This is a graphic entry with notes and thoughts about killing chickens and turkeys to eat. If this upsets you please do not read any further.
Since I want to be able to grow and raise my own food and also share with others I need to be able to kill chickens and possibly turkeys. I like to eat them and so I need to be ok with killing them. Before ordering meat birds and being stuck in a predicament of not being able to kill them, I decided I needed to go through this process. It’s more than a process to people like me I guess in that it’s a learning experience. I learn about myself and I learn about the animals. I am trying not to use the word “process” too much in that the first portion involving the killing is to me not simply “processing”.
Because I have been thinking about this I e-mailed the people who do pasture-raised animals in a wonderful way in my opinion. They raise chickens, turkeys, duck, geese, sheep, pigs and probably something else I am forgetting. I was invited to come and watch the chicken processing or harvesting they were doing but I wouldn’t get an in-depth tutorial since they would be busy. I thought that would be fine as long as I could watch. I didn’t get there when they first started because Willow was up with her cold the previous night and I wanted to make sure she would be ok before I left her with my husband and Melody for the morning. I got there at 9 ish and they had already killed the chickens and were processing them. I watched them painstakingly pull out the right parts and avoid the others (if they could but that didn’t happen twice for one person) and make small cuts and rinse and repeat while talking about what they were doing. Although I tried to stay out of the way and not ask too many questions I did ask a lot of questions and they asked questions of me too like what I am planning and why and where I live and a bit about my hens that I have now. Talk about chickens moulting and not laying and why they choose not to breed their own animals and the size of their operation, etc.
After the chickens were finished and I got tons of information into my head which I didn’t expect to get, I watched them kill 4 turkeys. Turkeys in several ways are harder to process than chickens I was told and then understood. They have a different neck, they have a different way of dying almost and they are larger. Of all the times they have processed them one of the guys said he had never seen them die with their eyes open. I said it was because I was there watching. I sort of believe that too because I was standing inches away from their necks as I watched the incisions being made. The blood drains down out of their arteries and it also comes out of their mouth sometimes as well. The idea is to avoid the trachea. They are dead soon after but the bodies still move around and shake to the point that blood splattered on the windows of the building we were outside of. These turkeys had a really good life and were actually being kept by the family because they didn’t pass a walking test and wouldn’t walk to get away from people and they were low on the pecking order as well. Turkeys have the same pecking order as chickens and there are some that get bullied and pecked at all the time.
The turkeys stay hanging upside down in the metal cones and then go for a minute in the hot water bath which I think was 180 degrees. Then they go into the feather-plucker washing machine. Before I arrived I actually had seen these things before though I hadn’t been inches away from the process. Then the whole internal dissection, neck removal, etc. When they were doing the first two they found eggs intact so they were female turkeys. The parts that are not saved are composted into the earth.
I was expecting to have more of a problem with seeing this but I was fine. The only problem I had at the end was saying thank you and thinking what am I supposed to send as a thank you gift, maybe a note or? They don‘t have Hallmark cards for this occasion.
I know that they feel good about sharing the information and the passion for humanely raising pastured meat so maybe that is enough for them.They treat the animals with respect until their last minute even carrying them individually.
I was sort of amazed at how long it took to process the chickens and the turkeys because there is a lot to do and you have to be careful with how you are pulling on them so as not to disrupt certain parts like the bile especially. With turkeys you have to be really careful with the skin and the general appearance of the bird because people are going to want to display it on a platter before eating it usually.
Things I didn’t know
That turkeys are killed using a larger cone but in the same way as chickens. They stay in the water bath longer than the chickens too.
That they keep moving that much after they are technically dead.
That the feet have reptile skin that is actually peeled off of them when they are plucked.
I thought you would be able to tell the difference between a male and female turkey by looking at it but I don’t know that you can in all cases.
Something that I did know
That it’s ok to know exactly where your food comes from and investigate the process. That these animals are raised in a humane way and treated with respect and kindness during their lives before they are killed as part of the food chain for some.