Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken processing

Sunday was the day of reckoning for our brood of 105 broilers and 26 too-old-for-laying hens.

Ten of us worked from 8 am to 3 pm, killing, scalding, plucking, eviscerating, and cleaning the chickens.

I've posted a photo essay of the experience here (sorry for the slow loading), out of respect for folks who read this, but don't necessarily want to see the photos.

I had never killed a chicken before (the only thing similar in size was a salmon, and that was a much less technical, hands-on operation). I don't tend to be squeamish, so I expected it would be fine, and for the most part, it was. I tried my hand at cutting and bleeding the chickens -- sobering, and bloody, but not gross. I plucked feathers -- stinky, and sometimes unpleasant, but not unbearable.

Evisceration, even more than slitting the bird's throat, seemed like the most intimate and powerful part of the process. Picking up a cold chicken and sticking your hand into its warm guts, pulling out bits of grass, separating the organs, finding half-formed eggs: this is where it seemed like we were really transforming the bird from chicken to meat.

Despite the headiness, nothing about the sight or feel of the chicken disgusted me or made me feel queasy. It was only the smell that managed to turn my stomach a few times, and by three-o-clock, my sleeves drenched in chicken juices, I was definitely ready to be done.

before

after

10 comments:

  1. EEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW. Like a team of Freddies and Jasons you guys went through those chickens like Sherman through Georgia. And what's with that price tag? $43 for a dead chicken? Just what kind of chicken is worth $43?

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  2. Love the photos. Would I sound deviant if I said they make me hungry?

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  3. No. I felt really hungry while doing it, but not really for chicken...

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  4. yeah i want to have some $43 chicken when i visit ;)

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  5. Brings back the smells and visuals of Chinese New Year prep in grandma's backyard. They did it the hard way- nestle the flapping, hysterical hen firmly between the body and upper arm, slit the throat and drain every drop of blood while holding the hen. Hand pluck all the feathers. And NO BLEACH, IODINE OR COLD BATHS! All this done by my petite 104 lb. ah-mah.

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  6. You've got the Chan-Teo genetic material.

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  7. Yes! Apparently, that's the "dry-plucking" method that was used a lot of small farms back in the day. I'll bet the smell was a little better that way...

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  8. Pretty awesome post. $43 seems like a lot for a chicken, but I'll bet it's got two or three times the flavor of a chicken you get at the store. Surprised about the cold baths though...cooling chicken super fast with really cold air is better for the meat. But probably too expensive or too...(something) for a small farm!

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  9. Thanks.... yeah $43 seems like a lot, but at $7/pound, we actually only make about $0.50 per chicken (NOT per pound...) on average!

    The flavor is amazing, plus you get the satisfaction of knowing your meat was raised in an ethical and super-healthy way.

    It's not someone everyone can afford, definitely, but we don't lack for customers ;)

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  10. $0.50 per chicken?! Jeez, I hope you make more than that off the veg and stuff!

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