the eyes of our food

We’ve been going around and around about whether or not to write this post.  Everyone has different views on eating animals and we don’t want to be pegged as cruel animal murderers, but we must tell you our story.  I’ll spare you the gruesome pictures.

“You can leave the killing to others and pretend it never happened, or you can look it in the eye and know it.” -Barbara Kingsolver


Saturday morning at 5:10 am I was awakened by crowing.  The crowing had been going on for weeks, I’m not sure why it kept me from falling back asleep this particular morning and why Chris managed to sleep soundly next to me.  Maybe it was because our bedroom window was wide open, or maybe the heat was getting to me, but with every cock-a-doodle-doo I became more upset and less likely to fall back asleep.  Our poor neighbors, we promised them no roosters.  Had the crowing been waking up their entire house at this time for the past few weeks?  Are they going to report us to the Animal Control for having an illegal rooster in the city?

It was at 6 am and 9 cock-a-doodle-doos later that I decided to kill our roosters.  We’d been searching for weeks for a home for them with no success.  Around  9 am I solidified my plans by calling Mario, our church’s caretaker and an experienced chicken killer.  “Snap the neck, drain the blood, pluck all the feathers, gut and clean ’em.”  Easy breezy, I can do this.

Sunday at 3 pm our friends Jose and Melissa arrived with their three children and nephew (Jose has been wanting to eat our chickens for months now).  We gathered our supplies:  1 garden stone to use as a chopping block, 3 knives of various sizes, 2 nooses hung from the clothesline, 3 pots of water for the cleaning and de-feathering, 1 trash bag, and 2 ziplock freezer bags.  We huddled together to say a quick prayer, thanking God for the life of these chickens and for supplying us with food.  We talked with 6 year old Andrew and 3 year old Mary about where their food comes from and how killing animals is only okay if you are going to eat them.

Jose and I then did the deed together, taking turns chopping and holding each bird.  The whole thing from start to finish took a lot longer than 5 minutes like the guy on youtube promised.

We learned a lot this first time.  For example, garden shears or an axe might be better tools for an instantaneous and pain-free death.  After chopping off the head be sure to throw the carcass, or else their continuous flapping will inevitably splatter you with blood.  There’s not really that much blood to drain.  De-feathering is a cinch.  While gutting the chicken, be extra careful not to puncture the stomach or the rectum or else you will soil your meat.  And it gets so much easier after the bird is plucked because that is when they start to resemble the birds at the grocery store.

I do not regret killing our roosters for I know they lived good lives and had clean, humane deaths.  I do feel like I accomplished some sort of rite of passage.  Michael Pollan wrote:  “It seemed to me not too much to ask of a meat eater, which I was then and still am, that at least once in his life he take some direct responsibility for the killing on which his meat-eating depends.”

But I will never forget that knowing look in their eyes right before, and it’s hard to imagine ever being able to kill a larger, more intelligent animal, like a pig or goat or cow.  The cost of eating meat truly is a great one, and it weighs heavy upon me.  Next week we will celebrate the life of Mike the rooster and the rooster without a name over barbecue and Coq Au Vin.  I am humbled and I am grateful.



  1. You are strong and wise and I am proud to call you my friend. And you definitely do not need Anna as a writing coach… this was brilliantly written.

  2. Please let us know how the Coq Au Vin turned out! I’ve had it twice but never with real rooster (chicken and turkey).

  3. Pingback: why we love them « P S A L T E R F A R M

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