Raising Chickens Triggers Conscious Consumer

| 8/31/2009 5:20:55 PM

A photo of Shirley Rodeo VanScoykI believe that every decade or so I should really look at my life. That’s usually because I have spent the previous ten years making a mess of it. So, on the day I turned 30, I was standing in the grocery store looking at a pack of chicken. I was figuring out, as it lay there with the plastic wrap snuggly clinging to its pinky, salmonella-infested moistness, that it just didn’t look that tasty. It also did not look like an animal. Because I am not one of those blessed with a mind that can take such information and just move on, and because it was my 30th birthday and I wasn’t feeling particularily moved by anything else about the day, I set myself a year long goal of really figuring out whether I was: A) an insatiable omnivore opportunity eater who just grazed my way mindlessly through life, or B) a Conscious Consumer who thoughtfully chose what she put in her body as a statement of her political, ethical, moral and spiritual beliefs.

It was the 80s. Most people remember the 80s as a-ha and Air Supply on the radio and the slow return of conspicuous consumption. For me, it was a decade of soul searching manifesting itself in an odd melange Joan Collins suits, Princess Diana beige hair and huge glasses. Casual wear was a denim jumper and sensible shoes – a uniform made necessary by our recent move to the farm. Looking bad, I was dowdy before my time.

Back to the chicken. I bought it, but every time I took it out of the freezer to cook, I would find myself staring at it, turning it this way and that. I had to wonder why I wasn’t looking at it and saying, “Yum, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into that.” I had to wonder why I was wondering at all. Bright light fills my head. It’s because I don’t see a connection between this hunk of frozen frankenchicken and an actual chicken.

I spent weeks walking around trying to discuss this conflict with friends and colleaques. Many would say, “I couldn’t eat it if it did look like a chicken!” Then they would relate some story of a grandfather or mother who would chop the head of a hen and let it run around the yard, or a cousin who hunts for all their meat. Maybe they would tell me about some duck or something they got for Easter and gave a cute name only to have it end up in a cassolette. Then, sometimes, something more insidious would happen – someone would tell me about a crazy college kid who gave up eating everything with a face.

So, I started obsessing about this issue and finally one day got tired of obsessing and decided to set myself about solving it once and for all.

I challenged myself: If I can raise a chicken, butcher it and eat it, I will remain a omnivore. If not, I will never eat anything with a face again.

Rodeo Princess
9/3/2009 12:37:40 PM

Thank you Dogcrate King and Nebraska Dave!

Nebraska Dave
9/2/2009 10:34:04 AM

Shirley, your escapades with the pigs made me laugh as pig memories flooded back to my mind. After having to deal with pigs I can certainly understand the phrase “being pig headed”. As a child I always wanted to be farmer when I grew up. I spent time on my Uncle’s farm during the summers and when Dad had a farm during my High School years, I worked the farm. During my last year of high school, my Dad had me milking 13 cows. We separated the milk and sold the cream. So what do you do with 10 – 15 gallons of skim milk twice a day. Dad said, “You know I bet pigs would really grow good on skim milk.” So yeah we bought a herd of piglets. I’ve never chased, herded, or grumbled as much as when pigs entered my life. They are indeed the most challenging life form I have ever encountered. I can see why they grow them today in confinement. Not that I agree with that, but I certainly can appreciate their reasoning. At the most inappropriate time, I would get the call that the pigs were out. Dad was right the pigs did grow fast and stayed healthy. I really think Dad had a plan to introduce me to the real aspects of farm life which during my senior year in High School made me realize that farming was a lot of work, a big gamble for profit, and not much return on the investment. Well, Dad’s plan worked and I became an electrical technician for 40 years instead. However, the country still lives on inside this old boy’s heart. My acreage now resides inside the city and measures 50 feet by 100 feet. It keeps me busy enough with patio building, house painting, lawn mowing, gutter cleaning, water feature building, shed building, or retainer wall building. I love gardening and digging in the dirt. I do love a good pork chop, but I think I’ll just buy it from the store and roast it on the backyard barbie.

Dogcrate King
9/1/2009 6:47:14 AM

What an episode! You made my day, again! Good stuff.

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