On Processing Chickens for the First Time

Followers of the blog I just recently digested Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Afterwards I embarked on my own Pollanesque eating experiment.  This past weekend I visited a friend’s farm where I processed chickens for the first time.

My friends, Eli and Amber, worship at my congregation and began selling chickens, eggs and vegetables to us a while back.  We decided to volunteer to help them process some chickens one afternoon, partly as a “thank you”, partly as a learning experience.  I felt like Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs, which is funny, considering he usually explores jobs most of us know nothing about or easily forget happen, and plenty of people slaughter chickens or know something of how it works.  I figured if I was going to really absorb this literature and echo the message of natural eating, I should experience more food raw preparation.  Since I hadn’t been able to catch, clean and cook a fish on my vacation, I should at least process a farm animal.
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How I Tried to Eat Like Michael Pollan in His Book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”

In my blog series on Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma I digested the book, with an emphasis on the Christian perspective, as reader who is not an expert on nutrition, the environment, the economy, or agriculture.

Like Pollan, I also went on my own food adventure.  Mimicking his journey, I also decided to meditate on eating an industrial meal, a supermarket meal, a locally organic natural meal, and a wild meal.  I tried to mimic his as much as possible, but I didn’t have the time or the budget to match his precision with all four meals.  I tried, and for purpose of reflection and comparison.  There’s no point in reading a non-fiction book unless we incorporate it into action, and this sequence is the beginning of my action.
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The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Digest part 6: Resolving Our Food Dilemmas

A Digest of  The Omnivore’s Dilemma Part 6: Resolving Our Food Dilemmas
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“What is the perfect meal, anyway?”

“The blessing of the omnivore is that he can eat a great many different things in nature.  The curse of the omnivore is that when it comes to figuring out which of those things are safe to eat, he’s pretty much on his own.” -M.P.

Humans are able to eat so many things, and yet so much that we eat (or can eat) is also harmful.  We have natural instincts that keep us from dying, like taste, disgust, and the feeling of a full belly.  But we also like to refuse to listen to our body, or our mind.
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The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Digest part 5: Hunting and Eating Animals

A Digest of  The Omnivore’s Dilemma Part 5: Eating Animals
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“Should People Eat Tasty Animals?”


Every good hunter is uneasy in the depths of his conscience when faced with the death he is about to inflict on the enchanging animal.” -Ortega y Gasset

For his book’s journey Pollan ate (and explored) a McD’s meal, a supermarket “organic” meal,  and then a local, organic,  sustainably farmed meal.  His final meal requires two hunts: One hunt for fungi, and another hunt for pig.  I learned a whole lot about fungi, but what I mostly want to talk about is the hunting of animals.

I’ve never killed a mammal for food.  I’ve know many who have, and have tasted of what they killed.  I even once ate a deer hit by a truck (thanks to my friend T-Dogg).  When I was little my dad took me hunting but I didn’t have the patience for it.  The same went for fishing, although I remember chopping the heads off a couple fish before my dad cleaned them.  I’ve always wanted to go through the experience of hunting just once.  It fascinates me now.  In one way because of the art and poetry of going off into the woods and hunting for food, being alone, accomplishing the hunt, performing an activity older than buying cooking.  Another way it fascinates me is the almost sadistic attitude some hunters have, and how some people hypocritically look down on hunting yet eat meat that is killed in less authentic ways than hunting.
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A Digest of The Omnivore’s Dilemma part 4: Big Organic and the “Supermarket Pastoral”

A Digest of  The Omnivore’s Dilemma Part 4: Big Organic and the Supermarket Pastoral
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“The Proof is in the Organic, Natural Flavor, No-Preservatives-Added, Corn-Syrup-Free Pudding”

“Organic.”  “Natural.”  “Sustainable.”  “Free range.”  “Vegan.”  “Gluten Free.” “Diabetic friendly.”  “No preservatives.”  “Low Carb.”  “Contains no added elements.”  “Kid tested; mother approved.”  Lots of labels out there these days that are specialized.  What do they mean, and can we trust them?

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Digest part 3: All Flesh is Grass

A Digest of  The Omnivore’s Dilemma Part 3: Polyface Farm
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“All Flesh is Grass”

“Mother earth never attempts to farm without live stock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.” —Albert Howard,  An Agricultural Testament

Our past two posts on the subjects of corn and meat were not too pleasant, so this post promises to be more hopeful.  We’re moving on from mad cow disease to “glad cows at ease”.
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The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Digest part 2: The Feedlot, Grocer, and McD’s

A Digest of  The Omnivore’s Dilemma Part 2: The Feedlot,  Grocery Store, and the McD’s
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“We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”

“Processed food has become largely a supply-driven business—the business of figuring out clever ways to package and market the glut of commodities coming off the farm and out of the wet mills[..]The underlying reductionist premise—that food is nothing more than the sum of its nutrients—remains undisturbed.”—Michael Pollan

The Cow Factory
It’s not a secret to anybody that most of the beef you buy at grocery stores is from cows squeezed into CAFOs—Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.  That’s not new information.  It’s just that we’re not reminded of it enough, and when we are, it’s still a distant fact.  It’s also not usually woven into a story and set against a more natural story of raising animals.
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