Friday, July 18, 2014

Chicken Butchering at the Farm

Alright...it's been almost a week since we butchered, and I'm finally ready to write about it.  Thanks so much to my brother-in-law Drew for all of the photos in this post.  He read my plea for pictures from last Saturday's post, and shared a bunch of them with me.  Thanks Drew!

Warning...this is a post about butchering chickens (hence the title).  There is one picture that shows some blood.  I also use words like killing, butt hole and guts in my description.  If you don't feel like reading, please move on to a different post.  Thanks!


Chicken butchering...the process of taking our birds from this...

 to this...

How do we do it? 

Ah--the secret to our butchering success comes contained in a simple trailer.


Our tri-county area has a mobile processing unit that w use for processing our birds.  My parents helped in the planning stages of this many years ago, and have been using it since it became a reality.  You can learn more about it here.

There are two sections to the trailer.  In the back end, you'll find a scalder and plucker.   Outside of that section, you set up the killing cones. 

A bird is placed head down in each cone, and a very sharp knife is used to quickly slice their neck.  All of their flapping and moving takes place in the cones, allowing the mess to be contained.  A hint from my step-dad Steve...use Pam (or similar) to spray everything before beginning.  It makes cleaning at the end MUCH easier. 

Once the birds have bled out, they are placed in the scalder briefly, and then into the plucker.

Scalding heats the birds, allowing the feathers to come off quickly in the plucker.  Be sure not to scald them too much, or you'll end up with a bird that has begun to cook!

You can kind of see a window behind the plucker.  Once the bird is plucked, it gets slid through that window into the other section of the trailer.

This is an overview of the inside.  Here, it was being cleaned and disinfected prior to use.  The window is where the birds come in.  They go first to the hanging racks to be gutted, and then onto the table with the bleach bottle.  That is the quality control section.  The lungs and kidneys get scraped out, and any remaining larger feathers are taken off.  We check for a trachea, any piece of intestine that might have been missed, and for butt holes.  You don't want to have to take a butt hole off a chicken before  you cook it...And since we leave the tail on, it's easier to forget that part. 

Once the chicken has been checked, it's given a final rinse and then deposited into tubs of ice water.  Crushed ice helps to create a freezing slurry that speedily lowers the temperature of the bird.  Since we are licensed to sell, we check the temperature on some birds to ensure it drops below 40 degrees in the given time. 

The tubs being filled with cold water prior to butchering.  Ice will be added shortly. 
After all of the birds have been processed, we clean up the blood and guts while the cooling continues.  Then we bag the birds and weigh them.  A sticker label is placed on each one, and it's taken to one of the freezers.

Then, after it's frozen solid, the bird is ready for sale. 

And that is how we get a freezer full of these.



Sure tastes delicious!

And do you know what I did this time around?

I cleaned and hung onto a pair of chicken feet to make stock.  And when we butcher another 100 birds this fall, I think I'm going to keep more of them!  Sounds kind of strange to say that I'll have feet in the freezer...but the stock that I made with just the single pair in was amazing!

More on that later.

Ever made stock with feet in it?

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