Is informed eating traumatic for children?

May 16, 2009 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

The Thames Park community garden is right next to the playground. This is a wonderful thing, because it gives kids the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from. I let many a child pick tomatoes or beets from my plot for this reason.

I think it’s important for kids to know that their food comes from somewhere beyond the grocery store. They get really excited when they see what a growing melon looks like. That’s why things like this scandal are very troubling to me:

Children help to raise pigs to learn about ethically, organically raised food. The pigs are taken to a slaughterhouse, and the pigs are turned into food available for sale to the families. The parents flip out, saying it is insensitive, and that the children are too young to learn about where their food comes from.

These animals weren’t raised ‘as pets’, they were raised as food; they weren’t in ‘pets corner’, they were in a farm. The children appear to have taken the difference in their stride and as a result will probably end up being either informed meat-eaters or informed vegetarians. But to the parents, this is a challenge to their curious, teetering balance of sentimentality and unthinking consumption of meat. If you think your children would be traumatised by the idea of eating pigs, why are you feeding them bacon sandwiches?

I was at a friend’s house one evening, where roast beef was served that was once a cow called Buttercup. I talked to the kids about this. One of them said to me, “Buttercup was a mean cow. And she’s tasty. I won’t eat the nice cow.” That is informed eating, and I think it’s as important that children have the same opportunity to make informed decisions about ethical eating as the rest of us. Thoughts?

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