Monday, September 19, 2016

This meat-eater is just a big fat guilt-ridden hypocrite

Blood on My Hands

Posted by Stephanie Barna on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 12:46 PM

Chefs help butcher a heritage breed hog at last year's Blood on the River Lowcountry Boucherie - KINSEY GIDICK FILE
  • Kinsey Gidick file
  • Chefs help butcher a heritage breed hog at last year's Blood on the River Lowcountry Boucherie
I should go. But I just can’t. I know I’m supposed to be connected to my food and humanely honor the animals that give their lives for our sustenance, but I just can’t deal with this boucherie thing. On Oct. 23, hog farmer Tank Jackson will host the third Blood on the River: A Lowcountry Boucherie, where animals will be butchered, bled, and broken down into a delicious meal for attendees.

I get it, slaughtering animals is a necessity if we’re going to eat them. But if it was left up to me to wring the chicken’s neck for dinner, we’d be stuck eating a pile of foraged dandelion greens.

I was that cliché of a teenager. Disgusted by all the bones, tendons, fat, and skin, I couldn’t wrap my spiral-permed head around the idea of killing a cute little chicken and THEN EATING IT. But my mom was an excellent cook, and I couldn’t wrap my head around making myself a salad while everyone else got to eat steak and those deliciously tender pork chops it’s taken me 20 years to master how to cook.

So what do you do as a petulant teenage girl with outrage in her heart and a hankering for mom’s delicious chicken noodle soup? Go fowl free? Uh, no. You listen to your mom when she tells you to get over it. She had to watch her mother kill chickens in the backyard and even help pluck them. I was lucky, she told me, because my food came all clean and packaged. I didn’t have to face the gruesome reality of watching my dinner get the axe. It seemed logical at the time.

But as an adult, about halfway through Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma (oy, that feed lot chapter!), I became all too aware of the inhumane practices of factory farms. The sensitive teenager inside me cried out about the horror of it all. That chicken package might be clean but the process of how it got there sure isn’t. I never finished reading the book, but I did try to watch Food Inc. which provides a gruesome look inside a pig slaughterhouse. After I abandoned the film, I felt even worse as a human being because I knew I would never give up eating meat. Pot roast on Sunday was just too wonderful a thing. But I figured I could give up factory farms and raise my kids to be aware of the inhumane practices of the feed lot where healthy animals are made sick by crowded conditions and pumped full of antibiotics in order to stay alive long enough to get slaughtered.

Good luck with that.

What are you supposed to do when the grocery store puts bacon on sale for five-for-two (Harris Teeter seriously had that sale recently)? Just walk by? I’m not perfect people, but I am wracked with guilt when I do give Smithfield my money. And I feel like a giant hypocrite for avoiding this Blood on the River event. Liberal guilt is a terrible thing.

By all accounts, Tank’s boucherie event is fascinating; wonderful even. Chefs, farmers, butchers, and interested parties gather ’round, and one lucky guy is chosen to shoot the pig in the head — ostensibly putting him down quickly. Unfortunately, last year the shot wasn’t all that precise and the little pig was left squealing until a second bullet finished him off.

I’m not sure I could stand by and witness such a scene, even though I know I should because Michael Pollan would want me to.

While I wholeheartedly embrace locavorism and raising heritage pork, when it comes down to it, I need someone to butcher it for me and provide it in a package that clearly does not resemble the animal it once was. Last year, my farmer friend Jeff Allen gifted me a suckling pig, which I was thrilled about — that is, until I got it home and realized it looked JUST LIKE A LITTLE PIGLET. Fortunately, my brother was around to deal with it. In the end, I took a few bites and felt a tad queasy — images of pink piglets flashing through my head — and stuffed my face with vegetables instead.

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