On a recent trip to Durham I taped an interview with the NPR affiliate WUNC during which I suggested that one of five things you should eat before you die is the meat of a freshly slaughtered animal, preferably having witnessed the slaughter. Verlyn Kinkenborg says something very much the same in "Two Pigs" on the Times editorial page today, but with considerably more eloquence

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84 Wonderful responses to “Beauty Itself”

  • susu

    is this about wasting food, due to not appreciating it or caring? because that’s a heinous sin, to mine eyes. i agree on the need to understand where the food comes from — an animal dies so you and yours could feed, people labored, fossil fuels burned, etc. not to mention the emotion many people imbue their meals with when they cook it for themselves and for others. shame on you if you prefer to pay others to do the dirty work for you; better to eat what you can bear to sacrifice with your own hands. food becomes elevated when it’s seen as precious, and the sharing of it is an act of love and generosity — i don’t mean that in simply the romantic or familial sense. at the very least, be a good, attentive, appreciative eater, so that you can at least please those who did that dirty work for you.

    maybe that’s why one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to see how many people i can feed from one animal or cut. i’m up to 20 from a single duck, using skin, bones, offal, meat. and i’m still learning. and yes, i learned how to kill the duck and pluck it and evicerate it. it’s not something i look forward to doing, nor do i do it every time i serve a duck. but i, at least, understand the cost, and i admire the skill of those who can do it without causing undue suffering to the creature. and shame on me, but i’m willing to pay that person more when my time or temperament are short. the least i can do is not waste any part of that creature, even if the duck may not care if i respect it fully. but i’m human, and *i* care — and i take my humanity seriously. and i hope any creature who may slaughter me or my loved ones would do likewise.

  • Chris

    Regarding Frances’ question, I’m not sure I know the answer. I’ve never had venison from a deer killed in that manner. I’ve shot deer that just droppped and were dead before they hit the ground, and I’ve shot deer that, despite being shot through the heart, ran 75 yards before they died. I’ve never noticed a flavor difference between the two.

  • IGIF

    Frances, I don’t know if the taste is any different, but my favorite brother-in-law has always been a deer hunter, including bow season in WNY. He’s also a great cook and butchers it himself, makes ground meat, sausage, roasts, steaks, etc. No antlers on the wall. And ground venison makes the best chili you ever had, not to mention the deer sausage sauteed w/onions and peppers on a crusty roll! (Have also shared venison meals w/folks in the Adirondacks who would not make it thru the winters w/o this source of food.} I actually took an NRA course to get a permit so I could hunt with my BIL,but never could shoot “Bambi”. However, I take every bit of venison he is willing to share bc it is so damn good. Have you ever eaten stuffed deer heart? OMG. He’s also a great gardener and wonderful family man. I do not believe all of those things are mutually exclusive and he is definitely NOT a “yahoo”. However, since I couldn’t shoot Bambi, have no problems with anyone else who couldn’t either.

  • redman

    Michael,
    A pleasure to read that little piece you linked to. I never knew about that whole taming thing before.

  • Frances

    Regarding deer hunting, I’m wondering if venison tastes better if the deer has been picked off from a deer stand rather than being flushed out by dogs and then shot? Seems like a quick, clean shot would result in less stress hormone being released? Any thoughts?

  • Claudia

    Chris, your point about wood yahoos is well-taken. I’m just saying I know both the serious, hunt-raised kind who hunt only what they need and do it well, no machismo or trophy-hunting involved – AND the yahoos. I’ve been around the yahoos, and I do detest them. And I make a big distinction between those folks who grew up hunting as a way of life and put meat on table (as discussed above), and the yahoos – AND the canned hunt jag-offs, who are uber-yahoos. And, quite truthfully, I wish I could hunt THEM.

  • Chris

    Farmerdude:

    “Organic venison? What a joke! Unless your deer is living on an organic farm, it’s eating soybeans and oats in the farmers’ fields that have been sprayed with herbicides and insecticides onto genetically modified plants. OMG! STOP! I could scream at the stupidity and ignorance!!!!”

    I’m glad to see someone took my joke so seriously. I guess that’s the price of cold words on a page without inflection.

    Why are so sure that the deer I hunt are feeding on soybean and oats? There isn’t a crop field within five miles of the parcel I hunt. It’s nothing but swamps and pine plantations, broken by the occasional field or grove of oak and beech. The extremely sandy soil (beach sand, Lake Michigan is closer than those crop fields) makes it a very poor agricultural area. I don’t put out bait, and I’ve never known my neighbors to do so either. I’m sure they get into a few gardens here and there, but that’s it. I do have a 1/2 acre orchard of hundred year old apple trees, but I don’t so much as water those let alone apply herbicide. In other words, those deer are eating primarily natural food sources: mast, cedar, white pine. Whether that certifies them as organic or not, I don’t know and I don’t really care. It was a just a joke.

    You could scream at ignorance yet your own predicates your argument (including your throw away ad hominem one). Solid work.

  • Farmerdude

    WOW, some very interesting perspective floating around here. It’s very comforting to know that there is plenty of food and plenty of options to go around isn’t it? You know, not deciding to eat poisonous roots that will make you very sick as an alternative to starving to death, or selecting quasi edible morsels from the trash, simply in hopes of receiving sufficient sustenance to last until tomorrow. Weak, simple, flatulence describes most of the drivel spouted by lazy, no-load self-described intellectuals, who wouldn’t last long enough to grow their own sprouts if someone chose not to permit it, yes, permit it. If someone bigger and badder told you couldn’t grow your vegetables or eat meat until you killed it, what would most of you do? Cry? Call your congressman (providing he took the call, rather then play footsie in the men’s room)? Our founding fathers, the men and women that built this country made some mistakes yes, but they were real men and real women who stood up and fought for what the believed in and understood that life was the result of death. For us to live, something must die. It brings tears to my eyes, thinking about ripping that poor soulless carrot from loving mother earth then scraping if skin off with some barbaric instrument of torture, prior to consuming it raw, never confirming that life had passed and the veg was truly dead…..and you call us meat eaters inhumane! Shame on you. When I eat meat, and I do it every day multiple times, it is most often from an animal I have nurtured and sustained with my own hands, on my own land, prior to taking it’s life with a savage slice of a 8 inch boning knife, first sliding it into its throat, then slicing forward to sever the jugular without allowing the life blood to fill the lungs. I stand up and stretch my aching back with blood coated hands as the blood pumps rhythmically out of the lifeless carcass at my feet. A life was given so that my life may be sustained. A natural poetry, as when my productive life is over, I shall give my remains back to the earth from whence I came, not to be dumped into a permanent storage solution for no purpose other then greedy selfishness to the very end. No, that would be blasphemous considering the life I live. So, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, when my time is slack, I’ll give it all back.

    Organic venison? What a joke! Unless your deer is living on an organic farm, it’s eating soybeans and oats in the farmers’ fields that have been sprayed with herbicides and insecticides onto genetically modified plants. OMG! STOP! I could scream at the stupidity and ignorance!!!! You’re killing me, and you’re not even going to eat me when I’m gone!

  • Chris

    SARA:

    “1. Just because some of us don’t hunt our own meat does *not* make us hypocrites. I can’t even watch my own blood being drawn, ok? I’m squeamish, and moreover, I’m terrified of deadly things. I’ve never shot a gun, and I can’t hold a knife unless I’m cooking. It’s a psychological thing, okay? If these were some seriously olden times, I’d be the one working the garden while other people went out to hunt. Just because I buy meat doesn’t make my a hypocrite, and I think that’s unfair.

    2. I don’t know what Bourdain’s feelings on hunting are, specifically, but at least we know he’s killed something before. We’ve seen it, a couple of times, on No Reservations, and I think that gives him the right — at least by your logic — to have opinions about it, whether for or against.

    “Hunting,” as in the sport that rich people do, not people who are looking to cook and eat their own fresh kills like yourself, is (in my view) both cruel and pointless. Do you really need to dress up all fancy and ride horses around to kill some foxes you’re not even going to eat? Of course not. Take up Polo, you can recycle the outfit.”

    1. By no means did I mean suggest that any meat-eater who does not hunt is a hypocrite. Not at all. Those meat-eaters who rail against hunting in all forms (those who have a problem with purely trophy hunting probably have a point) are the hypocrites. The meat-eaters that have said to me, “how could do something so cruel” are the hypocrites. If someone is a participant in the market place for dead animal parts, that person’s willingness to spend money to buy those dead animals kills just as surely as my bullet or arrow.

    2. Of course he has the right to his opinion, and I greatly respect his opnions. I’ve seen him ceremonially kill those animals in where ever the hell he was in the Third World. The animal was then prepared and eaten by all in attendance. He recoiled from the experience of the killing, and he was clearly not comfortable doing it. Killing something like a deer (oddly and arbitrarily, I don’t feel this way about killing smaller game like ducks or pheasants) always carries with it, at least for me, feelings of regret and even sadness. That’s part of the human condition. But he’s made some blanket statements against hunting which I thought were, in and of themselves, hypocritical. I would apply some of his comments to some hunting myself. Pure trophy hunting is something I’ve never understood; there’s no act like eating or otherwise using the animal to redeem and make meaningful the killing. But he made his comments across the board about all hunters, even the ones who go out for some meat for the freezer. As I said before, eating meat means killing whether you shoot it or buy it, and it’s just as cruel (if not more) to industrially kill a cow in a slaughterhouse as it is to shoot a deer with a gun.

    At least the venison is free range and organic.

    My freezer is empty, but in 3 weeks I’ll be tucked up against a Michigan pine tree waiting for the dawn and some venison tenderloins to come loafing by.

  • Chris

    Claudia:
    “I don’t hunt, but I definitely eat meat, and I think what other Bourdain and us other carnivores find appalling is not about hunters themselves, but the weekend warrior hunters, who go blasting through the woods in NJ every weekend with enough fire power to stop a tank, and then do just what you described – gloat about the kill, revel in the trophy – and care only about the spread or points of an ungulate’s antlers (or horns, depending on what you’re shooting). There are tons of hunters who (a) hunt to put meat on the table as a matter of sustenance/subsistance (Alaska is a perfect example, but fill in the blank. Rural Idaho? Montana? Wyoming?), and (b) have some real respect for both the animal and the process. That being said, even though I’m as urban-dwelling as you can get (NYC), both my sister and I do buy venison from some very nice hunters work hunt near my sister’s stable in NJ – they shoot only what they need, they appreciate the fresh meat they get, and they actually admire and respect the deer. They just grew up hunting in what was then rural NJ, and it’s a way of life for them.”

    I understand what you’re saying, but it’s been my experience that many if not most non-hunters have the stereotype of the drunken yahoo in the woods branded into their brains. I find the assumption offensive not only for its substance, but for the sheer volume of its repetition. Such hunters surely exist and are a deplorable disgrace, but they are in the minority. Most hunters are dedicated conservationists, and most are there for meat first, trophies second. While not particularly interested in trophies myself, I don’t see anything wrong with it if the meat is used and appreciated.

    I’m a suburbanite born and bred myself (Detroit), but “going up north” in Michigan is a common experience, and I was blessed with a family cottage and hunting land where I spent and still spend a lot of time. I know every blade of grass on that land, and I know where the deer I hunt sleep, what they eat, where they mate, and where they seek cover and shelter. I’ve planted trees and cut down old ones that served no purpose for food or cover. I oftentimes see recognizable individuals over the course of a couple of years. In short, I know them well, and I don’t kill them unthinkingly or without respect, and I am not unusual in that regard among hunters. I certainly do not need to hunt to live; I could just as easily kill animals with the money in my wallet.

    I usually kill one or at most two deer a year, nothing more than I use myself or give away to friends. I’m very selective not only of the animal I choose to kill, but also pass up many shot opportunities that are marginal and don’t provide a good chance for a quick clean kill (and that’s not altruism speaking, it’s practicality: I want that deer dead on the ground so I don’t have to track it for a mile through a swamp). To sum up, most hunters are like the ones you buy the venison from. The others are always more visible, but they are the exception.

  • Susan

    You’re right Nic – it takes some effort, though. Especially when eating out.

  • bob

    Nic,
    I work as a store chef in a locally owned natural food market. Michael has my email. I didn’t know wether or not it would be appropriate to leave it on the blog, so I left it with him. Feel free to give me a shout once he gives it to you. I haven’t met John either, is he selling to the local restaurants? I might know him by his farm’s name.

  • Nic Heckett

    Susan – there are other options besides Vegetarianism – you can also eat humanely raised meat. Bob – Heath is in Washington state, where he is breeding Austrian Speckswein. Do you know John Spreitsma? He is in Portland. What is your restaurant? Can I e-mail you there?

  • bob

    Nic,
    I’m in Portland as a chef. I don’t know Heath. Is he in this area? Pig people?

  • Susan

    Ruhlman, I’m a vegetarian, and I like your idea of people thinking about where their meat comes from before they eat it (I know that was the point you were trying to make, although I don’t know if it came across that way, unfortunately). It really bugs me when people eat meat but say they don’t want to think about where it comes from. They really don’t have a right to be eating it then, if you ask me. (I’m not trying to preach here, to be clear – my boyfriend used to be a butcher!)

    However, the issue for me isn’t even so much the slaughtering as how the animals are treated before they die. If someone goes to witness the slaughter of a pig before they eat it, they’re probably missing out on the horrors of factory farming which made me become a vegetarian in the first place. They don’t see the overcrowding, the sickness, the bad “food”, the hormones and antibiotics, the torture, the poor handling of the meat, the poor working conditions of the people who work in the slaughtering plant. That’s what people should really tour before they eat a freshly slaughtered pig, or any animal. They might think twice about eating meat, or about where they’re getting it from.

    There’s a lot of places for people to get info about factory farming – I recommend renting the film “Fast Food Nation”, which is an excellent overview of factory farming.

  • bob

    Nic,
    Thanx so much for the scoop. Can’t wait to learn more in the future. I, along with my wife, have been considering the feasability of raising a small amount of Ossabaw in the Northwest. Thanks Michael, for the opportunity to glean a little info.

  • Nic Heckett

    Bob – Woodlands is only just getting up to speed. Hang around and you will hear plenty more. The meat is raised more in the style of the Tuscans that I have befriended, but the more I learn about the home-grown traditions from the Mountaineers that I meet, the more I realize that we are merely reviving a very traditional old-timey American style of farming. Appalachia was once one of the main hog producers in the USA.The meat was mast-finished, driven to Cincinatti, and salted using Kanawa Valley salt, then sent down the river to provide the seafarers with the salt pork they needed. We are breeding a pig to suit our purpose, incorporating many different heirloom bloodlines, particularly the feral Iberico breeds such as the Ossabaw. Our fall harvest is due to go to market in November, the hams are to be cured in Kentucky, much of the rest in NYC. There will be fresh meat in NYC, D.C., and at the excellent Belmont Butchery in Richmond. In time we intend to develop our own cure facility in WV. This is probably not the venue to be promoting my enterprise, and I beg your forgiveness, Michael, for usurping your excellent blog. I feel I have transgressed blog etiquette. Our website will be up soon, and you can direct questions to me then.

  • Mike

    Interesting how the opening sentence became a Rorschach test on emotions & morality.

    We had a brief discussion of buying a cow to raise for meat today. My wife wouldn’t want to eat the meat from an animal she’s raised. I wouldn’t have that problem, but I’m not around enough to do the work of raising an animal til slaughter. Perhaps in a few years when I’m retired.

  • bob

    Nic,
    Thanks for your insight! Is it possible to learn more about Woodlands Pork? You peaked my interest with the acorns. Are they raised in the style of the Iberian pigs?
    I must know more!

  • allie

    I disagree that seeing a slaughter is necessary to “understand the costs of everything you eat”. if you support scientific research on animals, does that mean you have to go into a lab and watch rats being decapitated with a guillotine? (yes, that’s often how they do it- well, except the newborns, they just get decapitated with scissors). if you’re pro-choice, does that mean you should have to watch an abortion? should you have to have experienced combat first hand to ever support a war?

    part of my research involves survival surgeries on frogs, pretty much the least furry and adorable animals you can work on. but I still get in trouble with my advisor for keeping the frogs way too long, because I hate putting them down. and the one time I lost one during surgery, I was in tears afterwards.

    so no, I wouldn’t avoid watching a slaughter because I’m coddled, “sick” or “amoral”, or because I don’t understand what it means to kill an animal- it’s because I understand my own limitations and I know I would find it traumatic. partly because I can’t stand to watch someone draw blood out of my own arm, and partly because I love animals. and those of you who consider that hypocritical, well, I can almost guarantee you that there are things you support in theory and would find upsetting, disturbing, or just plain gross in practice, so shut your pie-holes.

  • Frances

    I should add that Dr. Grandin’s site (http://www.grandin.com) contains a wealth of information on the humane treatment and slaughter of animals, and how it affects the quality of meat. No doubt that those here who are involved with raising and handling livestock are well aware of her methods and contributions.

  • Tags

    “It is only in our “civilized” culture,with our refined sense of morality, in which we choose not to witness the ugly reality of slaughter. How ironic that we have truly reneged on our ancestors’ bargain.”

    I think everybody should read Nic Heckett’s eloquent post above.

    I know I’ll be reading it often. I hope he doesn’t mind that I cut & pasted it to a text file.

  • t-scape

    For all the disagreement here on the suggestion that, as a meat-eater. it’s important to witness a slaughter, I can’t help but be surprised that the topic is being discussed at all. It wasn’t that long ago (in the US, at least) that anyone outside the tightest food circles would have been debating the issue, period. And it reminds me that slowly but surely, more and more people are thinking about food, and thinking about where that food comes from, than in the recent past. There may be hope for us after all. ;)

  • Nic Heckett

    As someone who is responsible for the birth and death of hundreds of pigs a year, I have given this subject much thought. Firstly, my wife does not eat pork. While she supports me in the Woodlands Pork enterprise, she chooses not to partake of our product. This is a direct result of her childhood experiences at her born-in-Poland Grandparents’ house in Connecticut. Year after year, she and her cousin would pet the little pigs, take them treats, watch them grow, and would then be summoned by her Grandfather (Hey Girls, come and see this!) to witness the ‘coup de grace’, followed by the bloody butchering, kielbasa making etc.
    I, on the other hand, have no problem with this eventuality. Having been accused at a party of ‘killing Babe’ – a charge to which I have to plead guilty, I have had to prepare a defense, which I will roll out here.
    There is a bargain inherent in our relationship with pigs. One theory holds that swine, in fact, domesticated themselves, much as dogs did. In the wild, a pig lives a dangerous life, where food may be in short supply, but predators certainly are not. The most dangerous predator, at the dawn of our civilization, was Homo Sapiens. By attaching themselves to human encampments, they evened that balance notably – now they found food and protection, and, in return, gave up a percentage of their young, less than they would in the wild, or maybe the same, and without the stress, nay terror, of being hunted by large carnivores. By being delicious, and largely defenseless, (normally a recipe for evolutionary disaster) – the opportunistic pig has insinuated itself into every corner of the globe. I have traveled into remote parts of Asia and witnessed ritual slaughter that would turn many of my compatriots stomachs – “how uncivilized” – “how brutal”, they would think to themselves. The communal bloodletting would be followed by a feast, to honor the ancestors, not only of the village, but also of the animals killed. It is only in our “civilized” culture,with our refined sense of morality, in which we choose not to witness the ugly reality of slaughter. How ironic that we have truly reneged on our ancestors’ bargain. I wonder if pigs would be so content to submit themselves to incarceration, overcrowding, mutilation and being forced to breath air so foul-smelling that no animal will stay near it – in return for a life (shorter and shorter every year, as the industry learns how to maximize its profits)free of stress. In fact, I wager that a battery raised pig has infinitely more stress than a wild pig in these wolf-less, tiger-less days. The desire not to witness the reality of our meat is the first link in a chain that leads to the incarceration and torture of millions of animals. Vegetarianism is not the issue. Honoring the culture of our ancestors, and our pig’s ancestors may be. At Woodlands Pork our animals live in open air all the time. They root, nest and wean their young naturally. When it is time for them to go to slaughter, I feel no guilt, they are fulfilling their end of a bargain, and I feel I have upheld my end with honor.

  • Dianne

    Kay, I hope my comments were not one of those you considered “whining”, but here’s my reason for not witnessing an animal be killed: it would be traumatic for me. Maybe, as a meat-eater, that makes me a hypocrite, but I know my limitations. As I said before, I understand, from reading, what happens, and I do give thanks before I eat. I’m another one, in the olden days, who would have gardened and cooked the meat that others killed. It takes all kinds.

  • Kay

    I don’t necessarily agree that everyone needs to heed such advice, but the people who are doing the most whining about it are the ones who actually do need to get their hands dirty. If you’re so positive the experience won’t have any effect on you whatsoever then what do you have to lose or fear?

  • ruhlman

    pauper, when I was working on charcuterie, i bought two pigs, met them once to see where they lived and how they ate on daniel’s farm. then again to help get them into the truck to take them to the man who would kill them and take their bristles off and eviscerate them, and i was there to see them electrically stunned, completely stunnned, hoisted, stuck to bleed them, and i was there to catch the blood in a home depot bucket for blood sausage, and I dug through a tub of steaming reeking viscera (which is exactly as disgusting as you could imagine, it’s the odor that gets you) to harvest the intestines for sausage, and I carried the hot bodies, covered in sacks of ice, in the back of my jeep two hours north to cleveland to get them into the cooler at a friends restaurant. and i’m glad i did and i should write about why. and i should also write about where i had the problem, and it was later, what i was doing when it really hit me, and i felt my stomach turn. and one day i will! but not now! it’s friday and i’m beat, and i’ve got dinner to make! and long flowing locks to comb out!

    as ever, thanks for this great discussion that looks at both, or most, sides of this issue.

  • Sara

    Tags: I was just waiting to get home from work and go through my Steingarten collection knowing he had something about this. The man may be ornery, but he does his research. Great citation.

  • Tags

    First let’s point out that Michael suggests that we SHOULD eat a freshly killed animal, preferably after watching the slaughter.

    This is not mandatory, he’s just making a suggestion.

    Also Faustian Bargain made a point about the perception that people on vegetarian diets are malnourished.

    While that is a knee-jerk reaction omnivores have when hearing that people are going vegan or vegetarian, the simple fact is that it is much harder to have a satisfyingly varied diet containing all the necessary proteins.

    Also, the preference for raw vegetables is misguided, because many beans, greens, and vegetables contain chemicals that either poison or inhibit the benefit of nutrients unless they’re cooked, as Jeffrey Steingarten so eloquently points out in “Salad, the Silent Killer” in his book “The Man Who Ate Everything.”

  • Snoozer

    I’ve dropped many a lobster into boiling water with no regrets. That’s as far as I plan to go.

    We are humans. We anthropomorphize. We empathize. Despite the fact that we are omnivores, and meat-eating is natural to us, in our culture (at least in 1st world countries) it is no longer the norm to have to kill our own meat, so we are not accustomed to the sight. Professionals do it, hopefully humanely. But lions don’t feel guilty when they bring down gazelles, and we don’t need to feel guilty when we eat a steak. Hunting for sport, I think, is in these days pretty immoral. THere is no need to kill those animals for food. Go ahead, scream at me. It’s still my opinion.

    But I don’t plan on watching a slaughter anytime soon, and I don’t think I need to.

  • Frances

    I just Googled “Motel Hell.” Michael, I hope you’re not offended that I sought a bit of comic relief.

  • Claudia

    There’s no way you could have known Verlyn was a man’s name, Chris, unless you either happened to Google him (or knew that from his earlier columns).

    I don’t hunt, but I definitely eat meat, and I think what other Bourdain and us other carnivores find appalling is not about hunters themselves, but the weekend warrior hunters, who go blasting through the woods in NJ every weekend with enough fire power to stop a tank, and then do just what you described – gloat about the kill, revel in the trophy – and care only about the spread or points of an ungulate’s antlers (or horns, depending on what you’re shooting). There are tons of hunters who (a) hunt to put meat on the table as a matter of sustenance/subsistance (Alaska is a perfect example, but fill in the blank. Rural Idaho? Montana? Wyoming?), and (b) have some real respect for both the animal and the process. That being said, even though I’m as urban-dwelling as you can get (NYC), both my sister and I do buy venison from some very nice hunters work hunt near my sister’s stable in NJ – they shoot only what they need, they appreciate the fresh meat they get, and they actually admire and respect the deer. They just grew up hunting in what was then rural NJ, and it’s a way of life for them.

    BTW, I grew up in Hong Kong, on the hill above the fresh market in Wanchai, where fresh produce and livestock was brought in every day from China and killed in front of you, and seafood was kept in tanks or submerged cages in seawater. While I can live without having headless chickens chasing me or walking through ox blood, I think Ruhlman has a point – you really appreciate fresh food when you’ve met it moments beforehand. And it’s FRESH – not processed, not chemically treated or fed, and not sitting around for a few days.

  • Sara

    “Speaking of which, I’ve always been puzzled by Bourdain’s statements against hunting. As a meat hunter from whose walls no glass eyes stare down, I don’t go for the trophy-kill thrills of hunting. A full freezer is the best reward, and the only way there is to kill, and therefore killing is at the heart of hunting. But killing is not, at least to me and to most hunters (in my opinion), an end to itself. Pulling a trigger or spending a dollar: we’re all killers, but some of us are hypocrites.”

    1. Just because some of us don’t hunt our own meat does *not* make us hypocrites. I can’t even watch my own blood being drawn, ok? I’m squeamish, and moreover, I’m terrified of deadly things. I’ve never shot a gun, and I can’t hold a knife unless I’m cooking. It’s a psychological thing, okay? If these were some seriously olden times, I’d be the one working the garden while other people went out to hunt. Just because I buy meat doesn’t make my a hypocrite, and I think that’s unfair.

    2. I don’t know what Bourdain’s feelings on hunting are, specifically, but at least we know he’s killed something before. We’ve seen it, a couple of times, on No Reservations, and I think that gives him the right — at least by your logic — to have opinions about it, whether for or against.

    “Hunting,” as in the sport that rich people do, not people who are looking to cook and eat their own fresh kills like yourself, is (in my view) both cruel and pointless. Do you really need to dress up all fancy and ride horses around to kill some foxes you’re not even going to eat? Of course not. Take up Polo, you can recycle the outfit.

  • Chris

    I just reread my post, and realized that I didn’t really write it very well.

    I’m not calling Anthony Bourdain a hypocrite, though I do think some, but not all, of his criticisms of hunting could be considered hypocritical.

    I criticized Klinkenborg, but I didn’t praise her for those things I thought praiseworthy: it’s a good thing that she faces the reality of eating meat in that way. But as I said, I don’t think everyone needs to do it to appreciate what eating meat means. The ultimate point I was trying to make was that first and foremost, eating meat takes killing, and every meat-eater, from supermarket shopper to successful hunter, must acknowledge that. The hypocrites I mentioned are those meat-eaters who vociferously accuse hunters of being cruel and inhumane.

  • Chris

    Understanding and not taking for granted where one’s meat comes from is important, and if seeing animals slaughtered gets one there, fine. But I’m sure a lot of people can get to that level of understanding without actually witnessing it.

    What I find almost laughable is the slight whiff of moral superiority Klinkenborg gives off describing the “solemnity” of the slaughter. Of course, as a hunter myself it would be easy to respond by handing her a gun or bow. “Kill it, gut it, and butcher YOURSELF, or you don’t know what it is to be a meat-eater.” I don’t really believe that, but I sure want to say it when non-hunting meat-eaters criticize hunting as barbaric bloodlust.

    Speaking of which, I’ve always been puzzled by Bourdain’s statements against hunting. As a meat hunter from whose walls no glass eyes stare down, I don’t go for the trophy-kill thrills of hunting. A full freezer is the best reward, and the only way there is to kill, and therefore killing is at the heart of hunting. But killing is not, at least to me and to most hunters (in my opinion), an end to itself. Pulling a trigger or spending a dollar: we’re all killers, but some of us are hypocrites.

  • the pauper

    hey ruhlman, you know this comes off a bit awkward, right? it’s like if i walked up to you, asked if you knew the definition to a word, and you said, “look it up, you’ll be glad you did.” you dig?

    one, how easy would it be for you, a master of words, to just tell me? two, clearly you appreciate the perspective one gains from such an activity, why not give us greater insight? perhaps you already have in one of your books, then just quote something we can read. it helps.

    and then telling us that we “should understand” is again a bit eh.. rough. come on, be smoother like your flowing locks of hair. to reiterate, you are asking people to WATCH SOMETHING DIE. it’s not like looking up a word in the dictionary.

    i also don’t know what the big deal is actually, if there was like a tour one could take for free and watch this? i’d sign up and take pictures.

  • Mer

    Screw the moralistic issues. Human beings are meat-eaters, and for millenia have lived with the “slaughter” of other creatures in order provide ourselves with the protein/fat we need.

    As for the taste – some of my best meals were in Sicily – Zio Mario’s snails from the garden, the freshly killed rabbit served on the same day that the gunshot that killed the bunny woke me up, Zia Bettina’s chicken soup made from one of her precious chickens – marvelous eats.

    Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

  • Claudia

    Verlyn Kinkenborg is a regular contributor to the New York Times, a farm-bred ex-urbanite (!) who has now returned to full-time life on an upastate NY farm. He basically has a foot in both worlds. Reading him every week as I do (and saving a LOT of his pieces), I never have got the sense that he’s a “look-at-me-I-can-kill-someting-I-petted” kind of man, nor does he write for shock value; rather, he is a thoughtful soul, who understands the reality of farm life (death, killing, cruel weather, accidents) but balances it with a quiet respect for all the life that surrounds him.

    There IS a disconnect between the food we eat and how it gets to us. But neither VK (or MR) are saying hey, you MUST watch your food’s slaughter in order to be able to appreciate it, but rather, that it is possible to be kind to an animal and show affection to it – even to love it – while knowing you will, eventually, be killing it (VK). And that witnessing an animal’s slaughter heightens one’s appreciation of where one’s food comes from, and how it comes to you (MR).

    The Last of the Mohicans analogy is absolutely perfect. Uncas and his family hunt out of necessity, but even as they do so, they demonstrate that not only do they understand what is involved in their survival (as opposed to the deer’s), but they respect that animals’ life and its role in prolonging theirs, and that, I think, is all that VK is saying – that he acknowledges what’s involved in putting meat on his table, and that he respects the animal’s life . . . and maybe even was a littl fond of it. Ruhlman is, I think, saying the same thing.

    No one’s saying you should whip out a smudge stick and bow to the animal’s spirit every time you pick up a cellophane-wrapped package of ribeye. VK is simply saying that, once, his protein was a living being, that he once raised – and might even have loved a little.

    Does that give you any greater “insight”, Pauper?

  • Jeannie Boutelle

    On at trek in western China our food had feet. The porters had 4 sheep that came along with us. When we only had one sheep left I was ready to start a “Save the Sheep” movement. For me eating mutton right after it had been killed felt like the molecules were still alive or not quite dead and I felt kind of sick to my stomach. But it also made me realize that when u r in the middle of nowhere u have to eat meat for protein and the hunter/gatherer is part of life. Our group was served mutton stew, which is is a Uighur(tribe where I was) specialty but I am sure the porters ate all the offal, nothing went to waste.
    The experience of seeing the sheep with us, seeing them slaughtered and then eating mutton just gave me such an appreciation for why we ate meat originally, to survive. It also made me realize how removed we r from the animal when u look at any meat counter or go to a restaurant. I guess, I eat a lot less meat than I did before, because everytime I eat meat, something has to be killed. BUT, when I do eat it, I appreciate it a lot more and the way it was cooked, if this makes sense at all….
    And in the old days, everyone ate the offal, they could let any possible nutrition go to waste. So, the Chris Cosentino’s of the world r doing a good thing, making use of every part of the animal.

  • Shoebootie

    Here goes an interesting take on some of the points raised in this discussion in a not very positive review of The Omnivore’s Dilemma from The Atlantic. I don’t necessarily agree with the author, I just coincidentally read the article last night in the waiting room at my allergist and when I saw this thread it seemed apropos. It’s a couple of months old, but like I said I just came across it last night:

    http://www.mywire.com/pubs/TheAtlantic/2007/09/01/4595171?page=1

  • Rich

    To Skawt: This is about taking about taking some responsibility for the meat we consume. Accepting the discomfort to at least be present is nothing like being a serial killer.

    To rockandroller: This is nothing like taking acid. It is not growing leeks, or coffee. It is not a thrill. It is not fun. (I do think the idea of points is indelicate) I will bet you money that if you do pick/grow those leeks, and coffee they will mean more to you.

    Facing certain realities of life tells us things about ourselves, and our world we would not have known otherwise. I knew what it was before I did was before I did it, but the experience taught me things i would not have known otherwise.

    No, I am not going to try acid or killing a human for that experience. I do not in my daily life condone or benefit from illicit drug use or murder. I do eat meat. I personally could not continue to do so, if I was unwilling to at least face the reality of that choice. I’m only speaking for myself here.

  • Sara

    “there is an anti-vegetarian crusade in america..maybe its a symptom of a culture that has no food history or memory. true…there are cultures where meat is an important part of their diet..they consider vegetarians as different people..at their worst, they hide meat in vegetables so they can ‘strengthen’ the poor pale vegetarian…they’d offer unsolicited advice or try to enumerate the glories of meat…..but never have i seen this recent and disgusting trend of villifying a person because of their food habits…shame on you all..”

    I was a vegetarian for a time. I did it, ironically, after seeing an animal slaughtered for the first time — it was incredibly disturbing and very sad, and I was unable to bring myself to eat the meat served to me later that evening. I regret that decision to this day — at the time I felt I was adhering to higher standards, but now I know I was just being wasteful. The animal was killed, in part, for me to consume, and my refusal to do so wasted (I believe) that life.

    Vegetarianism ravaged my body. I became so sick I had to go back to eating seafood and fish to get enough protein to make my body properly function. I had tried the soy/nuts/dairy/eggs/other protiens method and I nearly ended up in the hospital. Humans are omnivorous animals — our bodies are made to consume and process meat, and the protiens we receive from meat are vital in our continued survival. You can be a long term vegetarian or vegan and get by fine, but I find it hard to believe you can truly thrive. Likewise, you need a large amount of fresh vegetables and fruits in your diet for vitamins, for roughage, for all the wonderful things contained therein.

    Vegetarians are the bane of the restaurant business mainly because of the prevalent use of chicken or other stocks in the preparation of nearly all food. A vegetable soup often has a chicken stock base, making it non-vegetarian. There’s no way to ensure the pans being used to cook a vegan’s food haven’t already touched and cooked meat. And, frankly, vegetarians and vegans in restaurants get belligerant and rude when you tell them they have very limited options. If you’re so strict about your diet, you should really seek out vegetarian and vegan restaurants that are there to accomodate you, because six people just ordered the seak and it’s cooking next to your veggie burger whether you like it or not.

    Vegetarianism is usually brought on by a reaction to something social — finding out about meat industry practices, finding out about the environmental hazards of raising large amounts of cattle/chicken, or (like me) seeing an animal slaughtered and being horrified by it. But our desire to have animals killed respectfully and not in excess (and not being wasted after they die) can be combatted without giving up meat in general. I caved on my vegetarianism three years after it started, when I was in Baltimore for the 4th of July and just couldn’t take another minute without BBQ ribs. My stomach hurt so badly that night and the next day that I thought I was dying, but my god was it worth it. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of discovering the fully range of possibilities for pork, the deliciousness of free-range meat, and — best of all — the wonderful, wonderful world of offal. I don’t feel I waste meat when I eat it, and I try my best to buy my meat respectfully — from a source I know doesn’t abuse and waste their animals.

    Man, I’ve been posting long things lately haven’t I? Hope I’m not boring you all to tears… thanks for bearing with me.

  • Frances

    Squeamish? Squeamish is when you’re getting a flu shot and you can’t stand needles. Or cleaning your kid’s puke out of your lap. Not wishing to witness an animal’s slaughter is not such a petty issue as “squeamishness”.

    So, when I analyze the reasons why I could not witness a slaughter, it all boils down to, “I think it’s wrong for me to take an animal’s life if it’s unnessesary.” It’s a horror to me. Rationalize it however you like. Each person is free to do what they want. But if you have to be in “The Club” to eat meat with a clear conscience, then count me out.

  • Joel

    Well, those who would choose to pass up the opportunity are doing themselves an injustice. The best tasting fish I eat are those I catch, gut and through directly on the grill and when I was in the Army, we used to catch rabbit cook those over an open fire. But I was never sure if those tasted so good because they were fresh, or the fact that or our primary diet of C-Rations.

  • tyronebcookin

    Couple of comments…

    I have witnessed a few slaughters, both in this country and in others…

    It may give you more respect for the process, but not for the animal per se…the animal doesn’t care what respect it gets once its dead and whats the point in having respect for an animal because you saw it slaughtered?

    What makes it ‘noble’ to see a slaughter? Or double points?

    Come on, what Ruhlman said was “I suggested that one of five things you should eat before you die is the meat of a freshly slaughtered animal, preferably having witnessed the slaughter.”

    Witnessing the slaughter came second to eating the meat in his statement.

    The education, process, and knowledge behind the slaughter is whats beneficial towards appreciating food…isn’t that why we shout, wine, and cry over the outrageous facts we find out about processed food and soy product substitutes being mixed in with our ‘Big Burger’ at the fast food restaurants? Or the additives, preservatives, handling, and/or lack of taste from buying our meat at the grocery store?

    Of course you can feel a sense of pride, accomplishment, and/or achievement over catching, killing, and preparing your own food; MEAT or VEGETABLE. Because you have brought it full circle. It should taste better because you have been there for every step of the process, the finished meal was your creation, you do not have any questions about the practices of how it got to your plate…you have replaced the uncertainty of the dish with complete knowledge of what it takes to get it to the table.

    This is a basic principle that you have been taught and practiced since childhood (no, not slaughter) when you tell everyone else to back off and let you do or experience it all. Sometimes you regret it, sometimes you love it, sometimes it changes your life whether positively or negatively.

    Ever had Iguana? I wish I had left it alive…its better as a pet, or free running lizard.

  • rockandroller

    “Killing it yourself earns you double points.”

    I don’t eat to get points.

    As to the notion of not being able to look at things (life? animals? everythign?) the same way after witnessing an animal’s slaughter, maybe all of you should go do acid. That makes you look at life as you never have before and changes you and your perceptions of life forever. Does that mean people who have done acid are “better” or “more informed” or something? I think not. Maybe you don’t want to experience an acid trip. Maybe I don’t want to see an animal slaughtered in person. It’s not like I haven’t seen plenty of them slaughtered on TV. It’s not like I don’t watch my butcher cut up a whole half a pig as I talk to him as he prepares the cuts I will take home. I just think there’s a difference between the “head in the sand” people and an informed consumer. I mean, should I not eat leeks because I don’t watch them growing? should I not drink water unless I go to the treatment plant in town to watch how they clean the water? Should I not drink my coffee until I accompany the worker who picks the beans? If you WANT to or are curious about those things enough to see them in person, sure. But being aware and conscious of the choices you’re making and where things come from is the important point, not watching something that you don’t care to see.

  • realitybites

    This is a brave group–educated too! Most of my family and friends are clueless when it comes to the production and processing of their food–especially meat. Most of them can’t even muster the courage to read “Fast Food Nation” or “The Jungle.”

    I respect Ramsay for raising those animals and tevevising their slaughter. I learned much and feel privileged for seeing it–even if it was not in person.

    I don’t have much respect for those who choose to live in denial. It seems to me that witnessing–or at the very least understanding–the components of an animal slaughter should be a requirement for all meat eaters. And “Fast Food Nation” should be on the reading list in all American high schools. It is amazing how sheltered we are from the realities of meat processing.

  • bob

    Faustianburger,
    This is just plain sad, does your cat actually talk to you? ps ruffage good, roughage bad.

  • Skawt

    History is full of famous people that adhered to this maxim. Albert Fish, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer…

  • wpig

    If you want the best meat, you probably need to hang the thing and let it rest for a few days. Otherwise it will be tough. That’s especially true if the animal is old or you want to cured products other than salami.

    It is very good to eat custom slaughtered meat. Their meat isn’t damaged by stress if they die properly. I’m not sure if watching the slaughter is so critical, if you trust the butcher to do it properly. But assuming something goes wrong with the killing, it would be good to know, so that you can take a different animal. And also, if you are there, you can take the offal from the other animals, which otherwise you won’t get.

  • faustianbargain

    i sincerely wish that all you ‘food respecting’ folks will actually witness a slaughter. hopefully your silly little gluttonous orgies will tone down a bit and you lot will think before stuffing yourselves.

    there is nothing noble about witnessing the death of an animal you are going to eat…get off your fucking high horses and eat something with roughage. ‘respect for animal’ is seriously the most over used/abused word in foodie jargon now…you like meat..eat it and enjoy it..please go your way. i’d hazard a guess that most of you dont know what you are talking about…but i sincerely WISH from the bottom of my heart that you actually get to be part of that experience.

    there is an anti-vegetarian crusade in america..maybe its a symptom of a culture that has no food history or memory. true…there are cultures where meat is an important part of their diet..they consider vegetarians as different people..at their worst, they hide meat in vegetables so they can ‘strengthen’ the poor pale vegetarian…they’d offer unsolicited advice or try to enumerate the glories of meat…..but never have i seen this recent and disgusting trend of villifying a person because of their food habits…shame on you all..

  • grace

    Witnessing a slaugher may not be necessary, but respect and honoring the animal is key when we eat meat. Respect for an animal that is now dead for our consumption and delight. No doubt it is a humbling experience, especially for an American (read: CH2 A Cook’s Tour, by one esteemed Bourbain.).

  • bob

    Michael,
    Thanx for putting it out there. Interesting to see how split the reaction is on the subject. At 21, I left kitchens for ever, was never going to sling a burger, or toss a salad again. I took schooling and became a surgical technician, advancing in my career quickly to the cardiac room, specifically neonatal anomolous repairs.
    I have truly seen the entire human body from 1 day to 100 years, inside and out, absolutely every beautiful and horrifying part.
    This employmentship allowed me fiscally to enjoy a type of cuisine I hadn’t in the past and I soon found myself drawn back into the kitchen with a new and different passion.
    The first time I witnessed a hog being slaughtered brought me a renewed appreciation for the complete respect and utilization that is owed this animal. It’s not for everyone. I must admit, however, that I rarely find a scrap or morsel of meat that goes to waste in my processing of protein. There is no disconnect for me, between using the greens from the beets that I grow, and smoking the collar of the Chinook salmon that I filet.
    Respectfully submitted,
    Bob

  • Andrew Austin

    I agree very much with what Ruhlman and the article said. There is something important about being very close to one’s food, and part of that is witnessing the slaughter of live animals. Speaking as someone who grew up actually doing just that, I wouldn’t necessarily call the experience spiritual or even an epiphany; however, it lends you a new perspective. You appreciate the end result better – much more so if you raised and cooked the meat as well. I find something peverse about someone who will consume meat but cannot watch a slaughter, even more so for people who can’t even stomach a proper butcher job. Better to be a vegetarian in that case than to be, in my opinion, a veritable hypocrite. Regaining one’s personal contact with food is one of the single most valuable things you can do. Killing it yourself earns you double points.

  • FoodPuta

    I have to call Bullshit on all this. For some reason the thought of observing the actuall killing of and animal will bring along some epiphany about the meaning of life, and increase the flavor of it’s flesh.

    How so???

    If you begin with and animal from the birth of the pig, from the family sow, to the day you place a bullet behind it’s ear.

    Chop the head off of a Pullet that you hatched from and egg laid from your own hen.

    Then, you will have some aspect of the life you are taking for that Sunday afternoon ham, or beer-can chicken.

  • Rich

    I could not agree more. I would take it one step further and say you should do it yourself. I have never looked at meat the same way since I shot, dressed, and cooked my first deer. No, you don’t have to do or see that to understand the “true costs of eating meat”, but it will change you. If it doesn’t, it should. It isn’t easy to see, and its harder to do. I feel better about myself, and my food for having faced both. If you treat the experience for what it is you might be surprised by how gross it is not.

  • Nicholas Bergus

    I spent my summer talking to small-town butchers who do their own slaughtering, visiting hog farmers and bonding with a pig that I will kill myself in December.

    It is an entirely different knowledge of where meat comes from when you have witnessed animal slaughter. It is concrete rather than abstract.

  • Dianne

    I understand the *concept* of seeing an animal slaughtered in order to fully understand and appreciate the origins of our food, and the sacrifice made so that we may eat.

    Seriously, though, I am one of millions who grew up, and still live, in suburbia and/or urban communities. I am a pet lover, but have no experience with ranches or farms. Expecting me to make a field trip to see an animal slaughtered so that I may be deemed worthy is unrealistic, at best.

    I always give thanks to God and the cow before I eat. For me, that’s enough.

  • jp

    Watching an animal be slaughtered may not be easy but it is what it is…on another level…I watch so many chefs and cooks describe how incredible it is to eat brains and kidneys etc.- I want so badly to have the desire to eat offal- but this is the thing- I am a nurse. Like so many other nurses and doctors I know who LOVE to cook and eat, we just can’t bring ourselves to take it to that level… who knew this occupational hazard existed…

  • TomF

    I think it’s critical if anyone is serious about food to understand in a deep way where it originates. I’ve seen hogs and cows slaughtered, and cleaned birds (quail, dove, geese) and fish from scratch; I have some inclination to wonder whether anyone that can’t do that should be eating meat.

    This weekend for an afterparty for the SFA food conference, I’m bbqing goat, a whole baby wild pig, and a lot of other meat. Someone said: “What if someone won’t eat goat?” I said “That’s their problem.” In some ways I understand vegetarianism, and I can understand not wanting to see an animal slaughtered., but I don’t understand eating meat and having a resistance to learning where it came from.

  • Vauchon

    I cannot believe that you guys let chef morou go home and there was nothing wrong with his venison dish but you did not like how he plated it and chef Sanchez’s look like poop on a plate. Racism in this industry is still there and it will take many more years to get past it.
    My family and friends are angry also and you know you were wrong!

  • lux

    @carri: “Losing this connection with our food is what is degrading our diets and making people allergic to so many things!”

    You seriously think food allergies are on the rise because people have never seen an animal slaughtered?

    Somehow I think what’s in the food is more of a problem, but I could always be wrong, I suppose…..

  • jaye joseph

    I’d so be into watching a surgery on me though, that would be really cool. I mean, how often do you really get to see your own insides?

    I agree that we should all know what we’re eating and where it comes from. And further more, I think if you are a meat eater, and have the chance to see a slaughter that you should. If not, then you should at least understand, thoroughly, the butchering of an animal from head to tail, and know how to make use of all the parts.

    Next week, I finally get a chance to see the butchering of a cow from nose to tail and I couldn’t be more excited. As a lover of food, meat and animals, I feel strongly that it’s important to understand the entire chain from the pasture to our plate and pay respect to the parts of the chain that taste so damned good (I’m lookin’ at you piggy).

  • Charlotte

    I’m off to hunt an antelope tomorrow morning — I suppose that counts? I’ve never killed anything larger than a fish before, but since I really like antelope, and this is a hunting culture up here, I figured I should step up. Here’s hoping all that practice shooting this summer pays off …

  • FoodPuta

    I’m kind of split on this topic. I grew up on a family farm. I didn’t even know about buying meat that wasn’t something that I was involved with raising, and finally butchering until I was a teenager. That included everything from the chickens that I gathered eggs from, to the pigs I fed the leftovers from the evenings supper, or the steer that I would raise and train for show for 4H. To me, it was just part of the daily routine. Quite frankly, when I finally moved out on my own, I welcomed the fact I could just walk into the store, and buy a pound of hamburger, without ever having to shovel that animals shit on a daily basis.

    With all that said, I never felt that it made me “appreciate” what I was eating, nor was anything about the process of raising and killing and animal some kind of “circle of life”. What I can say, is that to this day, I know where that pound of hamburger comes from.

    Now taking someone that has never lived through that way of life, and suddenly make them face the killing and slaughtering of and animal intended for their plate. I’m not real sure that is going to have some positive affect on someones understanding of what they shove their fork into. I would think that for a lot of folks, it would be appalling, and the sight of the actual slaughter, would be to shocking for that to give them a sense of “appreciation”

    I just don’t think that picture is for everyone.

  • Ryan

    Size matters, too.

    Humans get more squeamish the larger the animal gets.

    People don’t fret over how the frog was handled prior to becoming frog-legs for example.

  • Nickole

    I 100% agree with Rockandroller. I do not need to see an actual slaughter to appreciate meat and the cost. There are many, many things in this world that you do not have to physically see with your eyes and still appreciate/understand them.

  • Frances

    Not wishing to witness an animal’s slaughter, does not make a person totally ignorant of where their food comes from. If it makes them a hipocrite, then I guess that I am one. I could probably do in a chicken, and I have caught and cleaned my own fish before. But nothing with eyelashes. Speaking strictly for myself, if I can’t kill it, I shouldn’t be eating it.

  • carri

    The opening scene of ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ is the best exmple i can think of to illustrate what you are saying…if a person cannot participate in the slaughter, maybe better to be a vegetarian! Losing this connection with our food is what is degrading our diets and making people allergic to so many things! The answer? Go find a rancher, reserve a cow..go in with a couple of other families…on butchering day it’s a great way to teach and learn…and eat really well all winter long! Here we have another way to get your slaughter on…instead of hunting for Moose (a very popular winter staple here) you can get on a list to be called if a moose is hit by a car or shot illegally…when the phone call comes, multiple families mobilize at the site, because the catch is you have to come and cut it up and take it away! Nothing says family fun like roadkill!

  • rockandroller

    I don’t think that watching the slaughter of the animal is necessary to understand or appreciate the source. Talking to farmers, knowing where their farm is, knowing what methods they use to, for example, move their birds around on their pasture is important, but watching the slaughter is not something I want to do. It’s not because I’m in denial somehow or have my head in the sand about where my food comes from just because I don’t want to watch something gruesome but necessary. That’s like saying you shouldn’t have surgery for something unless you’re willing to watch a video of what it looks like first, just so you understand what’s going to be happening.

  • Stephanie M. Clarkson

    WHile I was reading sources for Chris Cosentino for the Wikipedia entry I created on him the other day, I found this quote. Since then, I’ve been seriously thinking about the issues that this brings up in me; my mind says ‘eww’, the part of me that was vegetarian for four years says, ‘this sounds like the right thing to do.’ I eat meat these days, but I am thinking about the nature of it a lot more these days.

    Anyway, the quote:

    About two years ago I took my entire kitchen crew, three cooks and [food writer] Harold McGee, and we went down and did a goat slaughter, which would later go into an Easter supper at my house. We bought the goats and slaughtered them on the farm. And I’ll tell you, from that day on, there were never any mistakes with meat in this restaurant. Because the cooks that watched the slaughter, they realized that there’s an animal that’s dying. There needs to be that consciousness in this industry. I felt like a hypocrite; I can go and serve meat all the time and talk about the whole-animal ethic, and yet I hadn’t done a slaughter. And it was hard. It was really hard. I don’t think people realize what it does to you emotionally. It makes you really think about what you’re doing at the restaurant every day.

    from:
    http://www.meatpaper.com/articles/2007/0528_cosentino.html

  • Peter

    Brings to mind “The F Word”…

    In Series One of “The F Word” the television food/magazine show with Gordon Ramsay, the celebrity chef, in his own backyard, raised and slaughtered Turkeys to serve in the F Word restaurant in the last episode. In Series 2 he raised and slaughtered pigs, while in Series 3 he did the same with sheep.

    In each series, you witnessed the animals growth and then slaughter (in detail), as Ramsay advocated the benefits of good environment and food in meat quality; and as his children help raise the animals, to teach them (and us) where food really comes from, harboring in all of us the proper respect these animals deserve.

    Cynics might say it’s sensationalism, shock tactics, to help ratings; but sometimes we need a wake-up call!

  • vinoveritas

    I liked that piece, though the author is a bit late to the “look at me, I can kill something and eat it and I’m so *now*” party.

    Nickole and Diane pretty much sum up everything that is wrong with American food culture (I’m assuming they’re American because god, no other culture would produce beings that spout such amoral vomit). Someone who wants to be eat meat, yet be removed from the production of such is the sick one. Hell, it’s the ultimate disrespect for the animal.

  • lux

    I’ve eaten the fish I caught (but they were cleaned by my father, since I was only 12 at the time), does that count?

  • Don L.

    Thanks for bringing this up Michael. It’s all about simple respect. Respect for the animals we raise and eventually eat, and sometimes even get to know in between. Nothing has made me enjoy the food on my plate more than the knowledge it was humanely raised and properly slaughtered and butchered. And being involved in a slaughter after a season or more of getting to know an animal is a very difficult – but also strangely beautiful – thing. Holding the truth about meat at arms length is perhaps more comfortable, but ultimately dishonest.

  • ruhlman

    nickole and dianne, my point is only that if you eat meat you should understand the costs. indeed you should understand the costs of everything you eat, not just meat.

  • Dianne

    I’m with you 100% Nikole. I can’t even pick out my own lobster at a seafood restaurant. I don’t want to be introduced to my food prior to seeing it on my plate.

  • Helen Levin

    Right, so both of you don’t think at all about where your food comes from? What’s really inside it, its origins and what you are putting in your body? If you are disgusted by something, don’t you think you wouldn’t then want to be putting it in yourself?

  • Nickole

    Fresh meat, sure. Witness the slaughter? I’m sorry, but you’re one sick person to suggest that’s something you should do before you die. And no, I’m not pro-vegetarian. The food chain is the food chain, but if anything, witnessing the slaughter would probably make most people LOSE their appetites instead of enjoy the meal more.