Updated: Sep 14, 2020
I grew up in Los Angeles and didn't really see a farm until I was an adult. My grandparents all had the experience of raising chickens for food and having to cull them when the time came to turn them into dinner. For a period of time in college, I became a vegetarian, mostly due to environmental reasons, but also because I had never killed an animal for meat and I didn't feel right to outsource that process to strangers in a place I would never see. When I stopped being a vegetarian, I promised myself I would participate in the process of turning an animal into meat. If I couldn't stomach that process, then I shouldn't get to eat meat.
I bought a rifle and trained myself to shoot. Then I found a guide and hunted a wild boar, an invasive and destructive species. Taking aim and firing the shot at the boar wasn't as hard as I expected. What was hard was field prepping the boar, removing its guts so the meat could cool down. When I stuck my hands inside the boar to pull out the guts, it wasn't warm or cold. It was the same temperature I was, because until a moment ago it had been alive like me.
I'll never forget that moment, sweating in the summer sun, arms covered in pig's blood up to my elbows. This is what meat really costs. Swiping your credit card in the store is a cop out. You should pay for it in sweat. You should smell it in the offal that covers you. I quietly thanked the boar for giving its life so we could eat. That was the day I truly entered the food chain.
Since then, I've hunted about a dozen boar and I've been working to get as much of our meat as possible from people I know and farms I can visit. Our friends have a little farm in Ben Lomond where they raise chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. We bring our son to visit them when the new birds are just hatched so he can feed them. For now, we talk about how the birds will be dinner one day, but someday we'll introduce him to the rest of the process of turning the chickens into meat so he can make his own decision as to whether he wants to eat meat with the full knowledge of what's involved.
I invite you to the same challenge. If you eat meat, you should at least once turn that animal into meat. If you can't stomach the process, you shouldn't get to eat the results of that process. So many of our food issues stem from the separation that's grown between us and our food. Reconnect with your food. Go where it comes from. Dig into the soil with your hands and plant the seed. Feed the chickens so that they can feed you. Bake it from scratch. Brew your own beer. I promise you the closer your relationship with your food, the better it tastes and the better you'll feel.