When I was a boy, my grandparents house was my heaven for so many reasons. For a few years, they kept a small flock of chickens in a backyard coop made of scrap wood. I cherish fond memories of collecting fresh eggs and following the hens around the yard watching them greedily forage for insects in the wispy grass. One day, my Grandmother told me I could pick out one of the chickens for myself. I quickly selected the one red hen because she stood out from all rest and I named her “Red”
After a few years, egg production slowed and it was time for the chickens to make the journey to chicken heaven and become stew birds in the big freezer. I was permitted to watch the whole process. I witnessed the slaughter, the scalding, the plucking, gutting and all. Yes, even my Red and while I was sad, in a way, I wasn’t “traumatized.” In fact, as a curious boy, I was fascinated. Meat was animal parts and its awfully hard to eat them if they are still alive. That’s how it was in my family. Animals were food. I always understood that. The animals were also loved and respected. They were treated with dignity especially in their final moments. There was nothing cruel about the process. It was neccesary. It was life and it was nourishment.
Several months later we had a nice chicken dinner with my grandparents, I was asked, “How did I like my chicken” “My” was the key word in that question. I understood then what “Pick out one for yourself” meant, I was privileged to choose both my friend and my meal. Turns out they were one and the same. It was all OK. It was the way things should be. It’s still OK today.