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Killing and Eating my own meat

Last weekend I visited our neighbours across the river at the land.

I asked them if I could buy a chicken from them, they said yes but that they were killing the chickens when an order came in now and so had none ready. I decided that it was now or never and asked if I could witness the dispatching of the chicken and help with the plucking and dressing of the carcass. They very kindly said yes... Bugger.

Well, the build up to it was huge. I dreamt about it, my stomach was churning and I felt weak. Luckily they are bloody lovely people and I knew that they would treat the situation with gentleness. Which, thankfully they did.

I wont go into too much detail, but I will outline what followed.

He held the chicken and stroked it's head. The bird cooed - which was very difficult to hear but it put me at ease to know the bird was not stressed at all.

Then he took the bird to a metal contraption attached to a post called a dispatcher. Within a nano second the chicken was killed, it's neck being broken.

For what seemed like an eternity the bird flapped like crazy as he held it by the legs. The bird flapped so much I found it hard to believe it was dead - it was though, this is just what they do. Something to do with the nerves I think.

We hung the bird up in the barn and we plucked it while it was still warm. Such a strange feeling.

They then put the plucked bird in the fridge over night as it makes it easier to dress the chicken the next day (dress means to remove all the inside bits). I was shown how to do this and it was nowhere near as bad as the dispatching of the bird. I thought I would be grossed out but I wasn't at all.

Sunday, at home, we roasted the bird and when it came to eat it I couldn't put the meat into my mouth. Normally I would scoff my food down but I just couldn't. I had a tear in my eye and I felt very humbled by the whole experience. This really brought the experience of mindfulness powerfully into the moment.

There is no doubt that I felt more connected with the meat I was eating, well that kind of goes without saying I suppose. It was so much more than that though. I had a connection to something deep inside, something very primitive. I did eat the bird and it was the tastiest meat I have ever tasted. I was determined to use every bit of it and so the following day I made a curry and boiled the carcass to make stock and soup. Willow got a few bits too!

Now, I've been vegetarian since I was a young teenager and was vegan for a few years when I realised that dairy products resulted in male calf's being sold for meat. I realised that my vegan diet was being flown over to me from all over the world, rainforest was being cleared to feed me soya products and the food itsels was not grown to the same environmental standards I would expect over here. I decided that in order for me to do my best by the 'whole' I needed to eat locally. This meant that I had to face the fact that I might have to eat meat during the lean months and if I wanted to have my own dairy products.

This is by no means my steadfast opinion, in fact after my experience with the chicken I am having to think really hard about what I can and can't cope with.

Sustainability is what I plan to live by though, so however I am able to achieve a sustainable lifestyle, in the environment I live in, then that is what I will strive to do.

Even if it means making difficult moral decisions like this one.


  1. I'm really in awe of you. I watched Hugh's chicken programmes and the ones that featured a diffent animal every day through the slaughtering process. That was difficult enough but to have witnessed it first
    What about er.. roadkill and other 'accidental' meat? How do you feel about that?

  2. I have to say that the idea of eating roadkill really creeps me out. I don't think I could trust myself to know what I was eating wasn't rotten. I know it sounds ridiculous! I'm sure it would be smelly if it was. EEUuurk! It's something I will hopefully be able to overcome though - I think that's something I'll try a bit further down the... ahem... road!!


  3. Its great to hear that people are taking this more seriously. I don't have an opportunity to do this, because of the locality in which I live. However, I am making plants to move elsewhere and try to live sustainably.

    I have no allusions as to meat-eating, but I come from country stock, so we weren't spared the reality of meat-eating growing up. That said, I would like to attain the skills to butcher my own meat. Not because I relish the thought, but because I believe as a modern city dweller, I am missing that "connection" of which you spoke.

  4. what a thought provoking post hen, thank you.

    Leanne x

  5. Well done Hen, and that was really well written. I know exactly what you mean about the vegan thing and air miles. In my opinion, if everyone just cut their meat consumption and bought wisely (from humane/respectful places) then that would have a greater impact on the current farming methods, than a smaller number of vegetarians ever could. We were vegetarian for many years and vegan for a couple, and so understand fully where you're coming from.

    I have picked up roadkill, but only because I saw it run over, then hung around until the road was empty!!! It was pheasant, not a hedgehog or anything :)

  6. Its very humbling the first time you eat your own animal....I cannot eat animals I don't know now....Its a respect thing I think....I really respect the animal that gives its life for me, very odd trying to describe this but I think its a very deep feeling

  7. Making the connection between my needs and my environment is what it's all about for me. Although I would never say that everyone who eats meat ought to experience the death of the animal and the preparation of the animal, I can't help thinking that it might be a good idea!

    Maybe I should stop being so woosy about roadkill and just go for it, unfortunately the way people drive round here there is always plenty!

    I absolutely experienced the feeling of not ever wanting to eat any animal that I didn't know/kill myself. That is why I'm in two minds as to whether, in reality, I can actually do it. Part of me knows I can, and will. Part of me wonders why I think it's really necessary these days for my survival, to take the life of an animal for my belly.


  8. An honest and thought provoking post Hen. Far too many people are still ignorant of the origins of their food – though the seeds of change are about.

    I feel it’s important for people to understand that meat is not a cheap, throwaway food and shouldn’t just be a lump of ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ protein with each meal, every day; rather more a treat and something to be savoured. And as you instinctively understood with your chicken – nothing should go to waste.

    Our food should be grown and produced sustainably and in harmony with environment and countryside around us. That connection (which you talked about) with our food is vital.


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