For as big as the World Wide Internet is, there is a shocking lack of informative turkey slaughtering videos. Even more shocking is that for almost every person I know that likes to eat turkey, NONE of them want to take part in raising and slaughtering one for their Thanksgiving meal. When we started approaching friends to see if they wanted to help us take the next step in preparing Thursday (our giant turkey) for the upcoming holiday meal, we got a variety of answers: No. – Hell No. – You can’t eat something that you’ve named! – (and my personal favorite) – If I actually have to think about/see where my meat comes from, I think I might become a vegetarian.
It is what has allowed the meat industry to operate behind closed doors and adopt shady production methods. People, for the most part, would assume not know where their food comes from, or the road it has traveled to get to the supermarket shelves. I realize that for some it is difficult to imagine putting more than $9.99 into a turkey that will be used for a single meal. We like to try to think about it a little bit differently here on the Acre. In many situations, I am a firm proponent of ‘ignorance is bliss,’ but not when it comes to what I put into my family’s bellies. Against what seems to be popular opinion, we name our animals AND eat them. To me, that is better than giving them a number, sticking them in the smallest space possible, pumping them full of grain and antibiotics, then killing them (sometimes inhumanely) only to pump them full of more preservatives, coloring, etc., all for the sake of who? ME, the consumer. Well, no thank you. I believe that raising an animal for meat in a humane way is completely reasonable and, more importantly, responsible. Still, it’s amazing how quickly a conversation becomes stagnant when people ask what we do with our baby goats and we say we either milk them or eat them….at least we didn’t name them ‘Taco’ or ‘Yummy,’ right?
With all this opposition to eating our ‘pets,’ I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me when I couldn’t find much information on the slaughtering of said ‘pets.’ A quick search on You Tube turned up a charming little video of some camo-clad ‘southern gentlemen’ skipping through the more delicate aspects of cleaning a turkey to the tune of some hillbilly theme music. Just when I feared we would have to take our cues from a mob movie and cover the living room in plastic and invite Thursday in for a ‘little talk,’ one of the local farms called with an offer to walk us through the process. Alright, I guess I can find another use for all this plastic sheeting…fuhgeddaboudit… Immediately I get excited about: A. seeing how this is done and B. the prospect of turning a possible disaster into a relatively easy, straightforward process. Only when I realize that we have to figure out how to get Thursday across town do I start to reconsider the ‘possible disaster’ part. Clearly, a little pre-planning for this scenario would have been ideal…but I guess it’s time to make lemonade…and piss off a turkey.
We came to find that, surprisingly, female turkeys are docile and Thursday didn’t put up much of a fight at any point in the process. The cleaning process is quick and simple (though I moved at a snail’s pace compared to those with more experience) and the whole deal is well worth having a huge, delicious turkey that suffered no harm or discomfort throughout its life. We headed home with a beautiful bird, a big bag of giblets for gravy, and the desire to have more turkeys next spring. Oh, and, note to self; next time DON’T wear Chacos when going out to kill Thanksgiving dinner.
All said and done I quickly came to the realization that we are on our way to our first entirely local Thanksgiving meal. (Okay, okay, I will not be growing wheat and grinding flour for our biscuits!) We will have potatoes, garlic, and greens from our own garden, as well as fresh salad, carrots, and goat cheese. And, in the spirit of the season, we will be thankful to the earth and to the animals which helped to make this meal possible and ever more grateful to those friends and family who will share it with us.
Jennifer Welch lives and writes in the Arkansas River Valley and is looking forward to a big, delicious, locally grown Thanksgiving dinner. You are welcome to send thoughts, suggestions, and inquiries to her at firstname.lastname@example.org