I stand at the kitchen counter with a boning knife in one hand, the other resting gently on a small, gutted and skinned kid goat lying on a large wooden cutting board. It is still slightly warm to the touch, and a few hairs are stuck to its flesh.
The meat is destined for my friend’s freezer, and I offered to butcher the goat for her. I wrestle with the slippery carcass, holding it carefully so I don’t cut myself in the process. If I do, I might fail to notice the blood is mine, not the goat’s. The knife is sharp and cuts easily through muscle, cartilage, small bones, and tendons.
As my bare hands wrap around and reach inside the body cavity, I suddenly realize the profound level of intimacy I have with this creature. The relationship did not end when I watched it take its last breath: It continues through the process of preparing and eating the meat.
This goat is one of several that grazed in a small pasture across the driveway. I watched the animals every day and even fed them on occasion. I always knew they were raised for meat, but this was my first personal relationship with an animal that would later become my food. This goat had a life of his own, and just a few hours ago I saw him playing with his mates. I had observed the daily care and attention my friend gave these goats and the gentleness this goat was offered as it was killed by another kind and capable friend.
As a chef and in my personal life, I have always acknowledged and respected the meats I prepare and eat. But this time it went much further. I was present there, alone in the kitchen with this creature, and I realized it was up to me to continue to regard and revere this life that was created and taken to provide food.
Choosing to eat meat this way has led me to a more fulfilled and healthier way to live. Knowing in my heart how all things are connected gives me a deeper appreciation for all food. I now try to acknowledge every animal whose flesh I prepare for a meal—to be present, to take a moment to thank the animal, to pray that it had a good life, and to express my gratitude for the nourishment it now provides.
I choose to purchase meat from animals that are allowed to express their full selves—to graze in open pastures in the sun and fresh air, feel the earth under their feet, and communicate with the world. I believe that animals have hearts, souls, and spirits. When I eat meat, I have a responsibility to honor this ultimate sacrifice that gives me life.