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I am Alive... but the Turkeys Aren't

>> Monday, November 28, 2011

I know, I know, it's been an unforgivably long time since I've posted a damn thing.  I attribute it to a combination of severely overloaded schedule and writer's block.  Well, and photographer's block, too, really.  I haven't even had the camera out much this fall.

Though for this particular story I'm about to tell, you are all probably mighty glad I did not have the camera on hand.  In fact, I wasn't even personally present for the event.  It's my husband's story to tell but since he doesn't blog, I get to tell it.

Background:  I am not, nor will I ever be a vegetarian.  I simply cannot do it.  I crave meat.  Moreover, I have a lot of dietary restrictions for medical reasons, and could not handle cutting anything else out of my diet - it's hard enough for me to find things to eat as it is.  However, I am also a lover of critters and detest animal suffering of any kind.

I have tried my best to balance those two competing forces in my life by finding sources of meat that are outside the often horrifying large industrial farms that are the American norm.  There are far too many videos and stories told about mistreatment of animals for me to be sure any ordinary grocery store source of meat meets with my ethical standards.  I won't even delve into the food safety aspect of the American meat system. 

My husband and I have been lucky and blessed though.  In recent years, we have been buying almost all our meat and eggs from one particular farmer, a woman named Wendy, who sells her wares at the Regional Market in Syracuse.  She raises cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and turkeys on her farm called Sweet Grass Farm.  Her farm is not certified organic, but her animals are hormone and antibiotic free, and fed organic feed (or grass, weather permitting).  Better yet, she gives her animals a wonderful quality of life.  We've been to the farm.  We've seen it first hand.  And you can see it in her eyes when she starts talking about egg production, and whether "her girls" have been up or down in production because of the weather.

Wendy runs the farm all on her own, with all those livestock.  This year, she's been short handed because of some employee issues, and she has really been struggling to keep up.  Since we've struck up a friendship of sorts with Wendy over the years, in a moment of kindness, my husband asked her if there was anything he could do to help.  With gratitude, she asked if he would be willing to help with the Thanksgiving turkey prep.

And here is where my morals collided with reality.  At first I thought I would go assist.  In the end I (pardon the pun) chickened out.  I wish I could kill what meat I eat.  It seems to me like if I am not willing to kill it I shouldn't eat it.  But... I selfishly wanted to enjoy my Thanksgiving turkey and was afraid I wouldn't be able to if I assisted.

My husband, though, followed through.  Having raised and participated in slaughtering chickens when he was a kid, he wasn't intimidated. 

I won't go into too much graphic detail for those of you with weak stomachs. Wendy actually killed the birds since they knew her and wouldn't panic when she handled them.  My husband scalded them, and removed feathers and feet (did you know there are machines that pluck the small feathers off turkeys???  I didn't) and two other volunteers removed necks and innards. 

He's not sure how many turkeys they processed that day, but he guesses 50+.  It was, I gather, absolutely back breaking labor - I can't imagine hoisting a large turkey in each hand and hauling it around.  It was also dirty work.  God bless him, he had his clothing in the laundry before I got home.  Oddly, he said the dogs were keenly interested in sniffing him when he got home...

So this Thanksgiving?  I found I was impressed that my husband could do what he did, and thankful that he's the kind of man who would volunteer to do such hard labor to support someone and something he believes in.  (Though we did get our Thanksgiving turkey out of the deal - she wouldn't let us pay for it).  I was also thankful that my faith in Wendy's ethics was well-placed.  My husband can personally attest that her animals have a good life right through the end.  I am thankful I can afford to eat in a way I consider to be "ethical", and that we even found Wendy in the first place.

And yes, the turkey was positively delicious.  And I was thankful for that, too.


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