This is another great post by Christine.
“The cow in the meadow goes ‘Moo’! The cow in the meadow goes ‘Moo!’ The farmer hits him on the head and grinds him up. That’s how we get hamburger. Nooooow, chickens!” Do you remember that episode of ‘Friends’ where Phoebe sings honest songs to the kids at the library? I remember that episode so vividly and thought, “Wow. That’s enough to deter kids from ever eating meat!” I love ‘Friends’ and I actually thought that episode was funny. Phoebe is hilarious.
At the same time, I remember when I was a teenager and stopped eating meat or any animal product. I turned vegetarian because the thought of eating animals was something I could not bare. I remained vegetarian for most of my adult life (until health reasons made me start eating meat again). Ironic how I married a beef farmer.
Now that we have a daughter, she’s at the age where she asks a lot of questions. She knows what chickens, pigs, fish, and cows are. She knows what chicken meat, pork, fish, and beef are. She eats all of those. She just hasn’t asked any questions about that yet. She hasn’t said, “Wahhhh! I don’t want to eat cows! Cows are my friends!” (knock on wood).
I was thinking of how best to talk to Little One about this whole situation. Our animals are part of our every day life. Little One SEES the calves every day. She says, “Awww! They’re so cute!” and then she chows down her steak or burger. You can totally tell she’s a beef farmer’s kid. When asked what her favourite food is, she doesn’t say ice cream or cookies. She says “BEEF”!
When I first became part of a farming family over six years ago, I had a difficult time dealing with having to ship our animals off to be sold and butchered. I didn’t deal well at all. Hubby kept explaining to me about the cycle of life and death. It is something I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to, but it’s a huge reality in our lives. Selling our cattle is our livelihood. I guess when the time comes to explain to Little One, Hubby and I will have to talk to her about the cycle of life and death and we need to respond with simple yet truthful answers.
I often think about the day Little One brings up the topic of eating ‘her friends’ and not wanting to do so anymore. I’m actually not so worried. Little One goes fishing with Grampy and last December (at just over 3 years of age!), she reeled in her first fish! It was a 6 lb fish and she was so delighted. I was really worried at what her reaction would be like. She saw this fish ALIVE and then saw it flailing on the ground. Then she saw it DIE, and then she saw Grampy clean it, fillet it, and cook it! Oh, and she ate it! I was so worried she would not want to eat it after witnessing all of that, but she devoured it and she still really loves fish!
I guess one of the benefits of growing up on the farm is that you realize the connection between yourself and your food. There’s a certain level of respect when you know where you food comes from. You know it’s part of your daily life. Being tied to the land and to the animals, you are aware of the life cycle. Our 3 year old knows that we raise our cattle, take care of them, feed them, and love them. She knows that every year we have to send some away. She also knows that some of them eventually lose their lives and become meat. I’m not sure of that makes it easier or not, but it certainly makes kids aware that everything on this Earth has purposes for existing. This is just one of the realities we have to deal with on the farm.
Christine McNaughton is a city girl gone country (or at least trying to!). Born in Toronto and raised in Montreal, Christine received a B.A. in Honours English from York University (English Literature), and is also certified in TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). She teaches English, and works as a freelance writer, blogger, product reviewer, and brand promoter.
Christine lives on a working beef farm with her husband and preemie daughter on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.
PS from Heather: We are SOOOOO excited!! Christine is also a Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador! Woohooo!