Today I slaughtered & processed a chicken. Yep. That happened.
Earlier this summer Lauren told the guys that before it was over she was going to kill a chicken. They didn’t belive her. I told her that if she really wanted to do it, I’d do it with her. It was something I wanted to do anyway. After all, I am here to learn about raising animals for meat. Part of that process is killing them.
Today was the day. Lauren asked me how to mentally prepare for the task at hand and I told her to come help us catch them. After dealing with the live bird, I was sure she’d be ready to take one’s life. So she, Steve and I headed up to the pasture where the broiler houses are and set about catching 120 chickens.
Once we’d caught all the birds we needed, we hemmed and hawed for a bit. We needed gloves. We needed rubber bands to mark our chickens. We needed…but finally the moment came. It was time. We selected our birds and got to work. Lauren chose a big speckled one; I selected a red one because the red ones are meaner than the speckled ones which alleviated some of the guilt I was feeling. (Thanks to Lexi for playing photographer for us!)
First you put the chicken into the holding cones and pull their heads out the openings in the bottom. This keeps the chicken from flailing about and gives you easy access to the neck. They you take a very sharp knife and cut off the head just below the chin. This may sound easy, but getting a clean cut through the spine isn’t unless you line up your cut perfectly to go through two vertebrae.
After that we removed the feet, tails and innards. Honestly, getting all the organs out was the hardest part. I managed to get everything but the windpipe and had to let Caleb finish that up for me. I have a whole new appreciation for the speed at which he and Brian process these birds. They were so sweet to humor Lauren and I and to show us how to do it ourselves.
That’s it. From there the birds go into an ice bath to cool down and tomorrow we will bag them. Lauren and I put rubber bands around the legs of our chickens so we’ll be able to find them. We are taking them to garden night next week for dinner.
I am fairly certain this will be the best chicken I have ever eaten. It doesn’t even matter what it tastes like. Just knowing that I was part of the whole process from 3 days old until death is so…I don’t even know what the right word is here. But it is something else.
For everyone who was grossed out by the idea of me killing a chicken, the reality is someone has to do it. If you eat meat, an animal had to die for you to do so and unless it was roadkill someone intentionally took that animal’s life for it to become your food. I would rather the animal die by my hands (or the hands of someone I trust to carry out the deed in a humane and respectful way) than on a factory assembly line. I’m not saying everyone who eats chicken should run out and slaughter one or become a vegetarian. But you should at least give some thought to how the animals who become your meat are raised and killed.