Saturday, May 30, 2009

Processing meat chickens

I was thinking about ordering a dozen or so meat birds this fall, my husband who likes meat far more than I, was pretty much on board. I wanted to do this a part of being more self-sufficient and also feeling like if I was going to eat meat I should have the responsibility of processing my own animals at least once in awhile and really respect how they get to the table. Lucky me was perusing Craig's list and saw that a feed store in town had 8 week old meat birds on sale, 5 for $20. They were not organic, but you couldn't even raise a meat bird conventionally for $4, so we brought them home yesterday morning and this morning we got up at dawn to dress them.

I won't give you details, but it didn't go as smoothly as you would hope. We used a killing cone made out of a very large plastic apple cider vinegar bottle and a very big knife. We opted to go for decapitation instead of bleeding them out or any of the other methods because we thought the chickens would suffer the least this way. Plucking the chickens took us forever (about an hour each), soooo many little pinfeathers. It was so frustrating that we skinned the last three. I was in charge of gutting, which was more nauseating than I was prepared for. (This is coming from someone who loved to draw and paint from cadavers when I used to have the opportunity.)

I thought I would feel proud of myself, or at least like now I earned my right to eat meat, but mostly I just feel sick. I have no desire to eat chicken for a verrry long time. These birds will be vacuum-sealed and frozen and will not go to waste, but it will be awhile. I know most people have better outcomes and feel a great sense of accomplishment, but both of us are leaning more towards being mostly vegetarians and will never butcher chickens again.


Mo said...

I have so much respect for you because I know I couldn't do this. I couldn't even kill a trout I caught once, and had to throw it back. I am sorry it was traumatic, but try to feel proud and know that you are much closer to the way meat is prepared than most, even if it did put you off chicken for a while!

Justin said...

We are looking forward to preparing our own chickens later this summer.

How much did yours weigh?

rachelbess said...

Thanks Mo.
Justin- Completely dressed with no innards etc they averaged around 3 pounds each. I didn't do a live weighing.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean. I've killed a couple of chickens, though I did the wring-the-neck method, the first time I burst into sobs afterward (it was a hen I had had for a while). The plucking/cleaning did not bother me, but the killing did a lot. I ended up feeding them to the cats, I didn't have the heart to eat them myself. I only have 1 hen left and have promised her that will never happen to her.

AJK said...

Wow...You both are vey Mom and I have had multiple conversations about the responsibilities of eating meat, and what is involved. We both felt we couldn't do the deed if we had to... for now. We don't even have chickens yet, but we are considering them for next spring (egg laying)

Ben said...

so....the fall order is out huh? :) I am sorry you had a bad experience. I know I couldn't do it myself either. I was seriously thinking that I could do it for a long time and then I had a horrible dream I just could not shake. that was a year ago and it still haunts me.

Tom said...

Ever consider rabbits? They don't have pinfeathers, multiple faster, and cost less to feed per pound. And chicken tastes just like rabbit... sort of.

Gold said...

So sorry to read about your less than rewarding experience. Reading it over and reading some of the other comments I can see some of the problems are common to several people. If I may make a few suggestions to anyone taking the leap to preparing their first meal from scratch so to speak then here goes.

If you have never slaughtered an animal make it easier on yourself and the future meal by getting an experienced person to help you the first time or at least go and watch how it is done by someone with skill in this process. It will be an invaluable bit of training making the whole process less painful emotionally for yourself and more quick and sure for the animal. It is important to me to kill the animal as quickly and certainly as possible.

So if you cannot find someone with experience near you let me know and I will be happy to help make the whole experience quick, safe and as painless as possible to all parties involved.

There are a few simple tricks to killing an animal quickly and humanely with little fuss and limited mess. This goes along way towards making the end result more enjoyable to eat. Also with feathered animals their are ways to pluck them that are quick and much easier than most people are aware of.

I first started with chickens when I was 8 years old and the has become a long time ago now. I was taught by friends and relatives that still were not sure about buying anything from a grocery store.

rachelbess said...

Thanks Gold. There weren't any people near me that I felt comfortable asking. In the middle of the city people experienced with this seem harder to come by. I would love to hear your tips. I read all the things I could read online but I have no doubts that having someone with experience show me firsthand would be a thousand times more beneficial. Any pointers you're willing to share would be appreciated.

Honestly, I am pretty sure I won't be doing it again for a long time if ever. I'm sure my husband will never do it again. Processing quail is much easier (physically) and seems so much less traumatic, and I can breed them myself instead of buying them, so I think our future meat will probably come from them.

Beth said...

Oh Rachel! I did this too last summer, and it was awful. I feel that it was an important experience, and I am so happy I did it once in my life, but I never want to do it again. Ever, ever, ever! The meat was tasty though, but butchering is not for me.

Good job being brave for the experience,
All my best,