A Day to Remember

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.

20130808_0006The chicken bleeds out and then goes into a hot water bath to soften up the feather follicles.

20130808_0008From there it goes into the de-feathering drum (no idea what the real name is) where it is spun around until it is plucked clean.



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.



5 thoughts on “A Day to Remember

  1. Almost the same way we did it (and still do though I’m not there to say anymore), except we shocked them unconscious first before slitting their throat. And it was bad if the head was all the way removed (better to drain the blood completely before removing the head all the way or so I was told). You mentioned you’d rather it be by your hand than from a factory line though there’s not much difference…the factory is just multiplied by a couple hundred thousand a day.

    • Thanks for the insight! I’ve actually read the same about removing the head. It’s better to keep the heart beating as long as possible to get the most blood out. But I guess they get to do it how they want since it is their business!

      It’s not the factory methods that bother me per se. But the scale and detachment. I don’t know how I feel about people spending their days doing nothing but slaughtering thousands of animals they’ve had no other interaction with. It has to be desensitizing at the very least. My stance on factory operations also has to do with how the animals are raised, not just how they are slaughtered.

  2. I can barely stand feeling/hearing a bug or spider crush between my fingers inside a piece of tissue, so I think there would have been no end to the things I “needed” if it were me. 😉 Thank goodness there are people who do this stuff for me because I do love meat!

  3. becca
    i canremeember my grandmother killing her chickens so many years ago it would be the highlight of our afternoon as a child. as you saythere is a humane way. she plucked by hand keeep my day innteresting

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