Eating Chicken

By Alexia Springer

While WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on the Doss Family Farm, Alvin and I learned about raising organically fed, pastured mangalitsa pigs. Among other things, the farm raises organic, pastured Freedom Rangers and Red Rangers for their flavorful meat.

Processing chickens is something most meat eaters ignore. We want to eat meat, but not think about how that meat got onto the plate. What are the moral implications of separating ourselves from this process? If it is too difficult for me, emotionally to handle the process of obtaining meat, should I really be eating it? What is our, as humans, moral obligation to animals? These are questions I have tossed around in my head for the last five years.

Growing up my dad was a vegetarian and didn’t allow meat in the house. I’m a believer in nonviolence and I’ve never even killed a fish before. One of my goals for WWOOFing is to learn more about the meat process to help formulate my personal ethics on meat consumption. If I can’t handle the facts, I have no business eating it.

For about three weeks, we fed and got to know the meat chickens on the farm. Christie Doss sent the majority of the birds to the butcher but kept nine at the farm for us to learn the final stage. These chickens lived fantastic lives: outside, foraging in a pasture and eating GMO, corn, and soy FREE feed. They were starting to become very hungry and very large. The morning of “Chicken Harvest Day,” we caught them individually and caressed them lovingly, thanking them for their life and respecting their purpose. Itadakimasu, the Shinto tradition and idea that, I humbly accept the gift of your life. Two of us put them upside down in a homemade “kill cone” and one held the feet to help the bird feel secure, while the other held the neck and cut the artery. After they gave their life, the blood drained, we dipped them in hot water to loosen the feathers for plucking. We saved the blood, feet, and necks for dog treats and the feathers went into the compost. One way to fully respect the life given is by utilizing the whole being, something I’m still trying to figure out. I see areas of improvement and I feel thankful for the knowledge and respect the Doss Farm taught me for the life of farm animals.

Thanking the chickens for their life and treating them with respect made this process much easier for me. We knew they did not suffer, their death was quick and calm. Can we say we know this with the chicken we buy from the store or at restaurants? The kill cone is an accepted way for small scale chicken owners to ethically harvest their own chicken. The cone keeps the bird still and from stressing out during the process. Is there really any way to humanely slaughter animals?

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Baby meat chicks in a secure shelter. Both ends of this barn are opened daily. Left outside, baby chicks are vulnerable to predators. Soon, these chicks will grow big enough to venture outside safely during the day.

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