And I have to remind myself that this is where food comes from.

The process of transforming a chicken to “chicken” is one I don’t do often enough to get blasé about. Having raised and cared for each of these birds for years, it offends my inner SJW. I feel like a bad person. I put it off and rehearse excuses, which offends my inner mountain man. I feel like a wimp.

Finally I fall back on the ritual of meticulous preparation.


My immediate forebears and several contemporary relatives were Michigan rednecks, but I myself was a bookish little white boy from Detroit. So my experiences are spotty: I’ve buried hundreds of pounds of viscera from a highly illegal deer-slaughtering “factory” on my brother-in-law’s central Michigan farm, but I’ve never personally killed a deer. I recall a Thanksgiving when I was a little kid, when my father and his longtime friend Charlie Kittle decided to do the meal the traditional way – starting with a live turkey. I wanted to “help,” but my father wouldn’t even let me watch. This was something he and Uncle Charlie knew how to do, but he seemed to regard it as something to be hidden away. Of course he treated a lot of things like that. My father didn’t talk much, and never about his past or family.

Just do the deed, that’s all.

The bird fights me until she’s subdued, and then she becomes very passive – almost cooperative. They usually do that. Personally you’d have to kill me from a distance. But I’m not a chicken.

And that’s the violent part over with, followed by the icky part.

And that – I remind myself – is where food comes from. Having handled a thousand of these in supermarkets, once it’s a naked eviscerated carcass it magically stops being a gross violation of decency and just becomes “chicken.”

Does that seem right to you?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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13 Responses to And I have to remind myself that this is where food comes from.

  1. kyle says:

    I love how you wrote this… I feel the same way as you do exactly the same way. Sometimes i randomly think about food and get grossed out for a minute a day or a week…. I wonder what would i eat if i had to kill and skin and cut up and cook my own meat… Sometimes i think of this while im cutting up raw chicken or steak and i will think about how professional cooks or anyones grandmother…. How do they view food?? What do they think when you say chicken sound good to eat tonight? I have those same mixed thoughts as you joel… But i feel in the end… If i was culling all my own meat. I think i would become desensitized….. Buuuut i would always apreciate the food more….. Like i would apreciate the food more than a 6 year old kid that has never even seen someone skin and degut and prepare meat for eating… You know… And i think most americans these days dont even know or have even seeen how you make ground beef or how chicken factories dehead chickens…. Ita rather traumatic and gives you a great apreciation for the meat that you eat a certain respect… To not waste any of the meat!

  2. jabrwok says:

    Does that seem right to you?

    Yep. Admittedly I’ve never done any of it, but I try to imagine it occasionally. It’s far too easy to slip into the “food comes from the grocery store” mentality and forget, or at least disassociate from, the harsh reality.

    We’re carnivores primarily, and we do ourselves no services by trying to forget that fact and what it entails.

    One of the reasons I like your blog is that it reminds me how dependent we are upon nature and one another.

  3. abnormalist says:

    I somewhat go through the same thing with game.
    I turn squirrels into food. I turn deer into food. Even rabbits and ducks into food all the time, but until it magically crosses that line from fur and feathers into food its awfully disgusting.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I always go back to this for inspiration:

  5. coloradohermit says:

    When we had animals(food with names), we had a friend who insisted on bringing the meat whenever he and his wife came to dinner because he was so afraid we’d feed him an animal that he had met.

    The eyes were what got me every time we butchered something(someone). At least chickens don’t have those kind of big trusting eyes.

  6. jed says:

    I can’t help but be reminded of this bit of stupid.

    Does that seem right to you?

    So few people get it when I intentionally invoke Jubal Early. Okay, I don’t know if that was your intent here.

  7. Joel says:

    Jed, I am so totally stealing that graphic! 😀

    And yeah, I was channeling Jubal Early. In a better world we’d have seen more of him.

  8. Roger says:

    I was also a bookish little white boy , but I was from Mid-Michigan. I can remember helping a redneck uncle “deer hunt” at night. I held the spotlight and the beer. I think I was about 6 the first time. So I learned about gutting and processing at an early age.

    When I was 12 we moved from town to a small farm. We began raising chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat. The first batch was about 50 birds. As the oldest child I was volunteered to do the deed. I didn’t like it but I did it. I cried thru the first 20 birds. The next year we were raising for relatives also. We did 2 batches of birds a season. 300 chickens and a dozen turkeys. I killed every single one of them. My Dad was one of the meanest SOB’s you every met. Could not kill an animal.

    Now many years and many animals later, I really have a harder time killing. I can do what needs done, I just really dislike it. Bring a deer over and I have no problem processing it. Now I have to have a pretty empty freezer before I will take a deer myself.

    I am not in subsistence mode, so I have this luxury. If I had to feed my family I have no doubt the reluctance would fade.

    So yeah, that seems right to me

  9. My dad raised chickens and beef cattle. I guess having to help with that inured me to the process. I didn’t like it but I have done lots of things I didn’t like, over the years.

  10. jed says:

    Well, dang it all. I hadn’t known there was a Civil War General with that name. The things you find out doing a YouTube search.

    Have to disagree with you on Early though. The man was not well. He did have his moments, though.

  11. Tennessee Budd says:

    I don’t like it, either. Hunting is easier, in that I’m not personally acquainted with the animal. Not that I hold conversations with animals I raise for food–monologues, yes. I can neither confirm nor deny any allegations regarding Robert Service poems, Shakespeare soliloquies, Monty Python sketches, or any other such nonsense. Especially the Frenchmen & flying sheep sketch. (Ahem.).
    I agree, as well, that once they’re naked it’s easier. They’ve gone from animal to just meat to be processed.

  12. Joel says:

    Not well, hell, he was a sadistic creep. But as a character he was great, and even in the DVD commentary Whedon said he had intended Early to return.

  13. M. says:

    I’ve always thought if it got to the point it didn’t bother me (the Butchering), time to stop. Then again, I started way late in the raising/butcher/eat vs store process.

To the stake with the heretic!