Where Does Meat Come From Mummy?!

It’s not that I’ve deliberately gone out of my way to try and pull the wool over my children’s eyes when it comes to the truth about meat but there’s never really been a great opportunity or opening for me to explain things properly; because of this, their view seems to be somewhat skewed.

I suppose when Florence was teeny tiny, under two I think and on the way back from a play group, I had one moment in time when I could have bitten the bullet but I just felt that it wasn’t appropriate. For some reason Florence had been talking about bacon and a Jewish friend of mine piped up with something along the lines of ‘WE don’t eat Peppa Pig like you!’ (a trifle odd but there we are) and my little baby girl’s eyes had widened in horror as they looked up at me for reassurance that neither did she! Of course I skimmed over it, all the time saying ‘we don’t eat Peppa Pig darling, how ridiculous, she was just making a silly joke’ and then the moment never came up again. She’d never actually flat out asked me ‘Where does meat come from Mummy?’ You see she thought she knew, it comes from the supermarket as far as she’s concerned… So I’d always managed to avoid the subject in one way or another and that, I guess, suited.

I was aware at one point that she thought ALL meat was chicken and because it was chicken she was prepared to eat it. If we told her something was lamb or beef or pork then she’d flatly refuse, so for ease and quick meal times, I indulged in the white lie and responded with ‘chicken’ every time she asked. It became apparent that she viewed chicken from the supermarket as entirely different to chickens at the farm and at that point I tried for the first time to REALLY explain. I told her, rather truth colouringly, that when an old chicken dies and goes to heaven, we can eat it. She looked a bit horrified and then she giggled ‘You’re just joking Mummy’ she said and went back to what she was doing.

After she started school and began having school meals Florence would mention this dish she particularly likes which is made with brown meat. ‘Brown meat? Do you mean lamb darling?’ I asked her one day, I knew it couldn’t be beef as they don’t serve it at her school. Again I got those eyes. Again I back tracked. ‘It’s probably chicken I mumbled’… ‘No Mummy, it’s not chicken, it’s just brown meat’. I think by now I realised we didn’t do her right when it comes to knowing about meat but by now I was in too deep. She’s never eaten particularly well and I always hold my breath a little when a meal comes out, waiting to see if she will manage more than a few forkfulls. If I told her the truth about chicken AND brown meat I would almost certainly be removing two of the things she would now consume without fuss… I wimped out. Again I left it.

Any roast dinner, be it gammon, beef, pork or indeed chicken and Florence got the same answer. ‘Yes my love, it’s chicken, the same chicken you get in the supermarket’ knowing full well she considered that chicken to be the food she likes and the farm chickens her feathery friends. How much damage could I be doing eh? She’s incredibly bright, way ahead of her year group in both reading and maths, at some point she’d realise and get it because she’d be mature enough to cope… I mean there aren’t fifteen year olds who believe that everything is a mythical chicken that grows in a veg patch right?!?!

However, my hand was forced. By something incredibly funny but so telling that I absolutely SHOULD have explained things better, earlier…

We were at Camp Bestival and on our way out to leave at the end, we walked past one of the food stalls and it happened to be spit roasting a pig. ‘Look Mummy!’ she said, ‘They’ve shaped that chicken like a pig, how funny!’ NO WORD OF A LIE!

‘Um…’ I mumbled ‘Well… Yes, how funny indeed’ I replied but I knew. I just knew that I couldn’t leave it at that. When we’d packed up the car I brought up the subject again.

‘You know that chicken pig?’ I said ‘Yes Mummy, why would they do that?’ I had to come clean ‘They didn’t Florence, you see, that chicken pig is, in fact, just a pig. And um, people eat pigs. Not cartoon pigs, just you know, ones on the farm. That are very, very old and have gone to heaven (I couldn’t TOTALLY do it – I’m sorry) and you know, sometimes people eat them.’

The eyes!

‘REALLY?!’ But I had to keep going. ‘Yep, yes, they do with lots of animals actually. Chicken is really old, gone to heaven chickens and beef is really old, gone to heaven cows and lamb is… Lambs are… Ok, let’s not discuss lambs, and then there’s the brown meat you get at school. Meat is, you know, animals.’

‘Oh’ she said. And then she fell about laughing. ‘I thought they’d made a chicken look like a pig!’ ‘Yes’ I replied ‘That was very funny’ and we both laughed and then the conversation was over and I thought great, she understands.

And then… A while later she was tucking into some slow roasted pork and she said something like ‘I really lke this chicken Mummy’.

Oh! ‘

Actually Florence, that chicken is, um, pork’. And then ‘What’s pork?’ she asked? ‘Well, it’s very old… (you know the drill), gone to heaven pigs’. She put her cuttlery down. She pushed her plate away. And I caved.

‘Not really, it’s just chicken!’ I quickly replied. But she’d become very grown up, she’d got too wiley. ‘No. I’m not eating it, I do NOT eat pigs’ she said. And that was that.

She’d not asked again since then until last night. We were having a Chinese take away and Jimmy was eating his Chinese roast pork chow mein with gusto but leaving all the meat. ‘I don’t like the chicken’ he said. ‘I don’t want it, I only want the noodles’. ‘I’ll have your chicken’ said Florence, ‘I LOVE the chicken’!

And I couldn’t. They were eating and enjoying it and I just couldn’t. So while the rest of us had Chinese roast pork chow mein, Jimmy left the chicken in his and Florence ate double – she LOVES chicken… And I told you, I’m a wimp!

But you don’t get fifteen year olds who go around thinking there’s the chicken on the farm and the chicken that grows in a veg patch, do you?!

Florence at Camp Bestival with her Poundland ribbon twirler! I also tied one to the roof of my car so that I could find it more easily in the car park!
Florence at Camp Bestival prior to the chicken pig incident!

 

8 thoughts on “Where Does Meat Come From Mummy?!

  1. Ooh it’s a tough one isn’t it?
    My daughter is three and already questioning it. I’m a vegetarian, and most days, she won’t eat chicken, “is this real chicken or quorn chicken mum? I cant eat real chicken” yet others she seems oblivious and doesn’t question the food on her plate. No easy way to have that conversation xx

  2. I have never lied to my son about where his food comes from he has always known that certain animals are bred for eating he doesn’t mind and will eat any meat you put in front of him. I think it’s a bit tragic when you ask a kid if they know where their meat is from and they reply a packet from Tesco.

  3. Oh dear, I had similar issues with my son he is now 7 and understands much better about meat but it is really difficult for children.

  4. I am dreading my little girl asking this. There’s a meat factory near me so a lot of sheep go past in the caged trucks. Makes me feel sad everytime I see them. Hope she doesn’t point one out

  5. It is so hard knowing what to do and what not to do, or say. My daughter just fell into it being the different animals and was never a huge issue thankfully x

  6. It’s such a tricky one. Bud loves animals and I’ve always been wary of him finding out but we happened to be having a conversation the other month where he very matter of factly told me that animals were on farms and then we eat them. He doesn’t understand the full process, clearly, but I’m happy with that. He eats a lot of ‘chicken’ though too!

  7. We have rabbits & his best friend has a snake that eats dead mice that his mum keeps in the fridge. Rather than be disgusted by meat dead animals he finds it fascinating. It’s me who the squimish one.

  8. Thankfully this hasn’t been an issue in my house… Yet. But I’ve told him that his fish is actually fish and chicken is indeed a chicken. He hasn’t questioned beef or pork yet but i will tell him if he asks and hopefully he will accept it!

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