“We Don’t Eat Farm Animals, Momma!” – Part 1

Caleb asked me the other day about buffalo and I explained that they look like cows, but are larger, have long hair, and a hump on the back of their necks. I then proceeded to walk ass-backward into uncharted territory when I elaborated by saying that buffalo meat was similar to cow meat – beef. Caleb’s eyes began to well up with tears and his voice cracked as he said indignantly, “we don’t eat farm animals, Momma!”

This was not in my manual! I didn’t plan on having this conversation with my five-year-old! I responded with tender footing, “Caleb sweet-pea, there are animals that we visit on the farm for fun, but there are also animals that are raised for food.” The crying ensued and my heart sank while my eyes began to fill up with tears. I tried as sincerely as possible to explain to my future vegetarian that many of us do indeed eat animals for food.

Why I stepped in it again, I have no clue, but I then asked Caleb if he could tell me where cheeseburgers came from and he responded “a cheeseburger is food Momma; it’s not a farm animal!” I said, “Actually Caleb, burgers come from cows” and he cried even more. I was worried that next he’d say “I suppose you’re going to tell me that we eat pigs, sheep, and bunnies too!”, but fortunately for me, I didn’t have to take on the other cute and fuzzy board-book animals just yet. I suggested that we talk about this another time as he was sniffling and wiping his tears. Then Caleb, being his wonderful self asked me for “quiet time,” I assumed so he could compose himself. I love this little sensitive (best possible meaning of the word) boy-child of mine and I wonder how other parents navigate these murky waters when talking about the origins of food. Michael Pollan – where were you when I needed you!?

Under the advisement of a very wise and experienced mother I know, I decided not to take on a meatloaf recipe with Caleb just yet. Talking with our kids about the origins of food is incredibly important, but I’m not prepared to shatter his world entirely. I decided next to take on a simple cookie recipe, and use our baking time as an opportunity to talk about where eggs, butter, and milk come from. I’ll call this a ‘teaching moment’ with baby steps.

To be continued…

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6 thoughts on ““We Don’t Eat Farm Animals, Momma!” – Part 1

  1. Oh, Poor Momma!! I was raised on a farm, and thought nothing about where we got our meat-I knew where it came from. Then I got married, had kids then grandkids. I forgot they weren’t raised on a farm. I.too had to tread lightly. Good luck.

  2. Oh, sweetie! How traumatic! My childhood books (even the picture ones) always made it clear that farm animals were eaten – do they not do that anymore?
    Sending you all my love,
    Hannah

  3. Your little vegetarian and mine (in this case Tyler) should get together. I have no doubt the ensuing revolt they would plot against their “bad mommies” will be heartfelt and illuminating as was your post.

    By the way, if all goes well with the rest of the food chain discussion I say sell your services to other Moms…call it the “Old McDonald Went to the Store and Picked up some Farm Friends…” :-)

    Talk soon.

  4. I was raised eating meat. I am raising my daughter vegetarian. Her pediatrician is a vegan, so I have a good guide.

    Her father and I decided that we would leave it up to her to decide later in life if she wishes to eat meat. She is such an animal lover. We gently capture every bug that wanders into the house and release it back outside.

    My husband has just become a vegan after a lifetime of heavy meat eating. Having a child has caused us to profoundly reevaluate our values with regard to our nutritional sources.

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