I’m writing this observation as someone who has been a life-long city-dweller:
Our culture has sanitized death on so many levels.
Dealing with death, grief, and loss is one of the hardest parts of living.
Recently, an old friend, who runs a sleigh/wagon ride business, wrote on a facebook post: "Unfortunately farm kids learn at an early age about life, loss, struggles, joy, success, sickness, death, etc. We lost our Bo today." It got me thinking about the differences between those of us who live in cities, suburbs, or just not on a farm vs. those whose livelihoods are dependent on being in sync with weather, seasons, nature, and the relationship with their animals who work with the land.
I had never witnessed the death of an animal until my late twenties. When I first started working with a grass-fed beef company, I was invited to witness a cattle processing day at a Temple Grandin-designed processing plant (humane). A few years prior, I started questioning where my meat was coming from, so I felt like the next step was to confront my disconnect of life and death as a meat-eater. It was clearly easier to not feel any connection to a cut of meat wrapped in cellophane on a styrofoam tray.
To my convenience, but not necessarily to my benefit, my survival has never been dependent on personally having to raise or hunt animals for food. In this modern era, we have access to food around the globe so that we can eat anything in or out of season to our local residence. Global transportation has its up and downsides. The downsides are that the majority of people are no longer able to identify what time of year produce is locally in-season. One of the greatest disconnects is that by having access to all foods at all times is that we also have the luxury to choose any kind of diet on our terms (i.e. there were no vegans in the northern climates during the winter months in the 1800s or prior. Meat and animal fats were essential to harvest and preserve during the winter (or ahead of time) to survive through an extended cold season).When the topic of “nature-is-brutal" comes up, it’s not discussed enough. Animals are just as much a part of the food chain to one another as humans are to seeking out animals for sustenance. If you’ve watched footage of animals hunting their prey, it’s pretty brutal. At Northstar Bison, harvesting an animal is done with quickly and with great care (click here to watch our field harvest film); knowing that their life is given to benefit our own. In all cases, yes, death is cause for prolonged pause and sadness. Intention is also a significant player. If one seeks to raise animals for only profit, everything and everyone loses. But if one seeks to steward the earth through animals, there is much to gain.
Harvesting IS a touchy subject but we don’t want to avoid it. When an animal is cherished and treated with respect (through being given their native diet, nutrient-dense land to roam, and a stress-free environment for harvest day, etc.) then we want to put every part of them to good use! If animals are giving their lives up for us to continue ours, we owe it to them to not only incorporate the muscle meat, but also the bones, marrow, and organ meats, which are prized for bolstering up our own bodies! We take nose-to-tail eating very seriously(we are currently at 97.78% of the total carcass used and are aiming to reach 99% very soon!) and we know that many of you do, too!
Eating is not only a revolutionary act, but a sacred one as well.