5

votes

How do we best cultivate an understanding of the food chain in children?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 23, 2012 at 11:44 PM

I've been working on a theory that the anthropomorphized animals in children's television is tied a rash of small children I know refusing to eat meat. Heck, I still remember crying during Bambi, so who can blame 'em.

At the other end of the spectrum, in my own family growing up, I believe we were vegetarians for so long in response to my grandfather being a hunter and my mom's emotional response to the reality of shooting and cleaning animals.

I'm trying to strike a balance in my son, I'm trying to teach him to be a compassionate participant in the food chain, but I don't want to freak him out either. We're very matter of fact talking about our food. I buy rough cuts of meat, organs, bones, and whole fish sometimes to keep it realistic in the kitchen. I think the shielding of these same kids from where meat actually comes from until they started asking questions might've added to the shock, but I'm not sure.

We watch a lot of Dinosaur Train and Wild Kratts, and I love the way those shows deal with the food chain. But we also watch a little Dora and The Wonder Pets, and those shows are full of big-eyed soft and fuzzy prey animals who even give me pause. But then I remind myself that I have no patience for "cute and fuzzy" as arguments in food choice.

I think we might be on the right track because the aquarium makes him hungry, and he tells me which fish he wants to eat. I'm thinking of taking him fishing in the Spring to put all the pieces together, but I was once in a relationship with someone who became a lifelong vegetarian after being emotionally scarred by catching a salmon that refused to die gracefully when he was a small child.

Just curious how other families are navigating disclosure versus protecting their kids' sensitive sensibilities?

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 09:16 AM

I'm realizing more and more that my food storage equipment isn't geared towards how I use it. If I use my fridge as it is designed and put my veggies in the crisper, and my meat in the meat drawer, there is a lot of empty space in there. If I didn't buy milk and yogurt for my family it would mostly be condiments. I also have the out of sight out of mind problem when I do that and find my temporarily forgotten greens have gone all slimy or those slices of pricey lunch meat go missing behind the bacon and aren't found until it is too late. Anyone designing a meat and veg fridge out there?

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 08:35 AM

That show is a paleo parent dream come true, not a neolithic meal to be found. I love watching my son sing the "hungry, hungry, herbivore" song while he eats broccoli "trees", or goes right over to the fish I'm about to pan fry, and says, "I'm going to eat you fishy."

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 08:34 AM

That show is a paleo parent dream come true, not neolithic meal to be found. I love watching my son sing the "hungry, hungry, herbivore" song while he eats broccoli "trees", or goes right over to the fish I'm about to pan fry, and says, "I'm going to eat you fishy."

35ba1f50dad25c85ac1aa2599fe5c5cb

(2485)

on February 24, 2012
at 06:59 AM

Dinosaur Train has only been good for my son's eating habits. It's made him regard "meat," "fish" and "leaves" as major food groups, which is pretty good for a 3 year old.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 06:23 AM

Love it! I haven't tried the, "Maybe they ate too much sugar and wheat?" line yet, but I sure will now.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:31 AM

Awesome response! I think the nails are slowly being put in the coffin that not eating meat it is healthier, but the environmentalism angle seems to be gaining steam because the interdependence between ruminants and grasslands isn't publicly understood yet. I've been trying to breach that subject with my fellow parents, but the "just one meatless meal per week makes a difference" campaign seems to reinforcing the meat abstinence equals virtuousness CW on this, and I think the kids are picking up on their parents ambivalence.

94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:28 AM

I agree very much with start early. My stepkids are the worst eaters I have ever seen and I am so tired of 'hiding' vegetables etc in their dinners (they are all teenagers and its time to learn!). I have one over them though - I have been secretly cooking their potatoes in lard and they LOVE them but have no idea why they are tasting so good these days.... teehee...

94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:26 AM

Interesting - My grandparents, immigrants to Australia, still grow a lot of their food and raise and slaughter their own pigeons for dinner. There was always a pig on the spit every year - which I loved as a child and only really freaked out when I opened a pot in the kitchen one day to see head staring up at me lol! I have realised now, being Paleo, how great their lifestyle is and finally the answer to why as a child I always wondered why their pantry was so BARE!

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:23 AM

I'm pretty sure people become vegans for more reasons than that. Certainly don't overcook it though, that's a good tip. Nomity nom.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:15 AM

I wonder how much of this is perpetuated by the meme that not eating meat is a more virtuous choice. It has oozed into every corner of CW these days. Even if parents don't come out an say it, or try to indoctrinate that idea, I'm sure the kids still pick up on it.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:52 AM

Sounds like the farm life my grandparents grew up with. The kids were given calves as gifts to care for and raise for the family. We still had the skin from my grandfather's first cow until a few years ago. Also thinking back to the era he grew up in kids weren't shielded from death the way they are today either, so sentimentality may have been discouraged more. The infant mortality rate was quite high, and not many family units in my family tree until the last two generations were untouched by that harsh fact. Slaughtering the family cow probably wasn't that big of a deal in comparison.

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:26 AM

I should constrain that answer to red meats like beef and lamb, where all the pathogens are on the outside (and cut surfaces), and it's safe to leave the middle raw.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:11 AM

That's what we do.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:10 AM

Interesting point. Most people who are "going by the book" cooking for children are terrified of food borne illnesses and overcook all things eggy and meaty.

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6 Answers

best answer

4
00c8eb3f6e6a1884216044ca29cf868a

on February 24, 2012
at 12:48 AM

How to teach children? Start early.

It is a fact of human development that children believe everything their parents tell them before the age of six or so. Thus the admonition often attributed to the Jesuits: "Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man." This is how we end up with religion and all sorts of other irrational beliefs: people simply believe what they were taught when they were little.

Just teach them the truth: the normal state of nature is that most animals eat each other in order to survive, and humans are no exception.

The reason we get vegetarians is because we never teach children that meat comes from cows, pigs, and chickens. They get the idea that animals are cute and cuddly, like on TV. Taking them to see real animals is the best antidote...real cows are big and dumb and smell like poop.

Children aren't stupid, and they don't need to be "protected" from reality. No, we shouldn't rub their faces in ugliness, nor in things they simply won't understand until they reach puberty...but they should understand the world they live in. If we're ashamed to describe it, that's our problem to address, not theirs.

JS

94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:28 AM

I agree very much with start early. My stepkids are the worst eaters I have ever seen and I am so tired of 'hiding' vegetables etc in their dinners (they are all teenagers and its time to learn!). I have one over them though - I have been secretly cooking their potatoes in lard and they LOVE them but have no idea why they are tasting so good these days.... teehee...

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:15 AM

I wonder how much of this is perpetuated by the meme that not eating meat is a more virtuous choice. It has oozed into every corner of CW these days. Even if parents don't come out an say it, or try to indoctrinate that idea, I'm sure the kids still pick up on it.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:31 AM

Awesome response! I think the nails are slowly being put in the coffin that not eating meat it is healthier, but the environmentalism angle seems to be gaining steam because the interdependence between ruminants and grasslands isn't publicly understood yet. I've been trying to breach that subject with my fellow parents, but the "just one meatless meal per week makes a difference" campaign seems to reinforcing the meat abstinence equals virtuousness CW on this, and I think the kids are picking up on their parents ambivalence.

3
Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on February 24, 2012
at 01:16 AM

I like this question! I think the best way to get children to see the food chain in a real way is to involve them in our food preparation as much as possible. Go to the farms that raise the animals(and their products) that you eat,take them to the farmers' markets, have them help you in the kitchen and/or grow your own fruits and veggies and keep as many animals as you can per your dwelling space. Talk to them in age appropriate ways about the impact that your food choices have on your local economy, and on the ecology of our planet. Keep it fun!

3
94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:26 AM

I wonder if this is a symptom of an indulgent western civilization and a society which is far too 'PC' in my opinion.

An interesting observation I made of children while I was volunteering in an orphanage in Nepal: The children had a pet goat which they played with, cared for and loved every single day. They were all aware of the fact that come the end of the year the goat would be slaughtered for a feast. The children accepted this as part of the cycle. This would have been one of the few occassions on which they would even have access to meat.

This was enlightening in the sense that these children were more aware of the circular food chain than most western-supermarket-indulged youngsters. I would agree with the above responses which suggest cooking everything with children; get them involved in all facets of food and create a passion for farm to plate while fostering kindness to the animals involved.

94a4a87e3d2e1e9160b6ed77678b4bea

(1311)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:26 AM

Interesting - My grandparents, immigrants to Australia, still grow a lot of their food and raise and slaughter their own pigeons for dinner. There was always a pig on the spit every year - which I loved as a child and only really freaked out when I opened a pot in the kitchen one day to see head staring up at me lol! I have realised now, being Paleo, how great their lifestyle is and finally the answer to why as a child I always wondered why their pantry was so BARE!

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:52 AM

Sounds like the farm life my grandparents grew up with. The kids were given calves as gifts to care for and raise for the family. We still had the skin from my grandfather's first cow until a few years ago. Also thinking back to the era he grew up in kids weren't shielded from death the way they are today either, so sentimentality may have been discouraged more. The infant mortality rate was quite high, and not many family units in my family tree until the last two generations were untouched by that harsh fact. Slaughtering the family cow probably wasn't that big of a deal in comparison.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 09:16 AM

I'm realizing more and more that my food storage equipment isn't geared towards how I use it. If I use my fridge as it is designed and put my veggies in the crisper, and my meat in the meat drawer, there is a lot of empty space in there. If I didn't buy milk and yogurt for my family it would mostly be condiments. I also have the out of sight out of mind problem when I do that and find my temporarily forgotten greens have gone all slimy or those slices of pricey lunch meat go missing behind the bacon and aren't found until it is too late. Anyone designing a meat and veg fridge out there?

2
93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:06 AM

Owsley Stanley had a good observation. Vegans arise from families who overcook meat, simple as that. Leave it bloody inside. It's more tender, tasty, and the vitamins aren't cremated away. Overcooking as government recommends is just more proof that we life in a moronocracy.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:10 AM

Interesting point. Most people who are "going by the book" cooking for children are terrified of food borne illnesses and overcook all things eggy and meaty.

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:26 AM

I should constrain that answer to red meats like beef and lamb, where all the pathogens are on the outside (and cut surfaces), and it's safe to leave the middle raw.

Be1dbd31e4a3fccd4394494aa5db256d

(17969)

on February 24, 2012
at 01:23 AM

I'm pretty sure people become vegans for more reasons than that. Certainly don't overcook it though, that's a good tip. Nomity nom.

2
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on February 23, 2012
at 11:58 PM

Cook tasty meat dishes and enjoy them with your family.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 12:11 AM

That's what we do.

1
7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on February 24, 2012
at 03:07 AM

We watch The Lion King over and over and over...Seriously though...we talk about why Mommy buys the eggs from chickens who eat stuff out of cow poop rather than the chicken stuck in barns. We talk about why pigs are so delicious. I never pass up an opportunity to answer any question with..."Maybe they ate too much sugar and wheat?" Now they answer some questions that way. I'm trying to brainwash them. It's true. I don't feel bad. Better me than the establishment that's backed by marketing dollars, Monsanto and government subsidies. All I got is my paleo propaganda and some Barlean's Swirl fish oil.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 24, 2012
at 06:23 AM

Love it! I haven't tried the, "Maybe they ate too much sugar and wheat?" line yet, but I sure will now.

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