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A Woman's Journal


Sharing the Wealth

By Maggie Turner

Monday, February 21, 2000

Sharing the Wealth


Meat is a food that poses a moral dilemma. One must end the life of a sentient being in order to consume its flesh. Humans have "evolved" to the point where the process of ending the lives of our prey is an assembly line affair. Not many meat consumers have nurtured and cared for the animals that they will eventually eat. Nor have many experienced the slaughter and subsequent skinning, gutting and butchering of an animal for their dinner table. These are sobering activities.

In the name of profit, meat is produced and processed in the most expedient fashion. Chickens spend their lives in cages inside barns eating their motionless way towards death. Cows and other mammals are fed antibiotics to ensure that they mature for harvesting. The popularized images of farms and farm life have very little to do with our modern food supply. Volume and profit dictate that the idealized family farm is a rare occurrence in the Canadian rural landscape.

Eating meat is something I rarely enjoy. Most of the time I eat the small bit of meat on my plate first to get the unpleasant part of the meal out of the way. I favor the taste of vegetables, grains, and legumes.

As a child, I enjoyed fishing with "Grandpa" on the small lake he owned and stocked with trout. If I caught a fish I was expected to scale it, gut it and filet it all by myself. Only those grandchildren who fulfilled the task willingly were permitted to fish. This represented a rite of passage in our lives. I can think of nothing in the world that tastes better than fresh rainbow trout fried in butter over a wood stove.

I suppose I owe it to luck and "Grandpa" that I know intimately the meaning of eating flesh. In my childhood, meat was not a food that was wrapped in butcher paper or plastic. We raised, fed, and slaughtered the animals we consumed or we hunted or fished for them. Obtaining meat for food involved a relationship with the animals.

The world has changed since I was a child. I live in the city and buy my meat from our friendly organic farmer who lives north of the city. I am not directly involved with the animals, but I know the fellow who is. Because of my awareness of a life ending to provide me with meat, I find it difficult to place the removed fat and bone into a bag that will end up in a landfill site. It just seems like a disrespectful way to treat remains. I want to honor the life of the animal by making good use of everything that I can.

We rediscovered the "Joys of Fat Rendering" today. Our friendly organic farmer brought us some lovely lamb chops this week. There was quite a bit of fat on these chops. I am on a low fat diet and so removed most of the fat before cooking the lamb chops. I decided to use the discarded fat to make suet feeders for the birds. There is a lot of snow here and not much food to forage in the natural world. Not having tried this before, I searched the internet and found some information. The lamb fat needed to be rendered. Rendering fat is quite an easy thing to do. The fat will turn to a liquid in a matter of hours. This is where the no-joy part of the equation begins; the smell of rendering lamb fat is very unpleasant. Not knowing what I was up to, Attila and "The Teenager" tracked the smell down to the kitchen and confronted me with their displeasure. We all decided it was worth a bit of inconvenience for the sake of our feathered friends. The joy part of the equation begins in watching the birds enjoy a delicious dinner that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill site.



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