*If this is going to upset you please don’t read it and please don’t look at the pictures, some of them are graphic.
*All of our home processing is done in accordance with North Carolina State Law.
Today we processed our last 5 chickens. We ordered them in the Spring and raised them here. I feel very strongly that if we are going to eat meat, we should be able to deal with the realities of what has to happen to get it on our plates. No children, meat does not come from a plastic tray, it comes from the dead body of an animal that was once a living, breathing being. I am also very much opposed to animals raised in confinement facilities and the feeding practices for those animals. Our chickens eat grains, grass, bugs and alfalfa hay. They have fresh, clean water and access to a shit-free zone every morning when we move the tractors (which is the name for the wheeled cages they live in). We treat them kindly and care for them well and when they are killed, they go straight from their tractor to the cone which is about as low-stress as anyone can make the death of an animal. It’s the best way that Mark and I can figure out to make eating meat a healthy, conscientious choice for our family.
Here is a slideshow of our set-up and actual processing of chickens. There are captions which may be helpful to you:
The first thing is setting everything up. Mark, Travis and Aleia got the plucker (borrowed from Sasha and Ben, Thanks!) set up in an old stall, the cook-top out in front of the barn and the pot filled with water on it. I am in charge of the pre-cleaning because I’m Type A *and* scared of salmonella. I bring out a lot of clean, white rags and a small plastic tub that I put a couple of cap fulls of bleach and some cold water into. I scrub the work surface and wipe it down with bleach water and get out all of our tools: a sharp knife, poultry shears and a heavy duty kitchen scissor that deals well with bones.
Once we’re set-up Mark puts the first chicken in the cone and cuts it’s jugular vein and throat while keeping the spine intact. This way the chicken bleeds completely out. We give that a few minutes and then into the scalder it goes for 90 seconds. The hot water (145 degrees) will loosen the feathers in about 90 seconds. While Aleia scalded, Mark would put another bird into the cone. Aleia drained the water off the birds and then Travis fired up the plucker and got most of the feathers off. Mark then took the birds and finished the plucking, rinsed them and handed them off to me. I removed the head and feet then Mark eviscerated. By now, Travis was probably plucking another bird. Once the carcasses were completely prepped they went into an ice water bath. When all were prepped, we put them into plastic bags and then into the freezer.
Between birds I cleaned all fluids off the work top with paper towels and wiped the surface down with bleach water. I also washed all of our knives and shears in warm, soapy water and gave them a dunk in the bleach solution.
I think it took us 2 hours from prep to putting the chickens in the freezer.
The last photo is of Martina sitting under her willow tree. She ran recon for the neighbor kids who were fascinated by the whole process…and probably a bit grossed out.
Please feel free to email with any questions you may have. We don’t have everything perfected yet but our system works smoothly. The kids helped a lot.