Growing up in the city, I saw and heard some horrific incidents. From car accidents, a friend’s brother touches a live wire on top of a train; a body lays in pieces after a motorcycle accident, to burying my puppy after being struck by a car. All of which make me cringe at the thought of blood shed at my own hands. I have written about this theme often, because it is something that has caused great anguish and emotional pain, which I had hoped by exposing, would allow me to move forward.
I guess in a way I was right, if it was most things, I would like being right. This is not one of them and I have lost more then I bargained for, at least in the end. I do have perspective; I have talked to my nephews who have both served on the frontlines in Afghanistan and Iraq. The things we have talked about and how they conducted themselves while transitioning back into society has been inspiring and made me feel foolish at my own inadequacies.
We have exhausted every possible angle for selling our chickens, legally, without us processing. In the state of Maryland, if you do not process your own chickens, legally, you cannot sell them off the farm, let alone retail. If you want to expand your market to restaurants, wholesale or even farmer’s markets, you need a license. Therefore, I have taken the next step in getting our state certified poultry processor license. First step was taking the processing class and passing the test with at least an 80. We have accomplished the aforementioned.
Since then, I have completed the twenty some page application. The next step is to mail it in and wait for the evaluation of our production, sanitation, safety measures, hazard mitigation, waste disposal and chilling process. After examination, comes the letter announcing the results of our plan. If we succeed in meeting all sanitation, safety and disposal procedures, we move to the inspections phase. We then wait for the inspector to call and setup the inspection of our processing.
This has all come with little cost but a lot of emotional angst. However, I took a step that I thought I would never take, nor did I have confidence that I could ever bring myself to take. It has been years in the making but I have crossed over into the realm of grim reaper. I did not lose my breakfast, lunch or dinner as I thought I would, but I lost something worse. To a certain extent, I lost a piece of something, that I had fought a lifetime trying to keep safe. The idea of me ending the life of an animal, that I had raised and cared for, was not fathomable. I have written here, that it was something I was not able or willing to face.
I feel no sense of accomplishment, there is not a speck of satisfaction or any positive feeling having faced one of the hardest tests of my life when I stepped up for the sake of the farm. I am not relieved, if anything I am saddened that I have had to take this step after so many years of fighting against our raising and processing of animals.
Temple Grandin said that constant processing of animals makes people sadistic. I can see why and I have only done it twice. I think it is a defense mechanism used to reconcile what you are doing on a daily basis. I am not saying it is right, it is not, there is no justification for the mistreatment of animals no matter the situation. However, there are emotions involved, we are humans and emotions come with the package. Some of us are better able to handle situational emotions then others and I am trying.
Humane slaughter is an oxymoron but as Temple and Joel Salatin illustrate the end of an animal's life, although permanent, should and can be done with the least stress possible to the animal. I know our birds are raised in the most humane, comfortable and invigorating environment possible, that they lived free and outside with plenty of room and were protected from predatory ills. I try to joke that they live better then I do, what with their organic diet, freedom, fresh grass and a stress-less environment.
However, it does not lessen the fact that my attempt to be a successful vegetable grower is in great peril. It is a bitter pill to swallow given what we now must do in order to keep the operation viable. This is just the beginning, eventually I will need to process one weekend every month. Michael Pollan in "Ominvores Dilemma" pointed out, how far removed people are from their food source. This makes it harder for consumers to see what small farms go through in order to survive and provide safe, fresh food. That is why education is important, the more people learn the more they understand the earnest effort that small sustainable farmers put fourth for their health and the environments.
On a farm, you face difficulties frequently and you do what is warranted within guidelines, humane treatment, regulations, and social mores, ethical and sustainable practices and sometimes by doing so, you just find yourself over the edge and there is no chance of return.
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