Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meeting my Meat (graphic images)

Like many ex-vegetarians I have met, I 12 years ago reluctantly went back to eating meat medicinally a few times per week to avoid the several severe colds I'd get annually despite balancing my amino acids and taking zinc and B-12. It seems that certain body types simply cannot tolerate a vegetarian diet well just as some can't tolerate dairy or shrimp or strawberries, etc. Since I'd been in factory farms (which had motivated my becoming vegetarian again in Denver in 1989 or s0) I vowed 12 years ago that I'd avoid factory farm meat. But I continued as a low income person to buy 10 lb. bags of chicken leg quarters on sale for 39 cents a pound, or boneless "country ribs" pig meat for 99 cents a pound and packing my freezer despite knowing down deep the horrific lives, then deaths the animals endured.

Since I now have my first rooster who is happily boinking my chickens daily I have fertile eggs for the first time. So several months ago I began putting eggs in my free incubator, knowing a certain percentage would hatch as males, which would force me to at last "deal" as having multiple roosters in south Tampa would be a guaranteed way for me to be a lousy neighbor and get turned in to code.

Sure enough, all three of those first chicks turned out to be got killed by a racoon, one still lives, and several weeks ago, due to it crowing and challenging "Mr. Rooster" (whom I've trained to barely crow midday and who spends each night in the shed in a covered dog cage until 10:30 the next morning to spare my neighbors), one forced me to finally "meet my meat".

Despite months of coaching from folks who've killed many chickens, and watching several YouTube clips of people doing it, I kept being a wuss and putting it off. But one morning, after seeing a YouTube clip by the CBS Morning Show of rural elementary kids helping to slaughter chickens, I decided it was time to "man up". I went to his sleeping box, took him out, carried him by his feet (which makes chickens VERY passive), I thanked him and apologized, then laid his neck across the stump I brought home for the purpose, and using the $2 machete I'd been trying for weeks very hard to make VERY sharp, I chopped off his head and dropped his body into a 5 gallon bucket where the wings flapped a few times. I was surprised by how little blood there was. Nonetheless I walked into the house for a minute, my hands shaking a little from an adrenalin buzz.

Since I was finally keeping a 12 year old promise to myself, I took pics of him alive and during the cleaning process, coming out of the oven, then as a candlelit dinner I ate in reverence, unexpectedly deeply moved. His meat was surprisingly "flesh-like"...I've been told it was mainly due to being fresh vs. frozen a few times, and his being a rooster to a lesser extent. I baked him with his feet on to remind me of how "real" he was, but I won't again as they curled down in the heat and made getting him out of the oven difficult. But I kept one of those fee in my kitchen window as a reminder of that long-anticipated, very moving day. I froze surplus cooked meat and have eaten 6 more meals from him, with at least one packet left in the freezer.

Some of these images are very graphic...they are not of perky little "chicken McNuggets" but of a bird alive just moments prior. I have 5 new chicks that have hatched, and one remaining rooster I need to slaughter as he is upsetting "Mr. Rooster" and making him crow. And once again, I am being a wuss. I've been told I will need to experience this half a dozen times or so before it is not so traumatic. As my friend Pat (who has raised and killed many a rabbit and chicken) says, getting ones meat this way is very "intimate".....I could not agree more.
I meet many people these days who eat meat yet also share my loathing of supporting factory farming...perhaps my sharing this experience might offer some ideas and inspiration since Tampa now allows 12 chickens per yard, and many cities across the cities have greatly relaxed their home poultry rules. I saw a Today Show clip on YouTube of a family in downtown MANHATTAN with 45 chickens for meat and eggs! Since my chickens are free range, have great lives and varied diets of restauarant scraps I dumpster dive plus weeds and bugs and leftovers, and seahell grit for their gizzards I bring home from the beach, who bless me with FRESH eggs, and that sleep each night in a very spacious, predator-proof, hurricane-proof henhouse I made from dumpster-dived chain link driveway gates, I feel that very soon I will be at the point where, unless I eat it at a restaurant, any meat I eat f0r the health of my body will be one more bounty from my jungly south Tampa yard. John (p.s. I see the pics were posted in reverse order and don't see how to correct that, plus 5 is the limit, so I will post separately the candelight meal of baked rooster, homegrown calabaza pumpkin, and rice)


  1. Hey John, when did Tampa raise the number of chickens we can raise? Do you know the actual code section that made the changes. I've wanted more chickens too but I've been afraid of code. Thanks, Wanda

  2. Hi Wanda,

    Some weeks back a friend with free range chickens for eggs told me that a friend mailed her a Tampa Tribune article that announced this very positive and reality-based change after years of folks nervously engaged in healthy civil disobedience with their own quiet chicken ventures. Early this year at a community gardening meeting I proposed to our attending city council member Mary Mulhern that the city relax its back yard poultry rules. Perhaps she made that a topic of discussion since she so passionately promotes community gardens.