I only eat heritage poultry. Unfortunately this makes it real hard to keep kosher because there is no commercial kosher heritage chicken or turkey available anywhere on earth so I have to kill and process everything I want to eat. About a year ago I wrote a post about the sheer exhaustion that processing my own meat was causing me and that despite the fact that at first it was empowering at this point it's just become exhausting. Not much has changed in the way of commercial birds since I wrote Ethical Convenience but I’ve been determined to find a more convenient way to eat poultry ethically ever since. I spent nearly a year planning and all my hard work came to fruition with a successful shechita run in August. I killed and processed 30 birds in less than a quarter of the time it took me to do only 15 birds in the past. I even felt happy and energized afterwards. What I learned not only helped spare me energy but can also make producing local kosher poultry, a dream of many that still lies unfulfilled in the U.S., a reality.
Slaughtering animals can be incredibly transformative and powerful. When first experiencing shechita (kosher slaughter) I found it so powerful that my waking mind could not face the many dark and disturbing emotions that it brought up. I'd often wake up from disturbing dreams feeling frightened, sad and guilty about what I'd done. Today I've learned to cope and rarely dream as I did then, but the dreams I've had and things I've seen will forever hold a dark and frightening place inside my soul.
I spent last Sunday at the Good Shepard Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, Kansas performing my 3rd annual fall heritage turkey harvest. People are used to buying turkey any time of year, but heritage turkeys mate naturally and are consequently restricted to doing so only during their late winter breeding season. After hatching in the spring, the birds grow for eight months and are ready for slaughter just in time for, you guessed it, Thanksgiving. I also spent the day processing several heritage chickens, including some older breeder hens, which gave a lot of rich, yellow chicken fat that I rendered into shmaltz. I even saved the feet and made 12 quarts of delicious poultry stock. To celebrate the harvest, I invited a few friends over for an “organ party,” where we grilled up some hearts and livers from the slaughter, yum! Just two weeks ago, my 10cf freezer was almost empty, but now it is just about two thirds full. Being able to do this all myself is very rewarding, but I also can’t begin to describe how much work it takes and how truly mentally and physically exhausting it all is. When I started doing shechita I wanted to be connected to my meat no matter what the hassle, but after almost three years, I admit, I would love sometimes to go the store and buy some meat like everybody else.
I spent the first eight and a half years of my life living on one of Israel’s much-idealized kibbutzim (communal living villages). My mom worked in the kibbutz dairy, and for a time my dad worked with the broiler chickens. I loved milking the cows, and my favorite thing in the world was to let the calves put my entire hand in their mouths. Through these experiences I developed a great fascination and love for animals that has never left me.
About the blog:
Welcome to The Kosher Omnivore's Quest! My old blog on kosher slaughter, kosher meat, and animal welfare. For new content check out my new website, The Kosher Cut™. There you'll find: blog posts about shechita and related topics, educational slaughter presentations, kosher slaughter training, and a selection of high quality professional kosher slaughter equipment.