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Photo by John Valls
I felt compelled to become a vegetarian, because I simply did not feel comfortable eating animals. I did not feel connected to the animal that was being placed on my plate.

I’ll be honest—I love the smell of my mother’s Friday night roasted chicken. I long for the taste of her flank steak. But for the past six years, I have not had the pleasure of that taste. What did I know about this animal? How was it raised? What was it fed? How was it slaughtered? Was it respected? I felt completely disconnected from the process the meat went through on its way to my mouth.

Camas Davis of the Portland Meat Collective (PMC), and a delegate of Terra Madre 2010, is among the few who believe that the public, if they choose to eat meat, ought to have a full understanding of the process from farm to plate—a process that factory farms largely hide from the public.

The PMC aims to “create an artisanal economy around humanely raised and slaughtered meat, and to create transparency so consumers know more about where their food comes from and how it’s raised,” according to Davis. It is modeled after traditional meat Community Supported Agricultures (CSA) but with a twist: a traveling butchery school.

The PMC encourages consumers to buy live, whole animals from small, sustainable farms, and then learn to slaughter and butcher these animals themselves. They offer variety of classes, from how to slaughter your own rooster or hen, to butchering your own lamb. The collective even offers a curing class, where students learn how to turn pork belly into their very own bacon. In the process, regular folks re-establish meaningful links to the animals they eat, and simultaneously renew the age-old practices of curing, butchery and preservation.

Initiatives like the Portland Meat Collective help us bridge the gap between the farmer and our food, the meat and the animal’s story. For me, the Portland Meat Collective offers the hope that one day, I’ll be able to enjoy my mother’s roasted chicken once again.

The PMC will launch its Meat CSA in fall 2010. Check out their website for more information. pdxmeat.com