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 .
Congratulations Gramma & Grampa - fine looking grandbabies.ReplyDelete
We raise meat rabbits instead of chickens, purely because the smell of wet chickens during the process makes me heave. Like to eat it, like our layers & the eggs, but count me out for chicken processing. In fact, chickens freak me out a little - I've managed to have layers successfully for years now without ever having touched one of them (Hand to God). Nice butcher set up - Mr Shoes hangs them from his 'killing tree';my SIL won't go anywhere near that particular tree, despite that it is only really used 4 or 5 times a year - she says it haunted, I say she's crazy. :-)
The haunted killing tree-love that! And Keith and I don't butcher rabbits, yet, for reasons we cannot fully explain. Have you ever posted on the butchering of them? Would love to read it.Delete
Congrats on the abundance of grands! The best part of having children is grandchildren.ReplyDelete
Envy you your home grown chickens! Enjoy.
I have said in the past, having grandkids is like finding a dollar bill on the ground but when you pick it up, you see it is a hundred dollar bill!Delete
Congratulations and congratulations. Great to have all those birds in the freezer, and ever greater to have a new grandchild. You must be thrilled.ReplyDelete
I've been having great fun this week running between the two new GK'S. One is 12 miles west, the other 11 miles east. Lucky, centrally located Yaya I am!Delete
Since we are not equipped to butcher our own we will be paying a $2 each to have them done but having our own home grown pasture raised chicken will be worth it.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on the new grandbabies. Our second grandbaby is scheduled (c-section)to arrive Nov.8. It's so exciting.
Every year just before we do it I think WHY WHY WHY don't we pay someone else to do it? But when we are done we are glad to have done it ourselves. Mostly. Enjoy that next GK of your own!Delete
I'm fascinated by the butchering process. I'm not sure I could do it, but I'm also one of those that understands the reality of where our meat comes from and we always try to by humanely raised/killed meat. There is a grocery store near us that sells it and there is just no comparison (well, maybe fresh like yours would be the ultimate of course).ReplyDelete
Congrats on the grandchildren. What a great world they will grow up in with Grandma and Grandpa out on the farm. You will pass that knowledge on to the future. Nothing wrong with that. Congrats again!
As a Chicago raised gal, the butchering did not come easy to me. In fact, I used to hide out in the kitchen in the first couple years and try not to loose my cookies while just wrapping the fresh chicken pieces and putting them in the freezer. But as I worked less as a nurse and our income dwindled as planned, food prep became less emotional and more essential.ReplyDelete
And the GK's are a joy for sure. We do hope their time here with us will matter somehow in their adult lives later on.
What an excellent processing set up! LOVE that stainless steel countertop. What a great idea.ReplyDelete
But the new baby takes the cake! So sweet. Congratulations to all. :)
Keith found the countertop at an auction about 15 years ago. He thinks he paid $7 for it! We use it every year for chicken butchering. We thought about putting it in our Looney Bin house but since it didn't curve, we couldn't. Glad we didn't.Delete
First, congratulations! You look so happy!ReplyDelete
You say "broiler" but they don't look like commercial franken butterballs. What breed? A dual purpose?
I think "humane killing" is a damn important phrase, and kinda the whole point, don't you?
They are black freedom rangers. Not the usual white broilers. Flavor is wonderful, rich and moist. Yes, human killing is important, we take it seriously.Delete
And yes. I am so happy. TWO new grandchildren in the space of ten days. Who needs Christmas? well, I do. But I sure do need any additional gifts.Delete
Admittedly, it was a bit difficult to see photos of the butchering process, Donna, and thankfully they were smallish. My parents raised their own chickens many years ago and my mother described their butchering process to me. While it's not something I could easily handle, I do agree with all your reasons for raising and processing your own. Add my congrats as well on the newest grandson.ReplyDelete
The process, I think, should be uncomfortable. It allows me time to respect that animal that gave its life for me so I could eat. It's so easy, when eating out of a can or Styrofoam box, to disconnect from our food completely. Which is why millions of folks have no issue eating food that is so awfully raised. It's a process and we're only about 1/2 way through it. And believe me, I'm no purist. I'm just trying to be more conscious about what goes in my mouth and why.Delete
What a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing the process. It was well described and photographed and I didn't feel at all squeamish. Mind you, I have butchered pheasants and have had to kill some of my chickens when they were sick, but I haven't got as far as killing them for food. I don't think my partner would let me! I'd like to go the whole way though with our self reliant process or maybe I'd be a vegetarian!ReplyDelete