Today I cooked three of our chickens.
Now none of them had been slaughtered with the express purpose of cooking; they were however, the unhappy result of our puppy Norah's attempt to play "tag" with some of them last year (which quickly prompted a re-think of the locks of the chicken pen door). All three have spent the last year in our big freezer, plucked and gutted, just waiting for when I had the time (and courage!) to cook them.
Now because they were killed by Norah, we will not be consuming them ourselves. They will make an excellent treat for our dogs though. But as I sit here watching them cook (and remembering the squirmy feeling I felt in my stomach as I prepared them in my stock pot), I started thinking about how if their end had been different and we had butchered them ourselves, that we would be eating them tonight instead of the pups. And that idea still weirded me out.
I know that I am just being silly. They look like chicken; they smell like chicken. And yet, because it did not come air chilled in a saran-wrapped package, the chicken I raised by hand; only grain-fed and free-ranged, is somehow inferior.
I am so upset at this way of thinking!
I, of all people, should by now appreciate how much better home-grown is. And for the most part, for our fruits and vegetables, I agree without question. However, there are still some things that I have yet to get used to.
Take our eggs, for example. The first few times we had them I had trouble eating them. I am not sure why; did I think them unclean? Unhealthy? When I know the opposite to be true: they are the freshest, most wonderful tasting eggs I have ever eaten. So why did it take me some time to get my head around eating them in the first place?
I suspect part of that has to do with the marketing employed by the food industry. We have been so well trained that we are skeptical of anything that is not one of the most common big brands. Even among store bought brands I find that my cart is usually filled with the bigger brand names, thanks to the wonderful PR campaigns I am sure. Even someone as logical as I (one would hope!) falls prey to the "ours is the best because we market the loudest!" way of thinking.
I could ramble more about the marketing tactics used by our food industry to convince us that bigger is better when it comes to where we buy our food, but that is a topic for another time. For today, from my own experience, my hypothesis is this: trying farm fresh food other than fruits and vegetables may seem foreign at first, even for someone who grows it. But try to eat out of your comfort zone. If you are worried about the cleanliness (and I cannot stress enough how unclean the "meat factories" our store-bought meat comes from!), then just do your research and find a reputable local producer. Go down almost any rural road in Ontario and you'll see at least one sign advertising fresh eggs or produce. Give it a try. I assure you once you start eating fresh (the longest our eggs stay in our fridge is a couple weeks, vs. the months it can take a store-bought egg to reach your table), you'll never look back.
Even for myself, all it takes is the courage to give that first bite. You'll be so glad you did!