Yesterday was Round 1 of Slaughter Day: 2012. With the help of 5 amazing friends (thanks guys!!), we processed all 70 of our Cornish Cross meat birds (and 12 of our friends' birds too). It was a hot, sunny, sweaty, long day, both physically and emotionally exhausting! But we now have a giant chest freezer full of shrink-wrapped chickens that will feed us all year (and that are available for sale at $3.50/lb... hint hint).
Here's our set-up for processing:
The birds are all in their hoop house below (with 1 turkey hanging out outside their pen there, taunting them with her freedom). We grab one and put it upside down in one of the cones hanging from the wooden frame on the left in the picture. We cut off their head and leave them hanging to bleed out, then we dunk them in the scalding pot and swish them around to loosen their feathers. The water in the pot should be between 140-150 degrees, so we have our pot on a propane turkey fryer to heat it up. The water gets gross fast, and it takes a while to heat up, which really slows the process down - next time we'd like to have 2 fryers going so we never have to sit and wait and watch a pot boil!
After they've been dunked and swished around, we put 2-3 at a time in the Whiz-Bang plucker that Dave built. The plucker spins the birds around, and the combination of water pressure (from the hose you're spraying in there) and the rubber fingers lining the barrel take about 95% of the feathers off in about 5-10 seconds (as opposed to hand-plucking, which would take like 10 minutes per bird). Then from the plucker they go up to the butchering table (nope, didn't take a picture of that), where they get cut up and gutted and cleaned. From there they get placed in a shrink-wrap bag and heat-sealed for the freezer.
I still have to trim the bags, weigh them, and put pretty labels on with our farm logo, but the VAST majority of the work is done! Woohoo!
Now, I have to say - I freaking HATE slaughter day. Hate hate hate. I hate killing creatures, I hate the blood and guts and feathers and smell. I hate it all! Except the part that results in super good, healthy, humane, delicious meat... but the rest of it - HATE! At the end of the day, I told Dave that I don't want to do meat birds again next year. We'll see if that sticks or if I have a change of heart after I eat some barbecued chicken. Mmmm... barbecued chicken...
Jen & Dave Paul, owners & operators of Old Post Farm