Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor
Customer asks, "How can you raise an animal - and then kill it?"
Recently I received this question in an email. I’ve had variations on this line of questioning over the years, and our answer is something that Koorosh and I struggle occasionally with. We thought that many of you may want to hear this too. (I’m paraphrasing and changing names to maintain the customer’s anonymity.)
Hi Farmer Chrissie,
I will be direct so please bear with me, I'm not trying to be disrespectful. Just trying to better understand your approach. I have got an impression, from reading your website, that you take a great loving care of your animals. I have been wondering what motivates you to raise your animals with love and care and then kill them in the end?
I mean, is “love” something you have for the steak and therefore you just treat the animals respectfully? Or is it, a real tender loving care (TLC) that they are getting? And if it is genuine tender care that you give them, then doesn’t giving them love and care result in deep attachment? And in that case is it not heartbreaking to be killing them in the end? And if it’s not heartbreaking, then what’s your motivation for doing it?
For me, I raised a litter of kittens for sale - and then I was emotionally devastated to separate from them when they were sold. I can’t imagine myself killing them in the end. How your situation is different and how can you give these animals TLC without the heartbreak in the end? Or there is no TLC (which is also an answer)? Or you have some other motivation?
Thanks in advance for your answer,
Hello Dani, and truly it’s a pleasure to hear from thoughtful customers, not a burden or inconvenience. Maybe the best way to answer your question is to tell you how and why farmers Koorosh and Chrissie Zaerpoor founded Kookoolan Farms in the first place.
For more than two years, Koorosh was a raw vegan, and he was an off-an-on vegetarian many times in his adult life.
Until she was 40, Chrissie was a near-vegetarian who had eaten red meat fewer than five times in her entire life.
Chrissie says, "All through my 30’s I suffered from severe anemia. During this time, I tried a number of ways to raise my iron count: large amounts of green vegetables, cooking in cast iron cookware, cooking in cast iron cookware with acid in every recipe, taking iron pills, taking iron pills with citrus and strawberries in the same meal. None of these strategies moved my ferritin numbers at all. For several years I was unable to donate blood, and my iron levels hovered below the threshold at which blood transfusions are normally recommended (the usual threshold is hemoglobin count of <8; mine was at 6.9). My hair fell out in clumps. I fainted due to anemia and fatigue, and broke my jaw on impact with the ground, and had my jaw wired shut for six weeks, during which my weight dropped from 112 pounds to 104 pounds (I’m 5’7” tall). It was truly an existential crisis. This was in the early 2000’s; there was no Whole Foods. New Seasons Markets had been in business less than two years and only had two locations. There were only a few farmer’s markets in the Portland metropolitan area, and none of them had meats available. For me, the decision to learn to eat red meat meant finding a good source for 100% grass-fed and grass-finished meat, where I could be sure of gentle and appropriate husbandry from the first day to the last, with the slaughter day managed as gently and humanely as possible, and with no chemicals or additives used in the processing of the meat. Otherwise I was not willing to eat the meat. There simply were no other options available at the time; honestly if something like Kookoolan Farms had existed at the time, I’d probably still be an engineering manager at Intel and would be a customer of that other farm. But at the time there wasn’t, and so in a fit of temper tantrum, I just decided to learn how to do it myself. I have no farming background: my father is an attorney; I have a physics degree from Arizona State University and went to graduate school at Columbia University for electrical engineering and materials science; I never even owned a pet prior to buying the farm."
My motivation to raise animals for meat started with my own need to eat meat in order to be healthy. In order to do this with the integrity I required (in order to be _willing_ to eat the meat), I bought a farm, moved my family to a farm, learned from books how to build fences and take care of cattle, and left a very well-paying job at Intel Corporation.
Every day, my intention is to do the very best job I can to provide the very best for my animals, just as they ultimately provide for me (and yes, I realize of course that it is not an “equal” relationship.) Engineers can be known as “control freaks.” In this respect I am guilty as charged: it is important to me to be in direct control of every aspect of care from the beginning to the end. I submit that while you might not want my conversation as a guest at dinner, you do in fact want a detail-oriented, passionate, control freak in charge of producing your food.
From the day I decided to do this life, more than two years passed until I finally put a knife into a live chicken for the first time. During those two years, I agonized over every aspect of the decision process in order to come to terms with what I was doing. By the time I finally, two years later, now on a farm, having raised the chicken myself with the intention of providing food for myself and my family, killed my first chicken - the emotional work was already done.
At this point those emotions have become something else: now I cannot imagine getting my food from the grocery store or some anonymous whitewashed source. Virtually everything I put in my mouth these days either I raised it myself, or it was produced by someone I know and love and trust. Most days, I get emails in the evenings from our customers, who often take a moment during their dinner preparations to take a photo of their meal, or to just say thank you for meat from a source they can trust. These emails are my “payday,” and that’s why I do what I do.
Yes I know of course that I produce animals for food, and I know that slaughtering an animal “does it harm.” But the fact is that the vast majority of people are not going to become vegans. I have even known vegetarians who are vegetarians for “moral reasons” who nonetheless search out the lowest prices for CAFO-produced milk and eggs, which I find the greatest hypocrisy of all. It is not my calling to convince anyone that he should or should not consume meat, and [I've already written in other essays the good that grazing livestock does for the planet](https://gem.godaddy.com/s/cbf6911).
But I do submit that if one is going to eat meat, it should come from a farm like mine, and from a processing system like mine, a farm and system that takes into account carbon sequestration, stocking density, waste disposal, diet of the animal, (non) use of antibiotics, (non) use of hormones and other medications, (non) use of fossil fuels, maintaining clean watersheds, and (non) use of chemicals and additives in processing and packaging the finished meat, social justice, good local jobs, and fair labor practices.
We started this farm to provide nutrient-dense animal proteins for our own family that we could feel good about eating. Turns out what I'm most proud of and feel best about is providing those good proteins for our community, taking carbon dioxide out of the air and putting it back underground where it belongs, and improving the lives of Yamhill County farmers and children.
So that’s what we do at Kookoolan Farms, how we started, and why we keep doing it, and what I appreciate most about your question is that it made me reaffirm and re-profess it to myself. So thank YOU.
Truly it’s a privilege having customers so aware of all the aspects of producing animal proteins, especially the emotional and moral aspects. We're not actually trying to directly change anyone’s world view or dietary or moral choices - although we're happy when we do. At Kookoolan Farms, we do the very best job we can raising cattle, sheep and chickens; and we source the very best seafood from the very best producers with the best practices. If what we offer appeals to you, we’re happy to fill your freezer.