food…straight from the source…

note to vegetarians: the content of this post may be offensive and we apologize in advance for that.

in an effort to be closer to our food source, we kindly asked a local farmer if we could help harvest chickens. the concept of harvesting animals comes from barbara kingsolver’s book, animal vegetable miracle, a fabulous record of her family’s efforts to eat locally for a year. the book refers to the idea of harvesting animals as one would harvest other foods.

the local farmer we approached is one we frequently buy from at the farmer’s market. last year they filled an order of 10 chickens for us, so this year when we put in our order we asked if we could participate in the processing. no one had ever asked that before, but they didn’t see why we couldn’t help. they explained it’s kind of messy (which it is) and wet (also true – from hosing down everything). so, on a cold night in november we layered up and, with slight apprehension, went to their farm. below is a quick overview of how the process works:

step 1: birds are collected and placed in a holding cage
step 2: birds are placed head first into cones
step 3: the head is pulled taut though the end of the cone and the head is severed with a knife (we did not do this part)
step 4: the birds are left to let the blood drain out
step 5: birds brought into the processing room containing a scalding tank, a plucking machine, a large basin of water and two tables
step 6: birds are immersed in scalding tank for a few minutes. the purpose of the scalding tank is to loosen the feathers
step 7: next, the birds are placed in a plucking machine, which is a basin with whirring rubber nobs that remove the feathers
step 8: birds are placed on the table for final processing, which includes cutting off the feet, removing the oil gland, loosening the crop and the esophagus, and finally removing the viscera
step 9: birds are rinsed and immersed in ice water. once all are done, they are bagged and weighed

the process was neat and interesting. glad we did it and looking forward to some tasty dinners….here’s the finished product. we harvested chickens, ducks and geese and took home a dozen chickens, 1 duck and 1 goose (the latter two for thanksgiving dinner)….the process was basically the same for each bird….