Maine, the farm

Pemaquid point and processing chickens

Yesterday afternoon I took a drive over to Pemaquid Point, which is a lovely little park on a rocky point about forty minutes from where I’m living in Wiscasset. There’s a fisherman’s museum and a lighthouse (pretty touristy, but amusing nonetheless) there as well.

*note the selfie…

I ate dinner overlooking the water and took a walk through the museum. I’d visited the museum and lighthouse before, but I really wanted to see this again:

a giant, taxidermied lobster…

…which weighed twenty.eight.pounds.

Although it was bit lonely traveling by myself, I was happy to have some solo time to reflect on the morning. Megan, a farmer here, had asked me if I would like to help her process her personal meat birds, and I had agreed, having never processed chickens before and wanting to experience it. It was not as I had expected, and throughout the morning, I was surprised by how blank my mind was–I simply wasn’t sure what I should be thinking, or feeling, for that matter. So I settled down at Pemaquid at a green picnic table, in front of the ocean, and wrote for a long while in my journal. Reading it over today, there is a portion I’d like to share (bear in mind this is, almost word for word, what I was writing in my own, personal journal).

I participated in each part of the process. The killing portion was obviously the most foreign piece of it for me, and I killed about the last six chickens. It was fascinating to see this side of the equation, and not just the plate side. It did not turn me “off” to chicken, as it might have some folks, but suffice to say I did not eat the chicken at lunch.

I kept thinking about the David Foster Wallace essay, “Consider the Lobster,” about whether lobsters feel pain. These chickens were indisputably experiencing pain, and in comparison, cooking a lobster suddenly seemed almost comically, well, clean.

I took a chicken’s life, another creature’s life, with my hands. I held it as it died, watching its trembling, yellow feet, its eyelids droop, its head fall into the bucket below. And yet, I was not sad, disgusted, or any other identifiable emotion, besides perhaps calm. It was not undignified; we did it one by one, striving to inflict as little pain as possible, giving as much consideration for the well-being of the animal. And yet the fact resounded in my mind, that I had killed this creature; that whatever defines life inside us, and it, I had taken, and it was now gone–dead. That fact resounded through the entire process, even louder, perhaps, once a chicken no longer appeared or resembled its living self. Decapitated, spinning in the plucker, it was difficult not to compare this dead, lifeless thing to its pecking, living counterpart in the back of the truck.

And yet I am so grateful that Megan included me, because I so desperately needed to connect the plate to the animal, perhaps in order to better appreciate my food, or the “cycle of life”–this living and dying of creatures; the killing of creatures for the survival of other creatures; to put it simply: humans, us, killing animals in order to eat them. I needed to experience that so I might understand that the fried chicken breast at lunch was once a living thing–in order to truly see that.

Megan was the pinnacle of calm and composure throughout the process, which I very much admired. At one point, Jason looked at me and asked how I was feeling. “Good,” I replied, unsure of what to say, “and you?”

“Alive,” he said, “and grateful.” I thought: yeah, me too.

Another thing I’d like to add is that, although it might seem as if my thoughts are conflicting in this entry, I did not feel that we shouldn’t have been processing those chickens, or for that matter, later eating them. It was more a wondering of what the entire process meant, and what the ramifications of interacting with another creature are. I also felt that the entire morning included consideration and thoughtfulness for those creatures, and this made me even more certain of the importance of knowing where your food comes from. I would feel comfortable eating the chicken we processed, because I know the animals were processed (and raised) with care. An interesting argument for connecting with all parts and steps of how our food gets to the table.

All for now,