During the last half term the kids and I had great fun turning these birds into this –
The kids loved turning the metal crank handle and watching the meat squeeze out into long sausages to twist and pack. They have a good understanding about where their food comes from and aren’t squeamish about the reality of preparing meat from scratch.
In fact faced with a sticky mess pulled out from pheasant as I’m gutting it they can pick out the liver, lungs or heart which is a great start to basic biology.
Last term at school the youngest’s class were asked to dissect a chicken wing and he was proud to show off his knowledge. In fact he was irritated at the number of kids who shrank back, too squeamish to touch. Where are the doctors and nurses of tomorrow if this is the reaction from our young people?
Did you know that the pheasants we turned into sausages, they were delicious by the way, would likely have been thrown away if we didn’t take them? That every year thousands of birds are wasted because not enough people, not even the people who shoot them, are prepared to take them home and prepare them for the table. Probably because it takes quite a while, especially if you’re not very used to it. It’s a sticky, mucky business and you end up with guts in your finger nails and feathers in your hair. The game dealers take only the very best undamaged birds and pay as little as 20p each for them, the rest may often go to waste.
So would you give it a go?
If you buy meat from the supermarket, is preparing it for yourself not the next logical step? I talked about my journey from animal loving vegetarian to country-housewife with blood under her nails perviously in this blog. I’m aware that making this journey has been a privilege not available to everyone but its also true that the skill of preparing and preserving meat on a small scale is a skill in decline. The more we rely on supermarkets to prepare our food the greater our disconnection from the countryside from which it came, which can only lead to poorly informed decisions about how we care for our planet.
Have you ever taken your kids to Pick Your Own Strawberries? Yes I bet you have, so why did you do it when you could have just grabbed a punnet from the supermarket? But it’s fun isn’t it, to pick the fruit growing in the field, it’s a day out. I’d argue that driving out to meet your local shoot, collecting a beautiful brace of birds (that’s two – usual a male and a female) and plucking and preparing them for the table can be an enjoyable and fulfilling family experience. It’s just not as ubiquitous as PYO fruit.
Game meat has ethical considerations, like almost every other food item which reaches our plate. It certainly has high credentials for being free range although the welfare of poults (young birds) reared intensively before being released into the wild is questionable. Game keepers are both lauded for their conservation work in the countryside and yet also sometimes condemned for tipping the balance too much in favour of the birds they protect. Gun enthusiasts will pay handsomely to shoot especially in large numbers and protecting the game can be to the detriment of other animals, but this varies from shoot to shoot. Like I said there are arguments for or against almost everything we put in our mouths and we have to eat something. Should we choose fresh or farmed salmon? Green beans from Kenya or GM tomatoes? It’s a minefield if we think too much about it and game is at least local and shooting brings much needed income into the countryside.
But whatever the arguments, the fact remains that game is being shot and wasted and that surely is a crime. Are you willing to spend the time preparing these fallen birds for the table?
I would be happy to show anyone who is interested how to pluck and gut a bird and recommend a few tasty recipes to try. It’s pretty much the end of the season now, shooting game birds starts again in late summer. It would be great if then I could pass on my skills and maybe write a few posts about how we got on. Please get in touch if you are interested.
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