But if you believe as we do, that a certain amount of responsibility comes with being a meat eater, that the best meat comes from humane family farms rather than factory farms, that raising your own meat is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and your family, then read on.
Last week we tackled the all important,but not so much fun task, of broiler chicken butchering. We've done it every fall for many years for one basic reason: the meat is so much better. We raise them outdoors, with organic feed, leftover milk from our cow and lots of run to roam. They get to scratch in the dirt, eat bugs and grass and act like real chickens, unlike the millions of birds raised in this country in horrific, crowded, indoor conditions.
Normally we purchase 20 or so but we hated running out of chicken before the next fall so we bought 31 newly hatched broilers this time. Still not enough for the whole year so we plan to buy more in the spring. When they arrived several weeks ago, we kept them under warm cozy lights for a couple weeks then slowly acclimated them to the outside. Then they were turned into an old garden area which we expanded by week four into a larger part of the old garden. Two weeks later we expanded that into a large pastured area with grass and more bugs and lots of room to run. By the end of their time with us the number though had decreased to 28.
Not sure where the other three ended up. Possibly in the belly of a hawk, or the jaws of a hog, we have chalk it up to the cost of doing business.
Because Keith is home just a few hours each day during the week, we were only able to get 10 chickens in the freezer, but we hope to complete the rest of the group later this week. It was in the high 50's on Tuesday and not too windy, so after prepping our cutting table, the feather picker, the scalder, the chopping block, as well as sharpening knives and gathering buckets for the blood and the offal (intestines, feet, heads ), we got busy.
We rounded several broilers up in a corner of the fence putting 3-5 of them at one time in a large cage. Then one by one we followed this procedure:
Cut off their heads
Let them hang and drain
Dip them in the hot water scalder 15-20 seconds to loosen all feathers
Run them over the plucker machine with its rubber "fingers" that gently beat away all the feathers
Take them to the cutting table to remove the offal and cut into pieces
Carry pieces into house for cold water dip
Dry pieces and wrap for freezer
Take to freezer in old house
It is a time consuming and very messy job but the satisfaction of raising, humanely killing, preserving and later preparing your own meat is immeasurable.
Now back to Off With Their Heads part. In the past we've used a killing cone (a metal cone where they go in head first and it is open at the end),where we cut their juggler vein while they hung in the cone. This year, I wanted to try chopping off their head entirely on a large wood stump
It did kill them quickly, but I am still unsure which process I prefer. Yes, they do flop about and blood does splatter if you don't put them in the plastic field tile right away and allow the blood to drain, but I hated the throat slitting method we've done up until now. For me it seemed more barbaric, and I believe even though it lasted only a few seconds, more painful. The clean cutting off of the head, the absolute separation of church from state appears most humane.
Humane killing. An oxymoron if ever there was one.
Either way, we do get covered with some blood and feathers but we work hard to keep the whole cutting process very clean. We use a big stainless steel sink and counter propped on two barrels and cold running water from the spigot, to keep surfaces and the chicken
Also, it was cold enough that we had no flies to deal with, just a couple of mongrel dogs who love standing by for the offal which they believe is pretty wonderful.
Now, the really wonderful news...Ten days after the birth of our fifth GK, the sixth GK arrived. Son of our youngest boy Kyle and his wife Amanda, the awesome Eli was born last evening. He weighed over two pounds more than his wee cousin September and evens out the score. We now have three granddaughters and three grandsons. So much to be grateful for .