There are certain conversations that parents dread having with their children – where babies come from, or the truth behind certain mythical characters – but there is one topic that is less commonly discussed amongst parents that can be equally as awkward: talking to your kids about meat and where it comes from.
I remember when my firstborn made the correlation. When she was about 5 years old, I had served chicken for dinner. When she asked me what we were having and I told her, she paused. I could see the wheels turning as she thought about it for a moment. “Mommy,” she said slowly, “do you mean chicken, like, the animal chicken?” I swallowed hard and took a deep breath as I began to explain.
“Well, you see honey, some of the food we eat comes from animals…” She looked at me nonchalantly and replied, “…you mean like how milk comes from cows?” I paused for a moment, and then replied, “Yes, exactly like that.”
Too afraid to go into more detail, I left it at that, and she seemed satisfied with my response. I had chickened out about telling her the truth behind her chicken dinner. I decided the truth could wait.
I of course had to have the more detailed conversation with her later, and it wasn’t as painful as I had expected. I explained it as gruesome-less as possible, in more of a scientific manner, and she took it…well…let’s just say there was a week or so where she decided she didn’t want to eat meat. But after awhile she enjoyed her meat-packed meals once more and it became a non-issue.
An interesting study was recently conducted by some doctors in Australia on how farm animal production is discussed in Australian households and how children learn about the origins of meat. The findings included interesting stats, such as:
– Parents preferred to initiate conversations with children about meat production before they were 5 years of age.
– Urban parents were more likely than rural parents to reveal that they were conflicted about eating meat, and would be more empathetic to children who chose to stop eating meat.
– Rural parents were more likely than urban parents to feel that children should eat what they are given and that talking about meat is not a major issue.
– Both groups felt that it was important that children should know where their food comes from.
The study also uncovered some differences in how women and men talk about and manage their children’s attitudes towards meat, finding that: “Female carers were more likely to agree that their children could make their own decision about whether or not to eat meat, and be more understanding if they stopped eating meat.”
I guess my family is an exception to the norm. My children were a bit older than 5 when they were exposed to the whole truth about meat, and although we are an urban family, meat is kind of mandatory (if my kids think I’m going to custom-make vegetarian options, they’re nuts). Unlike the study’s findings, I think my husband would be more sensitive to our children’s decisions about whether or not they want to eat meat. Although, I’m the cook in the house (mama does after all run the grill). When it comes to meals in my house, my meat tooth wins. My kids will just have to deal until they can makes their meals on their own.
I wanna know: have you had the meat conversation with your kids yet?