Yesterday I posted about preps for P-day for the chickens. Several people have asked me “Doesn’t that gross you out to kill your own chickens?” and I have to confess, there is an “Eew Factor” to processing chickens. But, I have also seen what the industrial poultry processing system looks like more intimately than most. We have several farmer friends who grow millions of chickens each year for Draper Valley Farms. While they produce a safe, affordable locally (western WA) product – their birds don’t move around much and they don’t eat bugs and grass. The meat from pastured birds tastes, well, more like chicken! As a child growing up we bought chickens from a local farmer and I remember how it tasted. When I had my first bite of pasture-raised chicken a few years ago it was a blast from the past. The meat was firmer and more flavorful. So, I can deal with at bit of the “Eew” for the tasty rewards!
5:45 – Alarm goes off and I roll over and hit the snooze. I do this at least twice more before hubby’s alarm goes off and I finally roll out of bed.
6:00 – Head out to do chores. There is 40% chance of rain forecast today. It is no fun doing chores in the rain – processing chickens in the rain is less fun than that!
7:00 – Milking done, hogs fed, chickens fed (the ones we aren’t going to butcher today!), kids off to school, gather up all the hoses and a couple of extension cords and start thinking about how we are going to set all this up. String a hose from the sink in the laundry room to the scalder to start with hot water. Chase cat back inside.
8:00 – Cursing because the pilot light on the scalder is taking so long to get lit. No one likes to spend that much time lying on the ground holding a wand lighter on waiting for the thermocouple to warm up. Plug it in and hear it make a suspicious popping noises in the electrical box. Burner doesn’t come on. Curse more. Wiggle the cord, more popping noises, burner lights, we decide to avoid touching it since it is working now – and because we don’t particularly want to be electrocuted. Shannon arrives with extra coolers and another table.
8:30 – Helpers start arriving and we start washing coolers, bleaching the tables, and sharpening knives. We spend some time sorting chickens, catching escapees and then move the chicken tractors over to the processing area.
9:00 – Scalding water is taking forever to get hot enough. Curse some more. Get sheet of plywood to cover scalder to cut heat loss and spend more time visiting.
9:30 – Weren’t we supposed to start at 9:00? Sigh. Fix the thermometer – tell Shannon to stop laughing about the bonnet. I can see why women wore them. They are soft after a couple washings and the brim keeps the sun off!
9:45 – Water is hot. Time to start.
11:15 – All done but the shouting. 44 birds in the cooler on ice. The Amazing Donna has the clean up on the plucker and scalder almost done by the time we finish cleaning the last few birds. We get a few raindrops as we are cleaning up and bagging the birds. Helpers take a couple home and we put the rest in the fridge. I will freeze about 10 as whole birds and then cut the rest up into parts for convenient dinners. Hay helpers come and load up the equipment and head inside to take a shower!
Noon – head out to take back the plucker and scalder. Have another nice visit with Stuart and Michelle and then go over to the Silverdale Farmers Market to see what is fresh this week! I need a couple of pumpkin plants, and perhaps a few more tomatoes!
It was a busy morning but many hands make light work. I am pretty grateful for farmer friends! Thanks for helping!
We can’t sell chickens from our processing because we don’t have a WSDA Temporary Slaughter Permit. But if you want to find out more about come to the Kitsap Poultry Growers Meeting on June 14th and meet WSDA Food Safety Officer Kim Hoffman. She is going to be talking primarily about handling and selling eggs but she will probably answer some questions about processing as well.
If you want to buy pastured poultry in Kitsap and taste some amazing chicken contact a local farmer about buying pastured chickens. Right now Pheasant Fields, Abundantly Green, Butler Green, Kingston Farm, Dropstone Farm and Blackjack Valley Farm are a few of the local farms I know are selling pastured birds. Many take orders at their farmer’s market stands so look for them there. It is more expensive than BOGO chicken breasts at Albertson’s but it is worth it.
This choice isn’t for everyone – but for us it is the right choice.