The changes I’ve made to reduce my family’s ecological footprint have been within my comfort zone – until now. I’m going to raise chickens for meat. I’m excited, but also nervous.
So why would I want to raise chickens for meat if I’m so uncomfortable with the idea? I’m committed to eating meat in moderation and to consuming only ethically raised and sustainably produced meat. Money talks and I don’t want my dollar to support the factory farming of chickens.
The health and taste benefits also appeal. I’d rather serve my family a healthy pasture raised chicken than one grown indoors in crowded conditions and fed antibiotics.
But ultimately, it’s about learning a new skill and connecting with my food. I get so much joy from serving my family home-grown vegetables that I’m keen to take what I grow to the next level.
Uncertain that I could actually ‘do the deed’ and worried that I wouldn’t do it humanely or properly, I took myself off to ‘Chicken Day’ at Buena Vista Farm on the south coast of NSW. I liked the idea of being guided through the process with other first-timers.
I learnt how to raise meat chickens from a day-old through to their one bad day. Adam demonstrated how to feed and house the chickens and Fiona gave a cooking demonstration showing us how to cook paté and stock. After a delicious lunch, sourced entirely from the farm, it was time for the hands-on chicken processing.
To be honest, I was seriously concerned that I was going to faint. Thankfully, I managed to take the life of two chickens, stay upright and was only slightly traumatised by the process.
I plucked, gutted and ended up with two chickens that resembled those I’d previously bought in plastic bags.
I’m now feeling ready to raise my own meat chickens. I have the pen, I know what I’m in for, and I’m keen to give it a go.
That said, I’ll be doing my best to avoid taking the life of another chook. I’m comfortable with the plucking and the gutting, but the few moments before that are something I’m not in a rush to repeat.
I’ll be raising a few extra ‘bribery’ chooks and will invite friends around to help. I’ll be careful to ensure that at least one has the experience and courage to deal with the few moments I’d prefer to avoid. I know I’m being a chicken, but at least I’m a sustainable chicken.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 8th February 2014.