A Kid’s Perspective on Home Butchering

It’s Just the Facts of Life

Ever since I can remember, I have grown up with home butchering. Whenever we got some kind of poultry or livestock, we always had the intention of butchering them later on, so it was never a surprise to me when Fluffy the bunny was in our stew the next week.

In my eyes, they weren’t really pets, but they weren’t really livestock, either. We just had animals that I loved to snuggle, and then later . . . loved to eat.

That was that, no hard feelings.  

A Kid's Perspective on Home Butchering 1

Should You Name Your Meat Livestock?

My favorite part has always been when we first get the animals and they are all so cute and tiny. As soon as I heard that a new litter of bunnies had arrived, I would race out to the garden to marvel at the pink little squirmy blobs. Of course, I wouldn’t pick them up until they were old enough, but the moment they were, those poor little bunnies would be dressed up in bows and sent through little obstacle courses made out of cardboard boxes and various bits and pieces from around the house.

My mom always insisted that I didn’t need to take the bunnies out to the trampoline to learn how to jump, but I was sure that it was my job to teach them this important life skill.

Some people have a rule that they don’t name their livestock, but I’ve never had a problem with it. As soon as I could tell them apart, they all had names. Some of my favorite names were BunBun, Officer Hoppers, Gravy, and Pinky. It seems like every litter had a bunny or two named Fluffy. (Thinking of names is hard—sometimes you have to reuse a name a few times!)

Even when they grew bigger, I would often bring them inside and continue to dress them up and snuggle with them against my dad’s will.

One Benefit to Home Butchering Is Learning Anatomy

When it came time to butcher the bunnies, I would help my mom round them up and bring them to the barn, where I would then pick out who goes first. This sounds really morbid, and my 7-year-old self didn’t think much about it, but I would determine who gets butchered next by how much they liked snuggles. If you were squirming to get away, you were next . . . .

I have a vivid memory of one time when my mom was butchering a rabbit and my brother, who is 2 years older than me, was crying and pleading for her not to do it. I didn’t really understand why he was so upset about it, because I knew that’s why we had rabbits in the first place, and I really liked rabbit enchiladas . . . soooo, what’s the problem here?

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That was also the very special day that I got to hold a real heart for the first time. For as far back as I can remember, I have always been intrigued by anatomy and how the things inside of your body work, so I would always hang close to my mom and ask what that weird organ was and if I could touch it. I thought the heart was the coolest organ, so when I got to hold one for real, I was ecstatic.

It’s a Badge of Honor

I was much more involved with the bunnies because they were nice to snuggle with, but when we had chickens, I would sometimes play with them when they were at prime cuteness.

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Although I don’t mind the butchering of our chickens, I do mind defeathering 50 to 70 chickens in one day. Usually we will get a hundred or so baby chicks in the spring, raise them up, and then butcher them all in the summer. Not all of them survive getting here and growing up, but still, 50 chickens is a lot of birds to pluck, even with 4 or 5 other people helping.

My brother and I would invite some of our friends over to help, and to our surprise, they were all excited to learn about home butchering.

Actually, most of the kids in our neighborhood wanted to learn how to process a chicken.

My mom says this is a skill that all kids used to know, and apparently, most kids are into it if given the opportunity. Even my older brother became proud that he could teach his buddies how to do it.

I enjoy having the bunnies and chicks around for a while before they land on the dinner table. There is one kind of animal, however, that I am ready to butcher as soon as we get them . . . geese. I’ve never liked geese, and I never will. They’re bullies, they hiss at you for no reason, and they poop anywhere and everywhere that they can get their butts to.

You can tell me that geese aren’t that bad, and they are actually sweet animals on the inside or whatever your reasoning is for liking geese—but in my opinion, having goose stew is like sweet, sweet revenge.

It’s Important to Honor the Full Circle

I’m sure that each kid is going to have a different reaction to home butchering. Although not every 7-year-old is going to want to play with all of the organs in a rabbit, I do think it’s nice to include kids in the butchering process somehow.

It’s a good learning experience about death and giving thanks.

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My mom and I would always do a little ceremony and sing a special song after each rabbit died to recognize its life and what it was giving us. If you want to see her perform this ceremony, it’s in the butchering section of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD set. You can click here to pick up your own copy. (There’s also some footage in there of me doing dishes when I was little.)

The whole butchering process really made me think about where my food is coming from—and about how much of a blessing it is for a living being to give its life for my nourishment.

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This post was written by Kimber


  • Scott Sexton says:

    So far, my kids haven’t been bothered by watching us butcher animals. We make homeschool lessons out of it. And they love it when the muscles twitch.

    When my oldest was little, he loved watching me clean fish. I still remember when he asked me to “poke it in the eye” with the knife. I was a little taken aback at first, but then I realized that it was a terrific learning opportunity. So I pierced the fish’s brain (I always do that first), and we got to dissect a fish eye.

  • LynnShauinger says:

    In a country with a substantial amount of food we do NOT need to kill animals that are pets. EVER..When I was growing up my dad raised over 100 rabbits. He loved them and so did i. They were for prizes at the Ca state fair. What didn’t win he killed for food. But never would my brother or i eat them……….and to this day i have never eaten rabbit. The last words my father said before he passed on was ” I am so glad i don’t have to kill animals anymore. All life is precious. We are not a hunt and gather society………………..If we were starving the animals would not be pets and we might be forced to eat. This is not the case now. It is so wrong.

    1. kg.regan says:

      I could not do this myself either, but I’m a hypocrite because I eat meat.

  • Martha Skinner says:

    I agree that it is not necessary to kill animals for food, but if you are eating animals for food I think it is important to understand where it comes from and the skills it takes to transition that animal from a living thing to dinner. There is gratitude in that knowledge that usually just isn’t there when people buy it already neat and tightly prepackaged at the supermarket.

  • islatex says:

    I LOVE this article!! We adults have a much more difficult time processing animals for food than children do. My family is new to country living so I didn’t know how my kids would feel about killing their animals for food. Well, it turns out, they are just like you, Kimber. They name them, play with them, , take them to the trampoline too! And then have no qualms about helping to butcher them for dinner. You will not find meat that comes from happier animals than this! And the children are learning amazing survival skills. Thank you for this wonderful reminder that children are much tougher than we think!

  • Belle Sparks says:

    My neighbor raised rabbits and we are them. I was pretty young, but they were delicious. I don’t think they had New Zealand Whites or something was not right because I remember vaguely them twice having a problem raising two litters?

  • Belle Sparks says:

    The article was great, lol, decimate l y stirred my childhood memories of eating rabbits, lol:)! Obviously, not a problem for me, either:)! I don’t remember really thinking to much about it, either. I had a similar experience, they had a son my age and when they bought the adult bunnies we loved playing with them and then when the babies came we watched and waited and then when dinner came we ate and enjoyed it. It was all very normal, because we knew from the start that was what the bunnies were being raised for. I do remember my mother who was almost a vegetarian saying she hated it, but she felt they were good meat, stopped worrying and ate them. I think she did think of them as “fluffy”, but the nurse in her respected that they were not full of chemicals and processed:)!

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