For much of recent American history, American eaters, specifically American meat eaters, haven’t had to face the fact that eating involves killing. At the supermarkets, our meat is neatly – and unrecognizably – packaged in plastic and Styrofoam. We call it beef (not cow) or pork (not pig), which allows us to maintain the distance between death and dining.

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) helps to bridge that gap with periodic workshops on poultry processing – more than that, it teaches students a useful skill.

MOFGA organic livestock specialist Diane Schivera takes participants through the process from start – putting the bird in a cone in order to slit its throat (“We do it as quickly and efficiently and painlessly as it can be done,” she said) – to finish, gutting the chicken and chilling it to prevent contamination.

The students, she says, “are generally really interested. Every once in a while we’ll get kids, and they are fascinated. Most of them are growing up in places where they have watched the animals be raised, and they know what the deal is. They are more accepting sometimes than the adults. But we haven’t really had people be squeamish. If they sign up, they know what the deal is.”

For those Mainers who will never sign up for a poultry processing workshop, who will never raise a meat bird or, more to the point, kill one, Schivera has this to say:

“If you are concerned about what the animal’s life has been like and what its final moments have been like, buy (chickens) from someone who has been raising them and slaughtering them. Know your farmer. I don’t think it can be said enough. Know your farmer.”

– PEGGY GRODINSKY