Monday, August 17, 2009

Neighborhood Chicken Harvest

Last weekend I did something I thought I'd never do, I plucked wet feathers off a deceased chicken! I was not alone in this endeavor. My husband and I were invited by our enthusiastic neighbor Jack, to share the cost of chickens, feed, and when the time came, the slaughter and processing of 15 Cornish Cross chickens. After thoroughly studying an article in Mother Earth News we agreed to join him in this group effort. Jack made us a great offer, he and his wife Leah would keep the chickens in their backyard for the seven weeks that it would take for the birds to mature. This was the perfect amount of time that we needed to prepare ourselves mentally for the slaughter. We have watched chickens happily roam our property for many years, this would be the first time we would raise chickens for meat. In the end, everything went remarkably well. It was nothing like the scene I envisioned, chasing headless wild chickens, wings and feathers flying everywhere. The whole process ended up being calm and organized, from start to finish it took us about three hours. The total cost for organic, hormone and steroid free, really local chicken was about $1.21 a pound. What a deal! Here is what happened. Hal and Jack build the proccessing table. They cover it with plastic and set in the cones (perfect size for the chickens). This picture shows the most difficult part, killing the chickens. The chickens are then scalded in boiling water, this makes the feather removal much easier. Here, Leah and Sue are plucking wet feathers and probably talking about how bad they smell! Hal and Jack carefully removing the innards, then the chickens are placed in the ice tub. Gino, head chef arrives to share his amazing butchering skills. We now have breast, thighs and wings! We then bag, divide and freeze our chickens. Except for the two that we saved for our chicken harvest celebration. That evening we gather again with our neighbors to enjoy a wonderful chicken dinner. It made me pause and think about how many chickens I have eaten unattentively and without gratitude. This experience has changed all that!
I am posting Jack's e-mail to his family and friends, I think he summed up the day very well.
"It all sounds a little crazy to raise chickens and even more, chickens for meat, but I've come to the conclusion that it’s crazy not to. Humans have congregated together for thousands of years to slaughter animals for food. It was just as much a social event as it was work. The 6 of us sat there at our slaughter table, plucking feathers and disemboweling birds and talked and talked
and talked. We all learned so much about each other. Soo, Leah’s Mom, told us about her childhood in Korea, and Jill our neighbor told us about home birthing and schooling all 5 of her girls. We laughed,
joked, and just had a really unexpected good time. I think this is because what we were doing was a very human thing. A human thing we’ve forgotten about over time, a human thing that once connected us more to the earth, to each other, and to the reality of life. It doesn’t take long to convince someone that the sofa sitting, TV watching, fast food eating America of today is slowly turning into a nation of over weight, over medicated, and generally unhappy people. It felt good to fight the big food corporations, it felt good to treat animals with respect and give them a place to be, and act the way they’re meant, and it simply felt good to be human".

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