Monday, November 24, 2014

Turkey Trauma

When my daughter was in preschool, her teacher arranged a field trip.  Like many of the kid's moms, I went along. The weather was mild, and it was a day filled with petting animals, traipsing through the fields, and a wonderful outdoor picnic.

The most memorable part of the day was when the farmer came out to have a chat with the kids.  We gathered near the turkey pen, and he began to tell them about what it was like to be a farmer.  At a certain part of his talk, he suddenly dashed into the pen, and grabbed a big Tom turkey.  “How nice,” I thought to myself.  “It must be fairly tame and he is going to let the kids interact with it.” WRONG!

Gobble - gobble!
Mr. Farmer's plan was to give an educational pitch about the importance of farmers. He turned that unsuspecting turkey upside down, and held it by its ankles.  (Ankles -- or whatever you call the anatomy of a turkey just above their feet!) 

Mr. Farmer proceeded to lecture our group of little kids, pointing out which body-parts of Tom Turkey corresponded to the kid's favorite cuts of poultry. Wings, thighs, drumsticks ... nothing was a mystery any more!

Most of the kids took it in stride - they either weren't listening closely to his words (which were nearly drown-out by the gobble of that Tom), or they had mothers who had already explained the food chain. Not so, for my daughter! She was quite horrified - partially due to the sight of that poor bird hanging upside down in the man's grasp ... but mostly because of what he was saying.

Learning about the food chain
Just less than a year earlier, my daughter had learned from another preschool teacher that animals are the source of our meat. I had been present then, as well. "Mommy - really? Meat is from animals?!"  (This was said loud and clearly between her sobs.)  Her exclamation caused the teacher and other mother in the room to give me glances of sympathy, while they smothered their chuckles. We just had never found the right opportunity to break the news to our small daughter that meat wasn't made in a grocery store! 

Her kind little heart could barely handle the information the first time she heard it. The farmer's in-depth description, while holding an indignant gobbling bird, was almost more than she could bear. I did serve turkey on Thanksgiving that year - but I don't remember her being very interested in eating it.

At least there was no mention of bacon when it was time to pet the pig!
At what age do you think kids should be taught about where their food comes from?

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11 comments :

  1. A really tricky question. I think it is important that all of us (not just children) realise that food doesn't magically appear in the shopping centres. There is considerable effort, and yes, for those of us who are not vegans there is death and suffering in bringing our food to the table.
    I suspect the question of when children should be told is very individual though - and will depend on the child in question. Yet another in the judgement calls that parents have to make.

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    1. I do agree - farmers work hard, and our children need to understand about all this. I think it was just the teaching method that threw us off! (Gobble gobble!)

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  2. Good thing she wasn't in my daughter's kindergarten class when they dissected a salmon! My daughter was okay with it, having grown up with a fisherman dad, but one little girl in the class actually fainted! I think each child will be "ready" at different times, but probably this kind of activity is better left until everyone is at least eight or nine years old. Love the photo with the piggy! :)

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    1. You are right - she probably wouldn't have liked it much!

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  3. Loved this story Susan. Great question - I don't remember ever discussing it with the boys, but since their dad is a hunter, they must have figured it out fairly young. I do remember my younger son arguing with me that bacon did NOT come from pigs. Farmers are definitely matter of fact!

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    1. After I wrote this, I tried to remember when her younger brother learned these facts about food ... nothing stands out! Probably because he was so young when we moved to the hunting state of Montana!

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  4. Well I grew up with knowing where our food came from...we grew fruit and vegetables, raised pigs cows and chickens and was taught that those animals were not pets they were a source of income and of food. It's very different for city kids who identify those animals with slabs of meat in a grocery store freezer case. I think you need to start as soon as a child can understand words so that it becomes simply a normal fact of life showing them pictures of animals, identifying them and then connecting the picture and name to what is on their plate.

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    1. I think you are right, Delores. My mom grew up on a farm. I remember her telling me stories of how she hated watching the chickens being killed though. Each of us seems to have a different tolerance level as to how much they can absorb at a time. I don't have a problem eating meat or fish - but I prefer not to be watching fish in an aquarium when I am doing so!

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  5. I think I would have been traumatized too! I like meat but I definitely don't want to meet it face to face first then have to eat it. I tell my hubby if it doesn't have Styrofoam and plastic wrap I'm not eating it!

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  6. Your sweet little girl! Funny how we don't consider some things until they are flapping and squawking in front of us! I think if kids are raised knowing . . . so as soon as possible. My kids were lucky. They grew the food. And were happy to talk about it to all of their city-bound friends.

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    1. I do believe kids should appreciate farming, but the opportunity to provide any of that education had just never come up! Had we been in Montana, she probably would have had an earlier understanding - but we were living in a big city when she was small.

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