I was making chicken salad yesterday, and I offered my five-year-old son a tiny piece to feed to our cat. We've only had Paulina a few weeks, and she's still a bit shy. I thought if my son offered her a delicious morsel of chicken, perhaps she'd eat out of his hand--and that would totally make his day.
I'm pretty sure the fact that chicken is from, well, chicken is something he already knew. I'm positive we've discussed this before. But you know how little kids are--they only remember what they want to remember. And because he knows cats like fish, I guess he just assumed.
"Chicken isn't from the stream; it's not a fish. Chicken is chicken," I corrected.
"Does that mean the chicken had to be killed first?"
"So that means farmers are so, so mean, right?"
Uh, hmmm.... I didn't know what to say, because I do sort of think farmers are mean. I just don't understand it: How they can witness the birth of an adorable little piglet, raise this intelligent animal until adulthood, and then slaughter it for bacon? I guess you get used to it after a while, but still. I want my son to know the truth but I don't love the idea of him going around bad-mouthing Old MacDonald all the time. After all, nobody wants their kid to be a Debbie Downer.
I'm trying to raise my son so he'll be equipped to make his own educated decisions on issues like whether or not to eat meat, so I've been trying not to subject him to any anti-meat tirades. (For the record, I don't eat anything with four legs and haven't for about 15 years. I used to not eat birds, either, but then I got pregnant and realized how little protein I ingested. It was just easier to start eating chicken again. Chickens are pretty stupid, right?) I don't want to freak him out by explaining to him in gory detail where his food comes from because I have trouble getting him to eat protein-rich foods as it is, but at the same time, I do have my opinions and I am his mother. The fact that I find it disgusting when someone digs into a massive, bloody steak is not easy for me to hide; it's such a visceral experience that the cringing is involuntary.
I ended up explaining to my son that we eat chicken and turkey meat, and that, yes, someone had to kill them in order for us to do so. I also told him this: "I don't believe in eating any animal with four legs, and so I don't cook it and we don't eat it. Except for bacon--which comes from pigs--because Daddy likes bacon."
"I love bacon, too!"
And, with that, the conversation was over. My son ran upstairs to feed chicken to our cat (who did, in fact, eat it out of his hand and made his day).