Today is World Poultry Day – poultry in this context, of course, is not about the celebration of chickens as birds, but of eating their flesh.
I don’t eat goat, sheep, ducks, game meat; occasionally seafood, pork, beef and turkey. I am a small flock keeper and my favourite meat is chicken. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to poultry: I don’t eat my chickens, which means I’m eating someone else’s. I love chickens in general, my chickens specifically, but I haven’t been able to give up eating them.
I know that lots of folks can raise and love their birds while at the same time eat chicken with no qualms. At least theirs is an uncomplicated attitude. I assuage my guilt by buying local, free-range birds that I hope had happy lives right up to their date with the butcher. Such is the complexity of human behaviour.
I feel like it might be a bit morbid to extol the joys of eating poultry in a group of small flock chicken keepers. Let’s face it, most of us are not farmers and many of us treat our birds as pets. We are frustrated when they are sick, we grieve when we lose them. It hardly seems fitting to ask “I wonder how Buffy would taste in a fricassee?”.
So I’ll save the chicken recipes for another day. Instead I would encourage us all to mark this day by appreciating the non-culinary gifts that our birds bring to our lives: amusement, companionship, the wonder at seeing the behaviours of another species up close and personal. It never fails to amaze me when I see their individual personalities, friendships and quirky habits.
When you look at a flock of birds and really study their feathers or watch a chick hatch from an egg that we take for granted you have to marvel at the complexity and beauty of nature. Just pulling up a chair with a coffee in hand, watching a flock in action, is both free entertainment and meditation all rolled into one. Non-chicken folks might not understand their allure, but those of us who have been bitten by the chicken bug can’t imagine our lives without them.
So today, on World Poultry Day, I suggest we all whip up a tasty vegetarian dish and go out to our coops and say thank you. And for those of you who are so inclined, hug your birds (but remember to wash your hands afterwards).