Tuesday, October 16, 2012

There's No Place Like Home (Processing)

Even if, at our best, we only processed six chickens per hour, it was so good to be home!

Over the past couple weekends - and a couple evenings during the week - we processed our last batch of broilers for the year.  With over 70 chickens that needed to make it into the freezer ASAP, we decided to purchase some low-cost equipment so we could process them in our own backyard.  In the past, we would have travelled about twenty miles to another farm with said chickens and two very bored children in tow.  Even though our equipment is more rudimentary and the going was slower, we had happy kids, happy chickens (well, up until...you know), and showers.  All that was missing was a pumpkin latte from Starbucks at the end of it all.

Here's our set-up, along with approximate purchase prices:

Stainless steel table, 2'x4', used for evisceration.  Approximately $125 on eBay.

Polar Ware 30-quart stainless steel pot from Amazon, $67.40.  Underneath is a Bayou Classic outdoor gas cooker, $51.80.

Drill attachment plucker, approximately $30 from eBay.

Large cooler, which we used as a chill tank.  I can't recall the price, but many people have coolers like these already.  And see the green bucket?  When we were only processing maybe five birds in an evening, we would just chill them in FREE food-grade buckets we snagged from Chick-fil-A.  Oh, the irony.

Grand total? $274.20, not including the items we already had on hand.  Not too shabby, when you consider the professional stuff can climb up to the likes of $8,000.

One thing we do want to change is the plucker.  The little drill attachment worked, but I had to pluck whatever it couldn't (wings).  Not an issue if you're processing about five birds, but when you run into a couple or few dozen, you really need something more efficient.  We may try finding something used or attempt to make our own next summer.

We also could have purchased an aluminum turkey pot with temperature control, but we're a little leery of aluminum and its leaching abilities.  So Byron kind of got into the groove of knowing when to turn the valve up to heat the water, and when to turn it back down.  We kept a thermometer on hand to ensure that the water would always be between 140 and 150 degrees.

And this all wouldn't have happened without the Cornish X chicken.  
However, we may try Freedom Rangers next time, as they are much more hardy. You can do everything by the book, but some of the Cornish X will develop leg problems and simply refuse to move. Leg problems are caused by anything from genetics, to a chicken getting scratched by his buddy, and suddenly deciding he just. doesn't. want. to. move. anymore.  

And that's when home processing equipment really comes in handy.  Just saying.

I'm linking up with the Homestead Barn Hop!