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Yes, processing your own meat and fish saves money, and it does open up huge vistas of opportunity for the cook: Think stocks and broths, giblets and charcuterie. But at its core, I choose to live under the Imperative of Protein because it requires me to understand — and accept — the full karmic cost of eating meat. Every time I shoot a deer or hook a salmon, I watch, at close range, that animal go from individual to corpse to carcass to cut of meat. It is sobering.

And necessary. Some say everyone who eats meat ought to be required to butcher it at least once. A fine, if utopian, idea. Such a requirement would create a great many vegetarians, but it would also create a public far more in touch with it eats. North Americans, particularly, would benefit from this. But like I said, such a requirement is utopian.

There is a way at least to approach what’s like to live under the Imperative of Protein: Buy whole chickens or rabbits, and break them down yourself. Is it the same as killing, plucking and gutting one? No. But even the baby step of taking a knife to a whole bird will at least force you to understand that this was once a living, clucking, walking chicken.

That, I think, is not too much to ask.

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