It’s refreshing to find an article from outside of agriculture that actually focuses on the merits of understanding the food life cycle.  A school in New York gave me that breath of fresh air this morning with their response to the activists outcry to the school’s “Chicken Project.”  By way of reference, this is a town of around 12,000 people in the Finger Lakes region of New York – a strong agricultural area.  I’ve worked in the region enough to know there are radical activists who like to say nasty things about people who don’t agree with them.

A popular ecology teacher at the Canandaigua Academy included a project in his course demonstrate the life cycle of a chicken, including processing.  According to one article, “The Chicken Project”  involves teaching students about all the decisions that go into raising a chicken and making decisions to slaughter that animal for food. The course was put on hold after outcry from animal rights groups, but after months of review it’s been reinstated.

As the supertindent said, the controversy was largely driven by those outside of the Canandaigua community.  “The project and its surrounding controversy became such a distraction” the superintendent reported that he asked the principal to conduct a full review.  That review, including teachers and community members, was recently completed and the chickens – butchering and all – are back. You can see the details at the district’s website, http://www.canandaiguaschools.org/district.cfm?subpage=16684.

The teaching power of hands-on involvement in food production is not a news flash to anyone who works in agriculture or has been in an agriculture education classroom.  However, the superintendent’s objective comments about his own son’s experience in the course and how it altered the young man’s decisions may take you by surprise.

This provides two great examples; first, in a school system completing their own review and realizing the hysteria is largely coming from outside the community.  There have been plenty of examples of activists of snowing schools with their propaganda.  See the HSUS plans to go into high schools to teach “critical thinking” in an earlier article.

Secondly, it provides a clear view of the understanding that is grasped when young people have personal experience with food production.  Why have we stopped talking about animals as food in our culture?  Sure, butchering isn’t pleasant – but it’s reality to provide substetance. Animals were created as food and while they certainly must be treated respectfully, we shouldn’t be shy about talking about livestock as food. Why is it wrong to teach young people where their food comes from?  Isn’t about time we looked to examples like this from “The Chicken Project” and talked about the entire food system so that there is a better understanding of the life cycle behind the plate?

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