Connecting With the Food on Your Dinner Plate…

There is no one in the small, family farm or ranch community—yours truly, included—who hasn’t complained, sniveled or laughed about the dinner plate disconnect between the American public and their food.

One morning, recently, three young adults were waiting at our front gate. They wanted to partake in the process a lamb follows to become guest-of-honor and main course at an evening meal.

Each was from the Millenial Generation—an age, all too often, associated with self-absorption, computer games and minimal connection with the natural world.

However, one glance as they stepped out of the car and it was obvious none of them deserved that label.

There was a confident sparkle in their eyes, a genuineness in their smiles and a high level of authenticity in their body language. It was readily apparent they were comfortable in their own skins. And—BONUS!—they brought a delightful, well-behaved and very interested kindergartner and third grade boy with them.

You bet, we were thrilled to show them how it all worked.

The selection and dispatch of the lamb was quiet, quick and efficient. The youngest lad wasn’t interested in the details; he was busy introducing himself to our three stock dogs. His older brother asked questions while he viewed the entire process. However, judging by the queasy look on their mother’s face, she had a slightly more difficult time.

Yours truly was concentrating on answering the visitor’s questions while the lamb’s nerves were running their final messages throughout its body. Unused to an audience, I had difficulty focusing on the animal’s final moments. Just then, the other young woman jumped into the pen and assisted while I continued my narrative.

“Thanks for your help,” I said afterwards, “it looks like you’ve done that before.”

“Not really,” she said, “perhaps it comes from some ancient DNA knowledge.”

Eager to learn, both women began sorting the offal on a table—heart, liver, kidney—a package for each, and then home to their dinner plates. Then, they got to work cleaning and washing the intestinal tract for sausage recipes they wanted to try.

Throughout the entire time, Louie Van Patten, a young, high-powered, oils artist from Burns, took photographs for a documentary series he’s considering.

Meanwhile, when the boys weren’t standing around asking questions about the half-skinned carcass, they occupied themselves with a comparative anatomy lesson. First, they examined the teeth on the former lamb and compare them to the teeth on one of our more patient stock dogs. After that, they checked with their mother, noting the differences in the shapes of her teeth.

As our pre-cooking training session neared completion, we broke everything down with a meat saw into sub-primal cuts and gave them a final wash. Then we filled a cooler with the contents for the trip to their new home.

We found the youngest boy and our junior stock dog had become fast friends. They’d been wrestling in the barnyard. Every time the lad relaxed his guard, the young dog—much to the boy’s delight—would jump in, slurping the back of his head with her tongue.

We, of course, apologized to his mother for sending him home with a new cowlick—in this case—dog lick.

As everyone went out the gate, we thanked them for stopping by and confirming there are a few more people in the country who understand that the death of an animal need not be hard or an ugly thing and that the processing of meat matters to the individual, the public and the entire world.

Sometimes the winds of change are fitful and tiny, little gusts. Even so, blowing in your direction, they’re sure refreshing.

-Bing Bingham©2015

If you’d like to read more stories of Bing’s stories about the rural American West, visit To see work by artist Louie Van Patten’s, visit

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