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Mom, are we predators?

The other day we were sitting at Lake Tahoe looking at some crawdads.  We’d just caught them and they were scuttling around the bottom of our bucket.

Who would have thought a question about pincers could lead to a discussion on where meat comes from?

I think it’s important for kids to know that they’re part of the food chain. That they’re predators too. Just like a fish dies every time we feed our diving beetle, a chicken dies every time we eat nuggets… well, I think they’re from chickens…

Ari: Mom, why do crawdads and crabs have pincers?
Me: It’s their special adaptation for catching food.
Ari: But why don’t all animals have pincers?
Me: Not all animals need pinchers. Every animal has their own special adaptation for catching their prey.
Ari: You mean all predators have adaptations for catching their prey.
Me: Right. Minor technicality.
Ari: What does minor technicality mean?
Me: Never mind.
Ari. (Thinks for awhile)

Ari: Mom. Are we predators?
Me: Do we eat meat?
Ari: (big grin on his face) YESSS!
Me: Then I’d say we’re predators.
Ari: Then what’s our special adaptation for catching our prey?
Me: Well, what do you think?
Ari:  Ummmm. (laughing) We use forks and knives!
Me: True, but did we have to catch the meat on our plates or was it already dead?
Ari: It’s dead. And cooked.
Me: That’s true. But guess what, someone had to catch it! Where do you think it came from?
Ari: From the grocery store!!
Me: So does that mean our special adaptation is going grocery shopping?
Ari: (Laughing) No! That’s stilly!
Me: Well, it’s part of our adaptation nowadays. But where does the store get the meat?
Ari: I don’t know.
Me: They get it from farmers who raise animals in fences and cages from the time they are really little so they can’t get away. Then when they get full grown and fat they kill them, cut off the meat, and sell it to the grocery store. Like the cows in the field behind our house.
Ari: Yuck!

Me: But humans have another special adaptation for getting food. Not everyone gets it in a grocery store or from a farmer. Do you know how uncle Seth gets some of his meat?
Ari: He goes hunting.
Me: Yep. And he uses special tools. Do you know what he uses when he goes hunting?
Ari: A gun.
Me: Yeah, or a bow and arrow. What are some other tools humans use to catch animals?
Ari: Hummmm. I don’t know.
Me: How did we just catch all those crawdads?
Ari: Fishing poles! And nets!
Me: Yep. Humans used their big brains to invent tools that make it easy to catch their food.
Ari: Hummmm. But it would be cool to have pincers.

Have you had a discussion with your child about meat? How did it go?

4 Comments so far

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  1. Andree'

    I’m interested in when that conversation will occur with little Miss O. She flaps her little elbow wings and “bocks” at the chickens in the backyard and also flaps and “bocks” when we serve her chicken in her highchair. Not sure if there is a connection there yet…

    • Ya. I think the day we ate one of our chickens (the rooster) was the day Ari really started to wonder about meat. Even after that I’m not totally sure he’s put it all together. Or maybe he has, and now he’s trying to put it in the context of predator/prey… Pretty fun! Wish I could meet O!

  2. Hey Lindsey — this is really precious! Even the photo. What a great conversation to have with a kid. If only more parents would be that thoughtful and direct about Nature, how it works and our place in it!

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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