Visit La Boucherie on Vashon Island, and chances are the first thing you will see is a wide-eyed lamb’s head in the meat case. Nearly everyone comments on this, and the reaction ranges predictably from fascination to revulsion. Children are particularly curious, and usually a species guessing game ensues, followed by a parent’s reminder that beloved bacon and hot dogs are derived from animals that have heads. It feels silly to even write that, and probably even more so for the parents to say it, but frankly most of the adults that freak out need the same reminder.
“Who would buy that?!” is the next most common inquiry, once we have identified the animal in question. The honest answer is that the lamb heads are often purchased for pets. Occasionally, we are visited by the rare cook who is excited to get that head into their own kitchen, and we’ve also sold a few to prop makers and curios vendors, but primarily Man’s Best Friend is the recipient. But is it that simple? Are we in the butcher shop business to sell high-end dog treats?
For me, the head of the butchered animal is a symbol of authenticity. One, it demonstrates our commitment to the freshness of the meat. It also signifies our commitment to whole animal butchery. And frankly it is a reminder for all of us that have also purchased meat wrapped in plastic on Styrofoam trays that indeed this flesh did come from an animal with a head. Let’s have our own eyes open about that fact. I know there are countless essays and books debating this subject of eating animals, a debate I do not wish to join here. Rather, I am assuming that if you are standing in front of my meat counter contemplating a purchase, you are decidedly a meat eater. And at the very least, we should be willing to look at the head of that animal. In fact, I’ll even open the case so that you can get a really good close-up picture with your Smart Phone.