By Jack Kredell
The difference between store-bought meat and wild game is that the latter, even when it’s sitting in your freezer, is never really dead.
The pheasant bones in the stock I made are from the same pheasant that slashed my palm as I wrung its neck. The episode replays itself whenever I ladle out a bowl of soup. It’s a strange thing to be able to connect the food on your plate to the living animal whose life you took for this purpose. The pheasant persists in my memory of the hunt, and later, in the satisfaction of having had a delicious meal.
That feeling of ‘knowing’ the animal lingers long after you make the kill. By taking its life, you assume a responsibility to see the hunt all the way through-literally down to the last bite. You are both executor and inheritor of its flesh. You take on a debt to the animal that can only be repaid by eating it-or giving it away to friends.But while wild game is never really dead, store-bought meat can seem like it was never really alive. I’ll catch myself behaving under this assumption when I throw out store-bought leftovers that, had it been from a pheasant or deer, I would wrap up and put back in the fridge.
The fundamentals don’t really change with store-bought meat; while you are alienated from that animal’s death and all that follows, it was nonetheless done for you because you paid. Money assumes intention. The only difference between the pheasant and the factory-farmed chicken, when I really examine it, is that I “knew” the pheasant. I caused both to die, but the pheasant left its mark on my palm.
It’s a privilege to be able to have that perspective, one that doesn’t grant you the moral authority to call somebody a hypocrite for not shooting his or her own dinner. Even that deboned chicken breast comes from a place as real as the pheasant in my soup. The mark on my hand tells me that.