For the past twelve weeks at the Grange Farm School, the students have been involved in raising 120 Red Ranger chickens for meat. They are currently between 3.5 to 5 pounds and look like healthy, happy birds. With daily chores of feeding, cleaning, moving their pens, detangling them from fencing, and herding them through giant stalks of corn, it was time for our lesson on humane butchering of these lovely birds.
Before we began, Ruthie King gathered the students around and read a passage from The Prophet.
“Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light. But since you must kill to eat…let it then be an act of worship.”
With that the students took their place at each station:
We practice a version of Halal slaughtering methods using kill cones to keep the birds calm through the very quick process. Using a sharp knife, the carotid artery and jugular vein are cut without severing the trachea, esophagus, or spinal cord. This allows the heart to keep beating, the majority of the blood comes out as quickly as possible, so that the bird goes unconscious right away.
Keeping the temperature at 135 degrees, we dunk the carcass into the water for about 10 seconds- just long enough to open the feather follicles but not long enough or hot enough to burn the skin.
Machine Plucker Station
The rubber fingers on this plucker spin and the carcass is held on top of the machine, removing the majority of the feathers.
Hand Plucker Station
We finish plucking by hand, making sure to get the full feather shaft out for marketability. The head and feet are cut off and the carcass is rinsed before taking it in to the sanitary eviscerating station.
Here we loosen the crop, remove the “pope’s nose” or preening gland, and open the cavity so that we can remove the viscera without puncturing any part of the digestive tract. Organ meat is set aside and cleaned, the carcass is cleaned, then set in a chill bath to lower the temperature quickly. Finally, the carcass is dried, refrigerated, and then either cooked or frozen!
Mid-day we broke for lunch and had an amazing lesson with Annie Waters on how to cook, savor, and benefit from every part of the chicken. We made chicken stock, bone broth, and liver pate for lunch, which was a delicious treat!
If you or anyone you know are interested in purchasing a chicken from The Grange Farm School, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chickens go for $6.50/lb.
Check out our previous post on pasture raised poultry!