We slaughtered our first batch of meat birds on July 8, 2011. We had 21 Cornish Cross hybrid meat birds, the same ones you're used to buying in any grocery store, and 13 dual-purpose heritage roosters, birds that have been bred for centuries to provide both eggs and meat for the homestead. And we also had 1 ornamental Polish rooster that I couldn't find a
home for. Poor Poof-Ball Head.
It was our first time doing a slaughter day – Dave had helped with a few birds before and has dressed out plenty of ducks and partridge he's hunted, and my first experience with anything like this was with the little Cornish Cross with a leg problem. So this was very new and very nerve-wrecking! But I'm happy to say the day went incredibly well and smoothly – everyone died quickly and with respect, and processing went very quickly. We did all 35 birds in about 8 hours, from set-up to putting them in the fridge. We had help – his parents came down for half the day – and that definitely helped move things along.The longest and most tedious part was the vaccuum sealing actually – it kept overheating and shutting off. I guess regular old Food Savers aren't meant to seal up 14 whole birds and 42 breasts, thighs, and wings all at once :)
The dual-purpose roos were about 15 weeks old, and we kept them whole because they were smaller – they averaged about 3lbs dressed. The Cornish were only 6 weeks old, and we pieced all of them out to “usable” cuts (someday I might use all of the bird, putting the necks and feet and innards into a pot to make stock, but I haven't reached that point yet). Their boneless breasts alone weighed about 1lb... each! Their pieces are bigger than what you'd buy in a store but otherwise look exactly like them. The dual-purpose roos are much smaller and have way more dark meat. But they're both way more flavorful and tender and delicious than anything I've purchased at a store! Plus we know they're healthy and lived happy lives outside on the grass like nature intended. And we've got more than enough chicken to last us a whole year... so much, in fact, that we're selling it at $3/lb if you're interested :)
The bad news: I forgot to take any pictures! I wanted to document everything for the blog, but I ended up being too focused on what I was doing, which I guess is a good thing. But I do have pictures of the birds before and after:
Cornish Cross - fat, lazy, and ready to become food:
Their heads look like nromal chickens, but their bodies look like basketballs!
Our first meal of our own chicken (along with our own salad):
We'll definitely do this again next year. We're always going to have to process any excess roosters that we hatch or buy, but we'd like to get at least one batch of meat birds as well and a batch of turkeys. We'll do a heritage breed of turkeys and hopefully keep a couple hens
and a tom to breed our own in the future. As for the meat chickens – if we get Cornish Cross for free again from the school, we'll take them, but I haven't decided yet if we'll buy them or a more sustainable and hardy breed like “Freedom Rangers”. There are too many pros and cons for each – perhaps we'll save that for another post? :)
Jen & Dave Paul, owners & operators of Old Post Farm