Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My First Experience Processing Chickens

But first, a few words from Joel:

“You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit.”
Joel Salatin, Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer's Guide to Farm Friendly Food

“The average person is still under the aberrant delusion that food should be somebody else's responsibility until I'm ready to eat it.”
Joel Salatin, Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

Yes.  So, when the opportunity arose to participate in "chicken processing day" at a reasonably local (within an hour's drive) family farm, I jumped at the chance carefully contemplated the idea and all that it would entail... and all that I would see.

I'm determined to be more mindful of my food source and not turn a blind eye to the horrors of factory farming.  I cannot in good conscience (and will never again) purchase my meat from Big Ag sources.  I also will not become a vegetarian, as I firmly believe that the vitamins and nutrients found in meat from healthy animals is essential to our health and vitality.

Therefore, with steadfast resolve, I chose to go to the farm.  I decided that if I'm going to eat meat and be part of the solution to our current food dilemma, I need to be a participant, not a bystander.

Thanks, Joel.  (He's a wise man.)

Scattered all over Full Circle Farm, were these cheerful Black-eyed Susans.

After 3 U-turns and 1 stop to ask directions, I arrived 20 minutes later than I wanted to, and missed the group heading out to the fields to round up the chickens.

The site of the operation was eerily quiet.

But it gave me a good 15 minutes of solitude to gather my resolve, as I had more than an ounce of trepidation.

When they got back with a trailer stacked high with chicken-filled dog crates, the farmer didn't waste any time explaining the process and giving instructions.   After a brief dissertation, he asked how we're doing and "is everyone okay?"  He made eye contact with me, so I wonder if I looked anxious. 

The first to speak up, I responded that I was doing better, so far, than I thought I would be, as by now I should have been over at the chicken trailer cooing encouragement and apologies to those birds.

And that's when the chicken mama (the farmer's wife) said a few words.  While the chickens were still in the pens on the trailer awaiting their fate, she declared her gratefulness for them and, having cared for them personally, assured us they were nurtured, well cared for, happy chickens.  She cried when she acknowledged the cycle of life and recognized the value of the lives of these birds for our benefit.

I was pleased to see that.  Her sensitivity was like a balm to me, making what we were about to do feel less heinous.

This is farmer Dave and, as you can see, the process is well underway.

I won't recount the details of the operation, because maybe not everyone wants to know the details.  I can just say that I'm thankful for the experience.  It was hard, at times, but knowing that these chickens were allowed to live happily - as chickens were intended to live - in fields of grass pecking for bugs and worms and weeds, makes me want to support this system.  It's one that's honoring to them.

(If the pictures raise questions for you and you want to know more, feel free to ask in the comments.)

And I left with 5 fresh birds and nearly 190 pairs of chicken feet!  Oh, I am going to have some amazing bone broth in the months to come!

This is the first time I have ever cooked a bird in the evening that was alive that morning.  It peaked my awareness for the provision of my sustenance and I've never been more thankful for a meal.

Linking with Hearth and Soul Hop, Homestead Barn Hop


Mom said...

Oh my, your description almost had me in tears....were they thankful, sad, melancholy, sympathetic...I don't know, but thank you for posting this eye opening event!

Alana said...

So glad you were able to do that under those people and circumstances. It's the circle of life as God intended it. xo

Lea Ann Savage said...

Oh, my. You and I have a lot in common - please check out the "no one size fits all diet" page, and the "about me" page of my website - www.BlenderLady.com Also, I wrote this article for "Bittersweet" Magazine when I was a senior in high school: http://thelibrary.org/lochist/periodicals/bittersweet/sp79c.htm I had a pet chicken once, and LOVE chickens, so this was a very difficult thing for me to do, but as you will see when you read those pages, I feel exactly as you do - my health depends on animal products. I feel it is tied in with original sin, and that the lion will lay down with the lamb, and our bodies will be nourished by vegetation when Jesus returns.

Christine Wood said...

I understand your trepidation. But good for you for following through. I'm curious though, did you notice a difference in taste?