Reflections on Harvest and Eating Meat
Photo credit: Amy Solomon
“I could never do what you do.”
This is a comment I get a lot.
For the last 3 years, I have almost always been the one to take animals to the butcher. Over the years I have felt every feeling while doing so. Sadness. Worry. Confusion. Anticipation. Gratitude. Even excitement, knowing we were about to feed so many families. I have sat long and hard with my thoughts and my values around eating meat.
I’ve come to a sense of peace around it that I will try to articulate. Here’s what I’ve arrived at: that somber feeling, that twinge of sadness, is a normal and healthy part of true connection and gratitude around our food. And I’m not just talking about meat, though it is in a category of its own in some ways - in my limited experience gardening I felt a similar feeling when the frost came and the season was over. A similar feeling when a fish was caught. A similar feeling picking all the ripe cherries off a tree. I get that feeling too when I watch a hawk catch a mouse. Something living and dying so we can eat. A cycle. A cycle that contains all the complexities of being alive inside of it; birth, growth, death, be it a plant or an animal. And we are no exception. I used to break living things into categories, and now I feel that everything alive is connected and even sacred, more alike than not. Dang.
“I could never do what you do; I’m not tough like that.”
Sometimes when people say this to me it feels a bit like an insult. Like they’re saying I’m overly tough or hardened in some way. I’m actually highly sensitive. I cry easily, feel everyone’s emotions, and attach deeply to my animals. I think people like that are the exact people we want producing our meat. We want caring. We want kindness. We want gratitude and depth of feeling.
Photo credit: Amy Solomon
And furthermore, can I gently push back on the above statement? Because just a few generations ago most families had to provide their food for themselves. We knew where everything came from and what it took to get to our plates, and the stakes were high. Are we really so different from those people today? I’m not saying we should go back to those days, oh heck no…I personally enjoy not *grinding my own flour,* but my point is that I think most people could learn to garden, can, sew, bake, and raise and harvest animals to feed themselves and those they love. The people who do this work today are not strange unicorns, we are just like you, and we find a lot of meaning in it.
“I could never do what you do…so for that reason I don’t think I should eat meat.”
I really understand this feeling. The food we eat is deeply personal and it’s a decision we all get to make for ourselves. Everyone’s food choices should be respected and are their own businesses. For me, I’ll just say that while I think facing the fundamental facts about how our food arrives on our plate is really important, I think we can do that without owning every step of the process in the same way we feel ok eating a fish even if we didn’t catch it, or eating an apple we didn’t pick. Some folks are the harvesters, some are the cooks, some are the ones tending the animals, some are the ones supporting the farms and ranches. And thank goodness we can all help the world go round, especially if we are trying to see a healthier food system.