When I was a kid I don’t know if my parents specifically told me about the relationship between animals and the meat that we eat. Honestly though, I don’t know if I ever asked. Looking back, there was no real reason to ask since most of the names of the meat that we ate had no obvious relation to animals whatsoever:
Pork, Bacon, Carnitas
Beef, Steak, Barbacoa, Brisket, Burgers
I would’ve never thought to ask my parents if bacon happened to come from a pig, or whether steak was really from a cow. I figured if bacon came from a pig, it would be called something obvious like “pig strips” or “piggy deliciousness.” And if steak came from a cow, it would likely be called “cow steaks.”
So, I spent most of my childhood pretty ignorant about animals and meat. When I ate a burger as a kid (one of my favorite foods), I never thought that the meat that I was eating came from a cow. In my mind, the meat just appeared and was grilled.
I never looked at cows thinking:
“Hey Bessie, I can’t wait to have some of your parts ground up, formed into patties, and grilled!”
“Hello there big guy, I can’t wait to dive into your rib-eyes!”
Since childhood I have obviously learned where my meat comes from, but it’s not a topic of conversation I enjoy talking about.
Despite my own meat-animal denial, I could’ve sworn that I had the “where does meat come from?” conversation with my kids at least once. The Chick-fil-A billboards of the cows trying to convince us to “eat more chicken” has provided an entry point for questioning at least a few times. However, since my kids are already so picky about food, maybe I wasn’t explicitly clear with them for fear of turning them into vegetarians (not that there’s anything wrong with vegetarians, but my kids don’t eat vegetables. So that’s slightly problematic.)
So, even with the previous “where does meat come from?” conversations, my daughter asked me about it while I was cooking dinner the other night. I had set up the trusty old crockpot to make BBQ chicken. When I was pulling the chicken quarters out of the crockpot, the question came.
“Mom, what animal does BBQ chicken come from?”
“You know, what animal does BBQ chicken come from?”
I start giggling a little bit. “Well, BBQ chicken doesn’t come from anywhere. BBQ is the sauce.”
“Ok, so where does the chicken come from? What animal?”
I started laughing. “Um, the chicken comes from a chicken.”
The look on her face was sheer horror. “WHAT?!?! The chicken comes from the animal, THE CHICKEN??????!?!?!”
I’m dying at this point, but I refrain from laughing too hard. “Yes sweetheart, the chicken you eat comes from the animal of the same name.”
During dinner that night, I could tell that she stared at her BBQ chicken a little longer than she normally would and she appeared to grudgingly eat it. I’m pretty sure she was thinking about chickens while eating.
We had a wrap-up conversation after dinner about where most of our meat comes from so as to avoid any other uncomfortable dinner conversations in the future.
“Sweetheart do you know where bacon comes from?”
“Duh Mom, a pig.”
“What about pork chops?”
“MOM, it comes from a pig.”
“It comes from a cow.”
“Ok, wait a minute, you know that bacon comes from a pig and steak comes from a cow, but you didn’t know that chicken comes from chickens?”
So, apparently I need to do better about teaching the kids where their food comes from. It’s funny the things that you think they know and then you are surprised to find out they’re absolutely clueless.
Here’s to chicken. The meat and the animal.