Self sufficiency has always been my dream. Some things are out of reach at present; I don't think we are going off grid any time soon! But the whole food thing is something, in which, I can see we can make a difference in our lifestyles. We can grow what we need, or at least start with enough to supplement and slowly progress to having a larder stocked through our own hard graft. And, until today, vegetables and fruit have made up that pantry filling effort...
Today however, was different.
Today we stepped into a new realm.
Today we went were we had only speculated that we would like to go but had always found some excuse not to. Excuses coming mainly from a little bit of fear, mixed with uncertainty, mixed with a tiny sprinkling of good ol' fashioned squimishness.
Today we delved into meat!
We have in our flock of hens, 5, yes, count 'em, 5 cockerels. One is the original, bought to allow us to have chicks and perpetuate our flock. Two came from the inevitability of percentage cockerel to hen in any clutch of eggs. And two arrived as a gift, three babies given and we managed only one hen! Our cockerel numbers are all well and good when they are youngsters but as they grow a decision has to be made as to what to do with them. We were lucky, even though two were now pretty much the size of their dad, he was tolerating them without too much fighting. He'd give them a hard stare and they'd wander off. But they'd still have to go, if nothing else they eat like gannets and of course you get nothing back.
We had basically three choices: sell or give them away, kill and dispose or eat them. Selling and giving away are easier said than done, no one wants cockerels. Even at auction you get around £3 - £4 per bird which is negligible to the amount you've spent feeding them, and, to be honest, the feeling is, the people buying them are just going to eat them, so you've paid to raise someone else's dinner and they've given you next to nothing for it!
Straight killing seemed a little wasteful and disrespectful to the bird, so we went for kill to eat. A tricky concept to get your head round. Although I eat meat, I know where it comes from, I know what is involved in getting it there is still something inherently 'oh dear' about choosing to do it yourself, to your own bird. The first step is always the hardest. But I wanted to be there for every step, I wanted to see what was done.
We didn't know the techniques at all. We wanted it to be quick, without fuss and without undue stress to the bird, so Farm Guy's dad was called in, a veteran in poultry dispatch, he showed us the best way to do every step. The two oldest youngsters were chosen and the whole thing went very smoothly. The whole process was a lot simpler than I had imagined and I think it is something that we will now continue to do. Our two boys are now in the freezer and will be much appreciated.
I think there is something to be said for killing and preparing your own meat. As I have stated before I am an animal lover but also a meat eater, I believe the two can go hand in hand, but I also feel that there is a tendency for people (myself included) to become separated from the reality of eating meat. We all KNOW what is going on, but we don't connect with the actual act. This whole experience was good for me, a reconnection with the whole food chain cycle. A greater respect for what is going on with the food we eat, and that it doesn't just come pre-packaged and shrink wrapped!