Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Fine Art of Chicken Processing

Elliott has taken over the poultry operation of our farm and is processing (slaughtering) 100 chickens every other week in April-October. Of course we want for him to be very successful in his new endeavor so we are helping him on the processing days, and Oliver and I (Meredith) are also working at a second farmers market on Saturdays to promote his product and boost his sales.

Several friends have expressed interest in seeing the events of a processing, so I am posting pictures from our two most recent processing days (yesterday and two weeks ago).

Elliott's chickens arrive at our town's post office when they are just one day old. They grow as they graze on the pasture until they are eight weeks old, which is when they are ready to be processed. Once moved from the pasture to the processing area, Sullivan and Harrison set them in the killing cones.
Sullivan has recently begun learning how to slit throats from Oliver, who is proud to be known as a "throat slitting expert". ;)Once they die, they are moved to the scalding station. They are repeatedly dipped in the scalding hot water, so the feathers are loosened.
Then they are moved to the plucker.
The plucker rotates the chickens around so that the feathers are completely removed.
Next, the chickens are brought to the eviscerating table. We cut them open to pull their guts out and rinse them in preparation for packaging and cooling.
It seems really disgusting, but you really get used to it!Mama is the fastest and most thorough eviscerater, but she was the one with the camera, so she isn't pictured. That's the whole process from start to finish!
Yesterday, Elliott set a goal of having all of the chickens finished, parted (he sells some in parts-- i.e. leg packs, boneless breast fillets, etc.), and packaged by 5 pm (we began around 10:30 am). He told us that if we finished by 5 pm, he'd buy each of us a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream! Fortunately, we finished around 4:45 pm, so we each enjoyed lots of ice cream last night!

"The first rule of chicken processing is if you feel something wet on your lip, don't lick it."
~ Joel Salatin ;)

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