When I was little I liked my chicken breaded in nice little neat squares. The fact that this lump of meat was once part of a living animal that pecked and ran around was very far from my mind. When I began to cook, I soon learned that bone in chicken was more flavorful and moist, and that whole chickens were a frugal choice.

So I worked through my animal loving, but carnivore eating hang-ups and learned to handle whole chickens, not just neat and tidy chicken breasts. And as I did so, I realized how many in America hate to be reminded that their animal eating habits are connected to…animals. A whole chicken or a chicken foot is enough to produce outrage and shock in some.

It is considered “gross” and “wrong” to add a few chicken feet to a pot of stock, for example. And I don’t feel any judgment towards those that feel that way, as I once felt that way myself. 

But this is what I have learned. If you do eat meat, you should honor that death of an animal by not wasting its sacrifice by waste. So I utilize as many parts of the animal as I can (and some of the “offal” not only doesn’t taste awful, but is highly nutritious). Chicken livers are pan-fried or made into pate. Chicken necks are added to simmering pots of stock, and yes, chicken feet are added to the broth as well. It’s been a steep learning curve, and I still can do better, but I am learning.

And now I experience a strong dissonance with someone who finds a chicken foot so revolting that she claims to be throwing up, and wants ice cream for life since she found this apparently disgusting chicken item in with the chicken breast.

I agree that it’s poor quality control. But I think the deeper issue is apparent in the responses around this story. The deeper issue is that we like to distance ourselves from the animals we eat. Most of us no longer live on or near farms. Our meat comes to us so processed that we cannot recognize it for what it is. And we like it that way.

While we like our little nice and neat tidy meat packages, I think that true sustainability will be hard to achieve when we distance ourselves so much from the reality of what we are eating, where it came from, and whether we are truly honoring that animal’s sacrifice to feed us. 

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