Monday, May 2, 2011

Butchering- (Warning:sensitive in nature WITH a few pictures)

Tim and I decided when we got our first group of Cornish Rock chicks back in March, we would butcher them around the end of April, beginning of May. It is best to butcher this particular breed between 8-10 weeks.

We had planned to butcher our chickens on Saturday, but my grandfather's passing meant that Saturday was family time, so it was decided that we would do it Sunday. Tim and I were running some errands that afternoon (picking up some baby items from a friend- thanks, Carol!), so I thought we weren't going to do it until Tim asked me if we were going to go ahead and butcher when we got home.

I immediately felt a bit lightheaded. I have been a purchaser of humanely raised/butchered meats with the feeling all along that I should probably be doing it myself. Personally, I feel that if you cannot get neck deep in the process of raising and killing an animal, you should probably not eat an animal. Lettuce doesn't feel pain when it's chopped for a salad. I knew that this was going to be the moment of truth for me. Could I actually go through with killing a chicken that I held in my hand when it was a week old, fed and watered daily, scratched it's neck while it sat on my lap in the sun?

The answer is yes. I can. And I did. But it was hard and a day later, I am still feeling a bit shaken up, but I think that is a positive sign. When I can take a life without being at least slightly disturbed by it, I will have lost a part of my humanity, so the goal is to become more human, more feeling, throughout this process.

This is a brief overview of how things happened. I'm not going to go too far into detail, but be fairly warned that there are some pictures that some might be sensitive to some below.

First, we decided which chickens were going to be butchered. We decided to start out with one, just to see how things went and maybe do another if it went well.. We put her in a box along with a couple of the chickens she was raised with to help her feel calm.

The box was given to us when we purchased the grown Araucana chickens about a month ago.

You see Jackson in the picture and he was home (and awake) when we did this. We set him up to where he couldn't see the process but we could see him- with some of our newer chicks to play with and he had a great time, never a clue what we were doing.

This is not a chicken that was butchered. She's alive and happy, but this is what our meat chickens look like at butchering age.

In all, we butchered two chickens yesterday.

The first, we used a chopping block and I really didn't like it.
I know that the chicken was instantly killed and that it didn't suffer, but it felt a bit barbaric to me.

The second chicken, we used a method that I was interested in trying after being a bit startled by using a chopping block. For chicken #2, I broke her neck cleanly to kill her and then proceeded to go through the process of removing the blood from the carcass and getting the meat to a useable state.

Instead of plucking the feathers, we chose to use a popular method and skin the chicken. We don't cook chicken with the skin on, anyway, so why not just remove it before freezing or cooking?

It was fairly simple, to my surprise!

The above photo is me skinning the chicken that I killed. From killing her to putting the ready to eat or preserve parts in an ice bath took about 20 minutes.

Here are the parts of chicken #1.
Chicken #2 was left whole after the entrails had been removed.

Here is chicken #2, my chicken, dressed and baked with potatoes and onions.

Here is chicken #1, packaged to be frozen for later use. The parts you can see here are leg quarters.

Now, I have mixed feelings about this whole process.
I adore my chickens, but we do eat chicken.
I'm not going to have the capabilities and resources to raise my own animals for food and NOT do it, but continue to eat animal products-
even though it was difficult for me.

Removing ourselves from the process of raising and killing animals is what has caused the incredibly sick growth of the factory farming industry.

We want someone to do it for us.
We want boneless and skinless delivered to us, wrapping in pleasant packaging.
We want clean hands.

I no longer have clean hands.
I raised and butchered my own animals for meat.
Like I said before, I have mixed feelings about it.

I will do it again- butcher.
I will do it again- purchase animals for the sole purpose of becoming food for my family.

That being said, I am feeling no grief over it, no guilt. I raised these chickens from fluffy butt chicks that were less than a week old. They were loved on, well cared for, treated with as much dignity and respect as any of the other 32 chickens we have living in our backyard. There is no difference between the way our pet dogs are treated and our pet chickens are treated and our meat chickens are treated.

My mixed feelings come from my own personal thoughts about being an omnivore.
I have had SO many people tell me that what I have done is disgusting.

And it was none of those things.
It was clean, humane, and done with respect.

And the people criticizing me are people that would never consider eating farm fresh food, because knowing where the animals come from is too close for comfort. Factory farms are preferrable to them over what we do here at our home.

To each his or her own. I am not passing judgement on another person's convictions and/or eating habits. We all must live as we feel we must, but this is part of my growing process, part of our home becoming a homestead- a place that can sustain us.

And I hope that sharing this part of my journey with you didn't offend.
I tried to provide fair warning from the beginning.
But if you were offended, I'm sorry. It wasn't my intention to shock or disturb, but merely to share my experience and educate.


karen said...

Good on you, I think its seriously brave of you to butcher your own chickens, ive thought about raising chickens for meat but havent quite worked up the courage yet! Its fantastic that you know the chickens you ate got to have a wonderful happy life:)

Beatrice said...

SO happy you did that! We raise chickens to eat too, actually the cornish cross :)

We raised about 15 chickens last year and I think we will do about 30 this year....

If you want to buy some chicken that is grown on grass with the chicken tractors and is fed Organic feed, our friends do this as a business!

You can check out their blog:

We helped them last year with one of their batches of 100 chickens and 12 turkeys :)

Dianna said...

I used to be a vegetarian and for now I only eat salmon but this post doesn't offend me. We are getting chickens for my friend's place.

When we have our own place I plan on having chickens and turkeys for meat. We are a little squeamish about butchering animals we raise but if we are going to eat meat we will do it that way. If non meat sources of protein were easy to grow or find in Alaska I probably would stay a vegetarian. I would have the hubby hunt but we don't have experience hunting so I decided on meat turkeys or chickens for protein.

It is helpful to hear about how others do it.

Dusti said...

Karen, it was easier to DO than I thought it would be, but my feelings about it after the fact are much more back and forth than I expected.

Beatrice, we are glad we did it, too. As much as I believe in HOW we are doing it, I really am glad that we eat a primarily vegetarian diet. Meat is a side dish in our meals and eaten only a few times a week, especially in times when there are abundant veggies! It isn't a meat-eating issue, just a personal preference. I'm looking forward to checking out the blog you mentioned!

Dianna, we are primarily vegetarian, as well. Realistically, most of the food we eat is vegan, especially with my lactose intolerance. We hope to reduce the amount of animal protein we eat, as well, but being new homeowners and new homesteaders, that kind of self-sufficiency will have to come with time. We don't have any experience with hunting, either, but it is something we're interested in exploring as a means of getting food, not sport.

I think it's important that people know, especially since this blog documents a personal journey, exactly what we do and how we do it. The goal is to bring awareness to different aspects of self-sustaining lifestyles that you don't have to be unusual to replicate. My garden might be a point of interest for one person, but our chicken coop might be what draws someone in and gets them curious, so I'm trying to stay balanced in my documentation and my writing without dwelling too much on what makes people uncomfortable :)

Jaelou said...

Wow, you've got balls Dusti! You can invite me over to have Dusti & Tim Farm chicken anytime, by the way! :)

Dusti said...

Jess, we're planning a housewarming party for this summer. The goal is to serve homegrown veggies, farm raised chicken, and desserts made with our eggs. You'll be getting an invitation :)

militantcupcake said...

I really have a lot of respect for your doing this. I personally couldn never do this myself which is exactly why I don't eat meat, I agree with you entirely, if you can't go through with the process, you have no business eating meat. Letting yourself be entirely removed and apathetic and eating factory farmed products disregards life, to me. Anyway I think it's neat you're raising your own chickens for food, and I really applaud you for it.

Cassandra said...

I have killed 2 chickens for food, and I found it to be a really humbling experience. I held the chicken and talked to her her before it was time. And from back yard to the table every step of the way was filled with love and reverence. And I would do it again. :)

This aired last week on the Diane Rehm show, and I think you'd really enjoy hearing Alice Walker (author of "The Color Purple") talk about her chickens.