Where Your Food (i.e., your turkey) Comes From

The food chain, by nature, is a brutish, nasty beast.

Bearing witness to it up close may not be something that is for everyone, but for me it was an important rite of passage.

I was a vegetarian for 10 years, vegan for 5, and, for me, I eat meat today for many of the same reasons that I stopped eating it in my late teens.

I will spare readers the soap box for now and make a long story short by saying that I’m delighted that this year’s turkey feast comes not from the Jewel down the road, but from my farmer friends Nick and Becky at Midnight Sun Organics.

I saw these guys while they were babies over the summer during a work-share shift, and since I haven’t been on the farm in several weeks I was slightly surprised to see fully mature turkeys following their master down the lane, like the Pied Piper.  Kids these days… they grow up so fast.

I agreed to help “dispatch” this flock because I feel a sense of obligation to participate in where my food comes from, and, for me, that extends beyond just vegetables if I eat more than just vegetables.  Knowing that these animals were cared for, had open space and real food, and were raised by my friends, means that they lived quality lives and, as my Mom put it, only have one really bad day.

While I wasn’t able to really help with *every* step of the process – a process I’m deliberately leaving out unless you ask me personally  – looking back on the day I’m most distraught about the fact that I’m not really distraught.  Honestly, it wasn’t that hard for me to desensitize from the whole thing and just get the job done.

But this is not really that unusual.  Everyone who eats meat is, to a certain extent, desensitized.  It’s just easier to do when you buy something in a florescent-lit showroom on a styrofoam platter.  When your meat doesn’t resemble what it used to be, it’s easier to not think about the violence that occurs before it ends up on your table.  Vegetarians make a habit of visualizing where meat really comes from and how it ends up on the plate, and this is often how I stayed diligent…. because, let’s be honest, meat is delicious.

The “alternative” activity for the day

Maybe for you this is not the way you’d choose to spend a Saturday afternoon: driving an hour to a farm to shuck garlic and slaughter turkeys. But the crisp, fresh air, time with friends, learning about my food, and 20 pounds of deliciousness in my freezer made for me, a perfect day.

Photos by Julie E. Ballard