My wife and I have raised turkeys a few times. The first time, we raised just two or three birds.
That Thanksgiving, we cooked one of the turkeys at a neighbor's house. In an attempt to jokingly make us feel bad, he asked, “So, what was this turkey's name?”
“Dinner,” said my wife.
“Well, what was the other turkey's name?”
Those really were their names. It's said that you shouldn't name your food, because then you get too attached to eat it, but that doesn't stop us; we just try to pick foody names, like the pair of pigs with congenital tremors which we named Shakin' Bacon and Piggly Wiggly, or the cow with bad hips who spent most of her time on the ground which we named Ground Beef.
Our second year of raising turkeys, we had a larger flock so we didn't bother naming them, except for the one I called Turkey Patty, named after the bland turkey patties my parents once served when I was a kid.
Turkey Patty had lame legs. She could walk, but with great strain, and she couldn't uncross her legs.
Chickens are mean, and they'll pick on birds that are noticeably different, hence expressions like “getting picked on” or “pecking order,” so we often had to separate her from the flock. (You can see in the photo that many of her feathers had been pecked short.)
One day Turkey Patty was sitting on the grass in the shade, just minding her own business, when three chicken hens wandered up to her, and they started doing cannon ball jumps onto her! They literally jumped into the air, pulled their feet up, and landed butt-first on the turkey! It was like watching bullies pick on another kid.
Because of Turkey Patty's lame legs, I put more effort into caring for her than I did the other turkeys, so I did get a bit attached. We try to raise our animals kindly and give them happy lives before we eat them, at which point we do our best to end their lives as humanely as possible.
Then the final day of Turkey Patty's life arrived. I had recently gotten a new hatchet, but I'd had eye surgery just the month before, so I couldn't see that the hatchet wasn't as sharp as it could have been...
on the chopping block, about to be chopped.
My wife's sister had just recently had a birthday, so we gave her the “honor” of beheading the turkey. She had never behead a poultry bird before, and my wife and I were still relatively new to it too, so we didn't exactly have the ideal setup for beheading birds. I crouched next to the chopping block, holding Turkey Patty, while my sister-in-law held the turkey's head, streaching out the neck. My head was close to the action, so she was a bit nervous about accidentally hitting me and started off a little cautiously.
CHOP... chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop.
It took twelve chops to completely sever the head! (In my memory it was thirteen, because my sister-in-law did swing a thirteenth time.) I was in a bit of shock, as I continued to hold the headless, squirming turkey and had to be told to let her go. After setting Turkey Patty's body on the ground, I put my hand on her back as if to calm her.
That's a part of the circle of life: If you want to eat meat, somebody has to kill it. Food doesn't just magically appear, packaged neatly, on store shelves or in the drive-thru. I've said it before, and I'll say it several more times: There's nothing like raising and killing your own food to make you understand the amount of sacrifice that goes into generating food, and to truely appreciate it and want to waste as little as possible.
Thank you, Turkey Patty, for giving up your life so that I could eat. You were delicious.
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!
- ⌃ Most critters will usually convulse a bit after decapitation because there are still electrical impulses in the now directionless nervous system. See Why do headless chickens run?.
- ⌃ I could post a video of the event on-line, but then it would probably get banned for “depictions of self-sufficiency that circumvent the corporation-controlled food supply,” or you know, because of too many complaints from screeching wackadoos who don't undertand where their burgers and chicken nuggets come from.
- ⌃ For the dingbats that have an issue with Thanksgiving celebrations, see Thanksgiving Isn't Racist — Change My Mind.