When I was a child, we had a pair of ducklings called Donald and Daisy.
After some time, Daisy hatched out some little ducklings. There were about 10 or 11 and we gave them all names. We started out with Huey, Louie and Dewey, but from there, who knows? One day our father decided it was time we learned what farm life was like and marched us out to the yard. He grabbed one of the ducklings (now grown) and lopped off it’s head with an ax. We were aghast. What was worse is he let them go and they ran around the yard headless. This terrified us and we kids all scattered in tears, screaming and cursing him. (well, yelling at him – kids in those days didn’t use curse words like they do today, especially not around parents). I was frozen, watching them go in circles. He thought it gruesomely hysterical and had a jolly good laugh on us. This of course, made us sick and angry. Over the next few days, we would have nightmares and to this day, that sight and feeling has never left my mind.
Later that evening mother sat the roasted duckling on the table but we all refused to eat. Instead, we left the table squalling and cried for days. Angrily, Dad ended up giving the plucked ducks to friends and neighbors because we wouldn’t eat them. We had no clue.
One day we went to our friends house and unbeknownst to us they had been recipients of our beloved deceased friends and proceeded to serve us the duckling. I had taken a leg as I recall and bitten into it, but my brother so much wiser (or perhaps less trusting) than I or maybe he’d caught a gleam in daddy’s eyes waiting for us to take a bite, realized what had been served and asked, “Is this our duck?”. When they replied in the affirmative, he then crossed his little arms across his chest and refused to eat. My little sisters joined him but I being the older sibling struggled with being polite and eating. It bears noting how as we get older we submit to peer pressure and will often make unethical compromises.
Many years later, my girl friend and I went in halfsies to buy a calf to raise and butcher. She considered me a city girl and would not let me name it or look at it. She probably suspected she’d get stuck with the whole cow if I’d named it. So I didn’t and I got through the experience fine. She pointed out that once you name it, it becomes a whole different ball game, so it is best not to give names to prospective food. That, in of itself changes ones perspective.
I would in my later life, move to Alabama where Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride (amongst others) have their chicken farms. It was there I decided chicken would not be on the menu. I became aware of how they were raised, housed, fed and carried to be butchered. I learned from personal experience that it took months for me to raise a chick to adulthood, whereas chicks delivered to chicken farms are harvested in approximately 9 weeks! That alone ought to tell you something.
Then there’s the delivery system. On the mountain above us was a chicken farm and every few weeks we’d hear the trucks go by late at night or early, early morning to deliver them to the processing plant in town. If you happened to be behind one of these trucks, you would see all these slatted crates chock full of chickens crammed tightly within them. On occasion I would see a dazed chicken on the side of the rode that had somehow escaped the cages and fallen out, or so I thought. I felt so bad because the chickens didn’t run off. It was months later that I mention this to my vegetarian friend, and she explained to me that those were the hobos. When the cages get too full, they cram the extras in between the cages. They are listless because they have been raised in tight quarters and have never used their legs much, so there’s no strength in them. Btw, it’s not permanent and not true everywhere. I’d heard tell of folks who have picked them up and taken them home and they grew to be fine.
One day, one of these trucks somehow overturned and the chickens scattered. Some died but most were easily retrieved. But, oh my, chickens went everywhere. It made the news of course, and it was funny to see people cheering the chickens on. It was reminiscent of Jennie yelling “Run, Forrest, Run!” and that was pretty much the sentiment.
Although I vowed not to eat chicken, I do. Since those days of driving behind the chicken trucks, I learned that more companies are going “organic”. What that means, I’m really not sure. Are their conditions now more humane? I don’t know. Chicken is still one of the least expensive forms of protein. I still look for free range though. They are pricier, but I’m guessing that’s because free range chickens take longer to mature and have a higher mortality rate due to predators… if they are truly free range, that is.
I say this because of my own personal experience. I know when I tried raising my own, I had to contend with snakes, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, opossums, hawks and drownings. Yes, drownings. Chickens are not too bright. It was there we had a duck we called Chuck because he was hatched out by a hen. You know, Ch(icken) (d)uck? Chuck was never to be destined for the table, so he was named. Alas, we didn’t have him long.
Ducks, we discovered require lots of water to stay hydrated and… because ducks require lots of water we made him a small pond of water nearby and… I think because Chuck was the bigger of the brood, his little brothers would follow him in and drown. So we removed the pond and then Chuck died of dehydration… I’m guessing. We were new to farming. It haunted me for some time until I learned that Chucks mortality may not have been the issue of water alone. My cousin Jack explained when we found his rooster drowning in a 1/2 to 1 inches of water because he didn’t have sense enough to pull his head out! We were glad we found him and resuscitated him and sent him on his way. Jack said, “they’re just plain stupid.” So, take it from me there’s a reason free range chickens cost more.
Bottom line? Don’t name your food and don’t complain about the high price of organically grown, free range anything.
And… if you have the will power to eat vegan or vegetarian, more power to you!
PS – If you look up chicken transporting, you will see videos of how more high tech farms do it and for sure you will not want to eat another chicken for the rest of your life! The farms near us used men to catch the chickens for loading. I’m afraid the site I found was so disturbing, I screamed and clicked out of it so fast that I forgot to snag the link to share. I couldn’t find it again.