The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Eggs: The other red meat

The first pullet egg I've never been a vegetarian --- not quite --- though for the first twenty odd years of my life I ate meat sparingly and mostly under duress. 

I blame my budding vegetarianism on pacifist parents who looked on in amusement the summer that I decided it was immoral to kill anything.  Soon thereafter, I spent a week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina stoically and gently brushing mosquitoes from my skin.

And now I'm a chicken killer and soon to become a deer killer.  What happened?

The chicken or the egg?

It all started when I bought a few hens to provide eggs for my table.  I slowly came to realize that vegetarians who eat eggs but not chickens are deluding themselves into believing they cause no pain to another living thing. 

Young roosterThe cycle of egg production is rife with blood and gore, even assuming the chickens were raised humanely on pasture.  After her first year or two of life, a hen's egg production begins to taper off and a new batch of hens must be raised to take her place.  The old hens, who could live for another decade or so eating you out of house and home, are then slaughtered and eaten.

At the same time, the new hens which are being raised to take the old hens' place hatch from eggs which produce half males and half females.  A good flock of chickens will have about one rooster for every ten hens, so the other nine roosters will go into the pot along with the old egg-layers.  Basically, that seemingly pristine egg you just ate for breakfast sprang from a bloodbath.

Feeding the soil

Roast chickenSo now I've probably scared all of the vegetarians in the crowd into taking the plunge into veganism.  But consider this --- a healthy, self-sufficient organic garden is best fed with animal manure as well as plant-based composts.

I keep my chickens in tractors which I slowly move across soon-to-be garden sites.  The chickens greedily eat weeds, scratch over-wintering pests up out of the soil to be ingested, and fertilize the soil in the process.  After a few passes with the chicken tractor, the ground is ready to be turned into rich raised beds for next year's vegetable garden.

Just as vegetarianism often stems from a soul-searching moral decision, my new belief in eating meat is based on an expanded awareness of the agricultural ecosystem.  Although steering clear of chickens while eating eggs gives many people the impression of guilt-free protein, I can't help but feel that the healthy agricultural ecosystem includes meat-animals.  For me, life on the farm involves meat.

Read other posts about killing and eating your own chickens:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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That's basically the same logic and thought process that led to me abandoning vegetarianism (again) some years ago. The same thing applies to all dairy products - there's no milk unless animals are born, and there are many extra males in this cycle, too.

Thanks for the chicken butchering tips. I have a dozen or more roosters around here and have to get rid of some very hens are all worn out.

Comment by Annie Wed Sep 7 19:01:09 2011
It's very timely that you happened upon this post today because we were busy killing four chickens for winter feasts. We've gotten to the point where killing a chicken is a spiritual event, and the amazing bone broth we make from what's left of the carcass after eating the meat makes some of our favorite soups. What a long way we've come!
Comment by anna Wed Sep 7 20:00:16 2011

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