Back in the spring my friend Kim mentioned that she was going to raise ‘meat’ chickens on her farm. She was happy to get 5 extra for me. At 12 weeks old, today was the day of reckoning and we decided to process the birds ourselves. The rest of this post shows our process in great detail and may not be for everyone. Consider yourself warned.
Step one, after catching them in the barn, is to slit the throat and drain the blood. Most YouTube videos recommend putting them upside down in a cone with the head sticking out the bottom. We improvised with a bucket. The bird passes out almost immediately once upside down. The cone prevents them from running around (like chickens with their head cut off) and it’s a much easier way to perform the deed.
The next step involves dipping them in hot but not boiling water to loosen the feathers then plucking them. After a couple of tries we got the water temperature right – too hot and the skins pulls off with the feathers, not hot enough and the feathers cling on like glue.
Many hands make light work.
Next came the gutting process. I was totally game to try and after a few birds it became pretty easy. Off with the feet, loosen the windpipe and gullet, open up the business end, reach in and pull the guts out.
It sounds and looks dreadful but it’s really not bad at all. I didn’t get queasy or grossed out at all.
These are big big birds. I haven’t weighed them yet but I’d guess maybe 8 pounds each. Kim wanted half of hers cut into portions so I took that on as one of my jobs.
I’ve portioned hundreds of chickens in my days since Chefs School and I made quick work of it. I decided to keep my 5 birds whole for now. They are soaking in salty ice water in a cooler overnight waiting to be cut, vac sealed and frozen tomorrow.
Being cheeky, I wore my “Meat is Murder… Tasty Tasty Murder” t-shirt for the day. A friend of a friend gave it to me many years ago when I was in a no-meat phase. These days I eat meat pretty regularly and quite often, I’ve met the critters alive before they became my dinner. Duck, lamb, pig and chicken. I feel very lucky to live in a place where so many people raise happy healthy animals and are willing to share.
These girls watched us with interest for much of the morning.
Apparently Gus the llama had other things on his mind.
Overall it was a great experience and I’m very happy I did it. I look forward to more and closer connections to my food in the years to come.