By Kate Krauss, Slow Food USA
Turkey has always been a Thanksgiving ritual for my clan. We’ve experimented with steaming, frying, salt rubs, and many varieties of stuffing. And in recent years it’s become very important to me that my turkey be raised in a way that nourishes rather than depletes the land and one that is humane both for the turkey and the people who farm it. I purchase heirloom breeds where and when I can.
But I haven’t spent all that much time reflecting on my turkey as a creature that died to grace my Thanksgiving table. I have, however, had many philosophical conversations – both with other people and with myself – about the moral and environmental integrity of eating meat. I’ve chosen to remain an omnivore, though I’ve also worked very hard to ensure the quality and integrity of the meat I consume. In these conversations, I’ve often told people that I feel I should be able to kill the animals I eat – something I’ve never really had the opportunity to do. The conversation often moves toward wondering what that would be like and whether I could actually do it. This past Sunday, I found out.
That’s when my sister, her colleague and I found ourselves at the home of freelance writer Tamar Haspel, who with her husband has been raising animals for meat – as she says, to “love them, kill them and eat them” – and chronicling her experiences at www.starvingofftheland.com. Here’s her own account of the weekend’s events http://starvingofftheland.com/2012/11/our-third-annual-turkey-slaughter/.
For my part, I’ve discovered I can kill (and process) the food I eat, that it doesn’t make me want to be vegetarian, and that I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience such an intimate connection with my food. Sunday wasn’t fun, but it was intimate and even warm and nourishing. I have Tamar and Kevin to thank for that – they could not have been more welcoming and supportive – and also their wonderful circle of friends. We swapped life stories and reflections, first over a delicious meal and then over the shared projects of de-feathering and then gutting and cleaning the turkeys. While I recognize the necessity of larger animal farms and processing facilities (as long as they’re humane), I’m glad I was able to experience a harvest that had such a deep connection to and respect for the turkeys themselves.
I’m not a vegetarian, but I have already found that I am purposefully eating less meat – something that is probably useful for all of us and certainly for our planet. And I am even more committed to knowing the provenance of my animals, and to buying whole birds and consciously using all of them as often as I can.
So – thank you Kevin and Tamar – and to your turkeys – for sharing with me a part of your turkey experiment. I’m a better and more responsible turkey eater as a result.