A few years back I got asked a question that made me realise how distanced people have become from their food.
The question was “How can you slaughter your own chooks when you can buy manufactured chicken in a supermarket where no animals are hurt?“. I have never forgotten the disbelief I had in that moment or the pause before I could answer with a question (in this case “Where do you think the chickens in the supermarket come from?“)
- Have you ever stopped to consider the life of a piece of meat?
- Have you ever stopped to wonder what that animal (before it’s slaughter) had been fed that is in some part now passed to you?
These very questions are part of the motivation that I have to raise my own meat.
The Chicken Farm
There was a “free range” chicken farm that I visited a few years ago. The smell was terrible. The chooks were so cramped within the area that I wondered how the heck they could be described as free range.
- Yes, they were able to “access” the outside area, but most were simply huddled together.
- Yes, they had “access” to sunlight. Most didn’t venture outside to get the sunlight though, as stated above they remained huddled together (standing in their own shit to be honest)
- They were mostly eating (from what I could see) – grain or standard poultry mix. I couldn’t see any greens or fresh foods.
I am unsure how they were slaughtered, though I had heard some shocking horror stories, but given that I didn’t see first hand – I have to take those stories with a pinch of salt along the way.
Real Free Range Chickens
A real free range chicken does exactly that – free range. Now, being honest, not everyone can free range due to issues with dogs, foxes and other predators.
What they can do though is provide a nice area, and a much better life for those chooks.
- Have a nice comfy nesting area out of the wind, fenced off from predators and a choice of nests (high, low, crates etc) and perches.
- Have plenty of hay and grass to scratch in and nest with
- Have clean sand for their dust baths
- Have more than “just grain” – they get fresh weeds, grains, fruit, vegetables, meat pickings and more … (They have an awesome varied diet)
- They have a big area in which to run around (which in my case is fenced off due to foxes and netted due to eagles, hawks and similar predatory birds)
My chooks provide:
- Eggs (and yes, they are allowed to have their several months off laying per year, they are not forced to lay every day like “battery hens”)
- Feathers (for use in pillows or quilts)
- Awesome ground preparation before planting – breaking everything up and pooping / fertilising everywhere
- Bug Control (we all know how much chooks love to chase and eat bugs)
- A level of comedy in their actions
- And … eventually meat for ourselves, family and pets.
What I can guarantee when we have chooks for meat is that I thank them, calm them and that they have a humane death.
When I buy meat _ I cannot guarantee this process and I have no idea if they died humanely or cruelly.
By homesteading and growing my own meat, I ensure:
- A good life
- A humane death
- And that I am not supporting the cruel treatment of battery hens and factory farms.
Remember though: Not every farm is a factory farm. Not every farmer is cruel. Some of the farmers I have met (that seemed really “traditional”) were the kindest and most caring to their animals that I had ever seen. Take it all with a pinch of salt, get to know people and lead by example – be kind in your homesteading processes. Learn from one another. Share with one another.