Thursday, September 29, 2011

Butchering Day

But you probably figured that out when you saw the word "butchering"

The chickens we've been raising on pasture in a chicken tractor have reached maturity and it was time to put them to their intended use.

On Monday we did the first round of chicken butchering. Apparently we had our hopes set a bit high thinking we would process all 47 chickens in one day. We did get 27 of them done. Here is the view of the butchering set-up from the kitchen stoop. Please note the disease-free, fresh air setup. This is a much cleaner environment for butchering than an enclosed facility that has been used repeatedly to butcher animals. IMHO.

The blue tote holds a couple birds in a quiet, dark place to keep them calm. The silver funnel is the killing cone. The stove and pot is used to scald the chickens. The other side of the table is ready for the plucking and dressing of the birds. Then into the ice water in the cooler for a quick chilling.

Kent is checking the water - too hot and the skin will tear when you pluck. Not hot enough and the feathers won't come out as easily.
Here's where I will pluck and throw the feathers in the wheelbarrow.

And then I'll hand them off to Kent and he'll dress them, reserving the heart, feet and livers for cooking, as well.

One of the many advantages of raising and butchering your own meat is knowing that the animal has been treated with respect and kindness during its admittedly short life and that their death will be quick and as painless as possible.

Their distress is limited to the time when they are place in the cone until their head is cut off. Measured in seconds.

No pictures of me plucking but here's Kent dressing a bird. He got quite good at this after the first several.

Then into the ice water.

I then took 3 or 4 at a time into the house for a final feather inspection under a bright light, another rinse, Then bagged in a plastic zip-style bag and wrapped in freezer paper. Weighed, marked and put in the freezer.

There are months of great eating here. We processed 27 birds for a total of 156 pounds of dressed chicken. Considering it's pasture-raised, organic chicken, Iestimate the street value to be $750 or more. And there are 20 more chickens yet to butcher. Another ~120 pounds of dressed chicken and a value of $600 or more. It's a pretty good return on our investment of $200 or so for chicks and feed and the money in lumber to build the re-usable chicken tractor. And tending to them a couple of times a day.

I know that some people will consider this a cruel practice but I would argue that it is a responsible and compassionate practice if you intend to be an omnivore and cannot afford to purchase humanely raised organic meat at the store. And we will be so much more careful to appreciate the meat we eat and not let any go to waste.

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