Remember these guys?
You might also remember them when they looked like this. The chicks I mean, not the adorable children.
So far, we've gotten three batches of 100 broiler meat chickens, sent to us in the mail! We start them out in the brooder hoophouse until they get big enough to be put out on pasture.
From start to finish, these chickens live about 10 weeks. And yesterday was our first chicken processing day, which will now happen monthly until October.
I was the only one of the apprentices who had never participated in killing a chicken and I have to admit that I wasn't avidly looking forward to Thursday.
We started out by hauling the fully grown chickens from the pasture to our on-farm processing unit.
Of course, there was also a lot of cleaning and sanitizing to be done beforehand, making sure all the equipment was in line with regulations.
Daniel is a veteran at all this, so he explained the system to us and by 7am we were in the thick of things.
Although there won't be any graphic pictures shown here, I do want to explain how the chickens are processed. From the yellow crates they are put upside down in silver cones with their heads sticking out.
Daniel cut their throats and allows the blood to drain into the black container you see on the ground. The chickens are then placed in the scalder which loosens their feathers which are then removed by the plucker.
After Daniel's work is through, the rest of our team, plus some volunteers, set to work taking off the heads and feet and removing all the organs. We were all novices pretty much, so the going was slow at the beginning. We definitely got faster though as the day wore on and had all 95 chickens processed, bagged, and labeled by nightfall.
It was one of the more exhausting days I've had on the farm so far, but it was also a really good experience. Meat of all sorts is so ubiquitous in our lives that often there can be a very real and sometimes damaging disconnect when we aren't aware of where our meat comes from.
Thursday definitely taught me to be very aware of the real price of meat and to remember its true value.
We will have fresh chicken available from this slaughter through the weekend and then frozen for the rest of the season. The price is $4.50/lb, with most birds weighing between 4 and 6 lbs. Stop by the farm or come to the Scarborough or Portland farmer's markets if you're interested!