Making Peace With Your Food

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here, but it’s surely been a busy month! The nightshade and brassica seedlings are up. Today I plant the peas and spinach: quite late, but at least they’re going in the ground. I’ve also been writing elsewhere. My next fantasy novel, Vassal, is due to hit the editorial stage within a week. And I blog weekly for Backyard Poultry Magazine. This article got a lot of attention and Facebook shares: (Originally published with Backyard Poultry Magazine’s online blog.)

roasted-turkey-2

I have a rule. You may only accuse me of murder if you’re vegetarian or Vegan. Not that I want you to accuse me of murder. It’s never fun. But if you’re going to, please don’t go home and eat chicken nuggets afterward.

Our first batch of chicks came with the standard disclaimer: Sexing is 90% accurate. The feed store would not take back roosters. So my husband and I decided that, if one of the chicks was a rooster, we would humanely butcher him. We’re not vegetarian. We both grew up harvesting our meat. But if we intended to keep eating meat, we had to face the issue of raising our own, versus expecting others to raise it for us.

One of the five chicks matured into a rooster. On butcher day, my children stood ready to learn. We’ve never lied to them about their food, but on this day the source stared them right in their faces. Literally. At the end, my husband and my daughter eagerly consumed “the best chicken they had ever tasted.” I cried and ate carrots. My son went vegetarian for a month.

We told the kids they could be vegetarian when they were old enough to take responsibility for their diets. So, when my 12-year-old son eschewed meat, I assigned him to research eight alternative protein sources. He hit the Internet and returned with a list. For that month, he followed his list and consumed a diet balanced with meat-free proteins and garden vegetables.

Then he attended a Boy Scout camp that served barbequed tri-tip. My son then made the decision about his food. He acknowledged where it came from, but made his personal convictions about what he would eat and the work he would do to attain it.

Of all the social phenomena, one that fascinates me the most is how humans feel they can discriminate against each other for how they keep their bodies alive.

I grew up raising and butchering my own meat, but I can also cook a Vegan meal that will knock your socks off! But we have one rule in our house: Just like other well-thought-out lifestyle choices, nobody is allowed to discriminate against someone based on what they eat.

I mean, really. There are so many other things we could hate each other over! (That was sarcasm.)

While on the journey of raising chickens, I learned a new term: vegetarian eggs. These are not necessarily from vegetarian-fed hens. These are eggs from hens that do not come in contact with roosters. Hence, these eggs will never have the potential of creating life. Does that matter? It sure matters to some people! They cherish the choice of consuming protein yet knowing they’re not taking the life of another chicken.

But can you keep your body alive without ever taking another life?

Barbara Kingsolver, in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, says, “Most of us, if we know even a little about where our food comes from, understand that every bite put into our mouths since infancy (barring the odd rock or marble) was formerly alive.” A few paragraphs further, she says, “If we draw the okay-to-kill line between ‘animal’ and ‘plant,’ and thus exclude meat, fowl, and fish from our diet on moral grounds, we still must live with the fact that every sack of flour and every soybean-based block of tofu came from a field where countless winged and furry lives were extinguished in the plowing, cultivating, and harvest.”

Something has died for every bite you eat. A stark reality, isn’t it?

About a year ago, a friend approached me, saying with excitement, “Did you know scientists have found a way to cultivate meat in a lab?”

I recoiled in shock and replied, “How long until that gives us cancer?”

He blinked at me, speechless, then said, “But you’re not excited that you can eat meat without something dying?”

To which I referred to Barbara Kingsolver, where she states that something always dies for the food you eat.

bourbon-red-turkey

Ms. Kingsolver expounds by saying, “To believe we can live without taking life is delusional. Humans may only cultivate nonviolence in our diets by degree. I’ve heard a Buddhist monk suggest the number of food-caused deaths is minimized in steak dinners, which share one death over many meals, whereas the equation is reversed for a bowl of clams. Others of us have lost heart for eating any steak dinner that’s been shoved through the assembly line of feedlot life—however broadly we might share that responsibility.”

My older sister became vegetarian five and a half years ago, for spiritual reasons. With no basis in animal rights or physical health, she strongly felt she needed to be vegetarian, “for now.” She did not expect “for now” to last more than five years. When she discovered she had a strong intolerance to corn and gluten, reintroduced meat to her diet to undo the damage from decades of intolerance/allergy-induced malabsorption. Reversing the decision was difficult both spiritually and ethically. In the end, she had to make peace with herself and her food. Just as we all eventually do.

You can put many nouns on your food choices:

  • Vegan.
  • Vegetarian. (Lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescetarian.)
  • Raw foodie, fruitarian.
  • Omnivore, carnivore. (Though really, if you want to know the true definition of a carnivore, talk to your cat.)
  • And what about the religions terms? Kosher, Halaal, Word of Wisdom.
  • Some religions give up meat during religious holidays.
  • Gujarati cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, due to the influence of Jainism and Hinduism in the Gujarat state of India.
  • Some people don’t eat pork; some don’t eat beef.

Just as my son decided to forego meat then allow it back into his diet when faced with barbequed tri-tip, we all have to make peace with our food. Just as my sister abandoned meat for more than five years then admitted her health suffered. And just as Vegans choose to forego all animal-based products but others in our society claim you won’t pry their bacon cheeseburger from their cold, dead fingers…we all make peace with our food.

Do you raise your own meat? Do you let others to raise it for you, accepting it only once it’s wrapped within innocuous plastic? Or have you foregone all meat, or even all animal-based products? Let us know!

If you want to learn more about backyard chickens, subscribe to Backyard Poultry Magazine, or subscribe to our email newsletter, or join us on Facebook to stay in touch with the latest information you need.

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2 thoughts on “Making Peace With Your Food

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  1. This is Kinley, from Facebook. You intrigued me when you said you were Homesteaders, so I came over to check out your blog. I know this post was written a while ago, but it’s really timely for me! I decided, probably three months ago now, to eat a whole food, plant-based diet. This decision had a lot to do with watching food documentaries and learning the horrors of our food production system in the US. But it has been very fascinating to see people’s reactions to my decision. I should probably do a blog post on it, but the short answer is I have been judged and questioned and accused of judging others. I tell people it’s not that I will never, ever have meat, it’s just that I want to know where that meat came from and that the animal was treated and killed humanely. So for the most part, I skip the meat. And really, that’s the least important of my decision to change my diet…it’s mostly about eating whole foods, but people get so stuck on the meat issue, unfortunately.

    So, anyway, after all that…I’m glad I found this blog. I will have to read some of your older posts!

    1. Hi, Kinley. I firmly hold my stance that a person’s well-researched dietary decisions are as personal as other morals, including religious preferences. I stand behind anyone who has decided how he/she feels about their chosen diet and then follows it, even if it’s not my path. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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