This past summer, Byron and I contacted a farmer in the area who raises pastured poultry, and we somehow ended up as part of a chicken-butchering assembly line. Said farmer, Jeff Adams of Walnut Hill Farm, called Byron a few days ago to see if we'd like to come help butcher chickens on Black Friday. Oh, how apropos! This time, however, he wasn't going to only butcher meat birds (chickens raised only for meat); he also had eighteen "spent" egg-laying hens whose time was up, too.
Egg-laying hens, such as the Barred Rock variety that Jeff has, produce well for about two years, though they can live up to six years. They're hardy and rather gentle, but when they're too old to lay eggs anymore, farmers have to decide whether they're going to become pets or profits. Jeff - as would any farmer - chose profits, and graciously offered them to us for $3/bird. Not per pound, per bird. And the reason they're less expensive than younger chickens raised for meat is because they're a bit less versatile in the kitchen and have to be slow-cooked in a crock pot (we've heard they're delicious, too). But that's not why we went; we value the education we get at Walnut Hill Farm, grisly though it is.
On this visit, I took some non-grisly photos of the butchering process, but if you have a weak stomach, you can click here to read my post on how to have a very cheap Disney Princess party. Or, if you have no cause to throw a Disney Princess party for yourself or anyone else anytime soon, you can click here to see what was hiding under our dining room for almost 150 years.
Still with me? Great. This is how pastured poultry is humanely butchered, minus the act itself.
|Byron holds a Barred Rock hen before placing her in a "killing cone." It was truly a Black Friday for 59 chickens: 18 "spent" Barred Rock hens and 41 Rhode Island Red "meat" birds.|
|The "killing cones." A chicken is placed in a cone, its head removed (some farmers sever arteries in the neck without removing the head), and then the next bird is loaded.|
|Chickens go from the killing cones into the scalder, which is set up on an automatic timer. This process loosens the feathers.|
|No more old-fashioned plucking! Jeff places a chicken from the scalder into the plucker.|
|The plucker spins as water washes the loosened feathers away.|
|Seconds later, the chickens look more like something you'd eat!|
|The eviscerating table, like all the processing equipment, is made of stainless steel. You can see the chill tank in the background.|
|Yup, that's me. I'm the eviscerating girl. After going through the plucker, the feet, oil gland on the tail, and the "insides" of the chickens have to be removed. The chicken is then placed in the chill tank.|
|Wait! Is this a LIVING Barred Rock hen??? Why yes, it is, and it's in our backyard, along with four of its closest friends! Stay tuned to hear more about our Black Friday...|