From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Social media allows me to read and skim numerous headlines and articles relating to a variety of topics throughout the day. One article in particular, caught my attention yesterday- Teen saves pet chicken from slaughter at school.

Whitney Hillman, a student at Concordia, Kan., High School, was enrolled in an animal science and food production class. She was given a chicken to raise as a part of the class and on slaughter day she grabbed the chicken and headed to a getaway vehicle driven by her stepfather.

Hillman said “I got two days in-school suspension, but I don’t care”. “They made him my pet and then wanted me to kill him. I couldn’t do that.”

Hillman says she didn’t know that raising and slaughtering a chicken would be a part of the class until it was too late to drop the course. However, I’m curious what she expected from the animal science and food production class.

In a written statement, Concordia Principal Greg Errebo said, “We come from an agricultural part of the nation, and our students need to understand that food doesn’t magically appear on our plates at home or in a restaurant. Animals are used to feed us, and there is a process in the raising of those animals from birth to consumption.”

I agree with Errebo that it is extremely important for youth and adults alike to understand food production and where our food comes from, however its important wherever you live. After all, we eat.

Animal agriculture teaches young people pride, perseverance, work ethic and leadership. The way I see it, the teacher was trying to communicate the same lesson that 4-Hers and FFA youth learn the first time they enter the sale ring with the animal that they have fed, cared for and prepared to show. It’s hard for youth to say good bye to a friend, someone they have spent a great deal of time with. It’s also vital that they realize however, that their animal will go to feed a family who needs the nutrients the animal offers.

In order for us to survive, organisms must perish- be it a tomato, the grasshopper hit by a combine during harvest, or a chicken. Today, this lesson isn’t easy to learn, let alone to teach. Chicken didn’t just appear at KFC and that steak you had last night wasn’t a miracle. Farmers and ranchers care for their animals and produce a safe and nutritious food supply for us all.

If you haven’t checked out Michele Payn-Knoper’s Gate to Plate Blog , I encourage you to do so. Those of you who are in agriculture- continue to share your story. For ideas on how to do so, check out our “Agvocate” post.

Additional reading:
New Way to Help Chickens Cross to the Other Side


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kaden Drake on October 26, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    wake up! People aren’t stupid…we KNOW food doesn’t magically appear on our plates…you can watch a video on the horror you don’t hand teens knives to slit throats …the school needs sued, the teacher needs fired!


  2. Hello – Firstly, the animal does not “offer” anything… Secondly that a family “needs” nourishment is obvious – But there’s also a thousand other plant based foods that could be a viable alternative. Without the deliberate breeding and slaughter of an innocent being…

    I admire Whitney – She’s obviously an independent thinker and one who was not afraid to re-evaluate indoctrinations. And I think this was a perfect lesson plan for her – School and class did exactly as it was supposed to do… It encouraged her to think for herself and reach her own conclusions, even some not intended by the “teacher”: The most important one: a lesson in compassion.


  3. Posted by Martha on October 27, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Kaden, I don’t believe this article said anything about the teens slaughtering their animals themselves. It wasn’t specific about the process that they were using. I also have a very hard time believing students didn’t know what they were getting into when they enrolled in such a class.

    Bea, Whether you like it or not, an animal provides nutrients. There may be alternatives with a plant based diet- however that is simply not an option for me and my family. As the author of this article stated, a living organism must die for you to survive either way. I’m not so sure Whitney came up with this grand scheme or saw it in a movie. It’s nothing new in this day of age with PETA protesters and HSUS shenanigans. I wonder if Whitney has eaten chicken in the last 16 years or so. . . Compassion or possibly attention?


  4. Animal Science and food production classes provide students a valuable perspective – the opportunity to understand where their food comes from. The life cycle isn’t always pretty and it’s not about cute little kittens like some radical groups claim when it comes to animal agriculture.

    Plants and animals die so humans can live. That’s called the circle of life. More students need to be reminded of that. The farmers who raise animals are very respectful of the sacrifice that those animals provide to give us food. And if you’ve ever seen a farmer care for an animal too sick to stand, you see all more compassion than I’ve ever seen in a hospital.

    Independent thinking is a skill I hope all young people are taught, along with critical thinking skills. My hope is that these critical thinking skills will help them avoid the constant campaigning by animal rights activists and food bigots that the life cycle has changed. It hasn’t – if you want to live, something dies.


    • @Michele Payn-Knoper – I’m amused that you say animals “sacrifice” to “give” us food. Animals do not “die” they are killed. Living from that unnecessary flesh is called “the circle of death”… not “life”.

      And another word that is often warped to mean something that it isn’t is “care” – Of course the farmer is going to tend to his sick/dying “stock”… Gotta keep ‘m healthy enough to slaughter. The “care” is not to preserve life – The care is to make a profit from death.

      I am not a food bigot – nor am I a speciesist… I don’t think the cuddly kitten or puppy deserves life any more than the cow, pig or chicken do. All beings wish to live – You’ll see though that as time progresses and man is allowed more latitude in “critical thinking” the more “constant campaigning” regarding animal issues will increase. Our species is destined to evolve from the blood lust – it’s only a matter of when.


  5. @Kaden – Yes, I’m sure Whitney has eaten chickens… Same with me for half my life – No wonder though… Being that we are weaned on “veal” in baby food jars. Strange kind of “natural” that is… Babies eating babies. Anyway… Opting for a plant based diet is probably not an option for the Inuits or bushmen – But odds are if anyone is living in the “civilized” world – They have a supercenter within 20 minutes of wherever they are reading this on their pc or laptop. There really is an abundance of alternative foods besides chickens, cows and pigs.

    I don’t mind a living “organism” being killed for my survival – It’s the living BEINGS that are the issue. It’s amazing what a central nervous system can do to hone one’s empathy and compassion. I cut my grass weekly and never shed a tear.


  6. Posted by Kaden Drake on October 27, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    Wow, You are all alone on this issue. The rest of the world sees it as horrific to expect all the students (unskilled) to slit throats at school. Some see it as animal and/or child abuse. It’s so much NOT about eating meat or not. I read she has chosen to stop eating meat because of this. She stated that there were no parental permission slips, opt out options and so you all know….READ…it was listed as animal science on enrollment NOT production etc. No warning that this was the plan. You think it’s about eating meat or not eating meat when it’s about the abuse in the mass industry, the growth hormones that these chickens were given, no parental permission, no opt out option and ultimately: you can’t make anyone kill something today if they don’t want to, but they should still have the right to learn about animal science when they want to go into a career that helps animals not harms them. We can learn online now we don’t have to kill at school.


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