’s fair. I wonder at the number of meat eaters we’d have left if such farms were to exist.