I rather mischievously call venison sausages Bambi, and more recently have taken to naming any pork one as Peppa Pig. When shopping, and given a choice, my 3-year-old daughter generally chooses the Peppa Pig sausages. She didn’t know why they were Peppa Pig sausages, just that they were.
I was wondering when the first question about where meat comes from would happen. She understands that fruit comes from trees, vegetables are grown in the ground, and eggs are from chickens. I assumed that a knowing question about where chicken or lamb comes from would be first, as they don’t have a secret identity in the way beef/steak (cow), venison (deer), and pork/ham/bacon (pig) do. Chicken is chicken, and lamb is a baby sheep (awww).
So, while we shared a lunch of a ham & cheese rolls, my daughter asked me “Where does ham come from?”. From a pig, I answered. “How does it come from the pig?”.
While I may be disingenuous at times with my daughter, I never want to lie to her. So I set about telling her an admittedly sanitised and idealised explanation.
“Ham is actually a piece of pig who was raised to be our food. A farmer looks after a pig from when it’s little, gives it good food and treats it very nicely. When it is big, the farmer decides it’s time for the pig to die, and after it does it gets chopped up into pieces. The farmer sells them, people buy them, and we cook and eat them.”
She mulled that over for a moment and then carried on eating her ham roll, seemingly undisturbed.
I was quite glad to get this out of the way relatively early. I have friends who’s children have stopped eating meat when they realise what it is.
The other day, on our walk to nursery, my daughter had by this time made a few connections, and then asked me – “We don’t eat Peppa Pig… do we?”.
It’s fair to say I don’t really like Peppa Pig. We’ve never seen the show, but the books are so poorly written I have refused to read them aloud any more. They are read the books at nursery from time to time. I also had a copywriting job where I went a little mad with all the Peppa and George tat I had to gush about. I understand the TV show is better, but I’m too preoccupied with showing her the likes of Star Wars, Studio Ghibli, and (currently) Dinosaur movies.
So I was very, very tempted to answer “Yes, we eat Peppa Pig”. But on consideration I replied “No, we don’t eat Peppa. Or George. Or their mummy or daddy.”
“But we do eat other pigs. Sausages, ham, bacon, are all from other pigs who are dead”.
Again, she pondered that for a moment, and then our walk to nursery continued.
I appreciate that as a society, we have become increasingly removed from the fact that meat is part of a dead animal. My wife has made a better go at facing this head on. When 7 months pregnant, she took it upon herself to skin, decapitate, and joint three wild rabbits that a friend had hunted – just to prove to herself that she could. We don’t have a photo of any of this, as I was hiding in the living room until the dead animals were transformed into meat, which I was then more than happy eat.
My daughter has the beginning of an understanding of where meat comes from, and so far it hasn’t conflicted with her love of cute animals. Or annoying ones like Peppa.