Chicken day

It doesn’t seem appropriate to blog about my meat birds all summer, and then skip the final step: we harvested the last of our meat birds last week.

This process is not fun. It is, however, an important part of owning our food. Chicken day lets us say “Yes, we take responsibility of the meat which we eat.” And I believe that’s important.

outside

I divide the process into two steps. The first steps happen out doors. Plucking, gutting – I think of these at the “dirty” steps. The scalding pot lets us pluck more easily, the coolers chill the meat until we can move it inside.

Chickens (like all living creatures) do not have bacteria in their muscles. So tell me – why do we ALL accept that chicken must be cooked until it isn’t pink to kill the salmonella? It’s because the process of slaughtering a chicken is so very hard to do at any speed without spreading the germs from the chickens large intestines everywhere.

Slaughter happens quickly but deliberately so I can make sure the chickens don’t suffer any more than necessary. Plucking and gutting happen slowly and patiently- they’re done outside so we can avoid spreading feces and make sure the meat going into the coolers is clean and safe. Also outside requires less scrubbing afterwards.

Once the birds are cleaned and in the coolers they look like giant rotisserie chickens – more like something you’d find at the store. We move inside now and butcher the whole roasters into halves and quarters, drums & thighs, boneless skinless breasts, stir fry meat, etc… We part out the portions down to sizes that are useful to us. Sharp knives and lots of towels are needed, but at least I can sit down now.

inside

Once the meat is bagged and in the freezer there’s still more to do. Chicken fat is rendered down to schmaltz. Leftover bones and meat are simmered down to stock and soup. I clean up and freeze the livers, kidneys, and hearts.

When you’ve put this much of yourself -your emotions, time, effort, and yes money- into raising 24 chickens wasting a single portion is very clearly unconscionable.

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8 responses to “Chicken day

  1. Our chicken day will be in a few weeks. We only have 5 or 6 birds this year but it still takes a lot of emotional ramp up.

    We usually put the rotisserie-like birds in the freezer whole and then make all sorts of meals with them one at a time. We’re just finishing up the last of some soup now.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Just one bird would still take an emotional ramp up – I think this is part of why it’s better to work in batches.

      I know it’s easier for us to have the birds parted out before freezing. The meals are quicker to thaw that way and I don’t have to worry about eating a whole chicken before it goes bad. I also like making a GIANT pot of stock and canning it all at once instead of many smaller pots.

      But the key here is we both see the need to use everything and not waste. I think wasting meat is something that started with the modern separation of food from living creatures.

  2. I remember chicken days when I was a child. There were four of us kids and my parents so we set up an assembly line. I was usually inside doing the final cleaning (pin feathers) and helping with the separation. I don’t remember much going to waste back then.

    • I started as a child too. I think that helps me make the distinction between food animals and pet animals. I didn’t like plucking and so taught myself to take the wings off quickly and safely so I could work inside while my brothers were stuck plucking.

  3. There are people that will scream in horror at the contents of this particular blog. Yet, they [those that screech and wave their hands in horror] will quite happily [those that aren’t vegetarian] to go to the supermarket and buy either eggs [non organic eggs] having yellow yolks resulting from dyed foods or purchasing a white de-feathered “chicken” or “chicken portions” to cook for themselves …quite simply not “getting” that the preparation for their bird to reach this stage was probably nowhere as kind as yours was for your 24 birds. Nor will they have any idea of what their white denuded bird was given to eat………….nor what or how many hormones were administered to help it to grow fast enough before being “harvested” while still young enough to be “tender” fleshed when cooked.

    We too did as you did, and our yellowy meat-ed free range birds had great and happy lives of good food composed of fresh greens, good grains, having fun scratching and flapping with their freedom of movement, safe and warm nights, were [noisily happy] suppliers of wonderful naturally yellow yoked eggs [no dye injected into their food] for months on end and when the time came, an efficient and kind hearted death. It is not an easy transition for you, nor the happiest day of the year [or us way back then]. You will, in due course, remove your chicken or chook pieces from the freezer for your meal, cook and eat the tasty flavoursome meat without anything nasty in it…… which will do you more good than harm! I know, with absolute certainty…….you are being responsible in your decisions and to my mind, it is completing the circle and is absolutely morally acceptable.

    • Thank you! I haven’t had many of those hand-waving types around here (yet) But you’re absolutely right there are plenty of people who can’t comprehend that food I grow myself is better than grocery store food. And some people get that for veggies but it applies twice as much to meat!

  4. Our chickens will be going into the freezer this weekend. (This is our second batch of meatbirds for the year. We sold all the ones from the first batch and didn’t have any left for ourselves…) You are so right on every point, as is Margot. We know exactly where our food is coming from, and take full responsibility for providing it for ourselves. And the bonus is that it is soooo much better!

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