As a farmer, my main goal is humanely raised meat, and animal products. I want to know my animals. I want to know what they ate, what antibiotics (if any) they were given. I want to know they had the privilege of living the life God intended for them. As contrary as it may seem, a huge reason I raise my own meat, is for the animal. Although I may end up slaughtering them, they have the right, as every creature does, to live. To feel grass underfoot, and the sun warming their backs. The photos that go along with this post are graphic. If you can’t handle seeing where your food comes from, or how it looked before it was wrapped in plastic, beware. When you look at these photos, you should feel something. I will always embrace butchering day as a sorrowful time. I love to fill my freezer, but doing so comes at a cost.
Most people withhold feed before butchering. It makes it a much cleaner process. We usually do feed, mainly because it makes me feel better. Going forwards we will probably always feed, but probably significantly less. That way they get some, but aren’t stuffed full.
Before grabbing a bird, it’s important to have all your supplies ready. I have my cutting board laid out, along with all my (sharpened) knives, and a hose fitting with a sprayer attachment. Also nearby is a trashcan for entrails. On the patio next to my station, we have a heat source heating water, and next to that is our homemade plucker. Behind the shed we have two traffic cones set up to be kill cones. We wait until our water is almost hot enough for scalding before we go and get a chicken.
The walk down to get the chickens is somber. If ever there is a moment that makes you feel stoic it’s picking out the first chicken to slaughter. I’d like to take a moment here, to mention something I thought was profound when I looked back through these photos.
My husband grabbed up this chicken, and cradled it as he took it to the kill cone. To be honest, there are usually whispered condolences on both our parts. Trying to keep them as calm as possible is important to us. I see no reason for there to be undue stress on this animal. Even if it’s “just” a chicken. To compare this to a factory farm is impossible. They often suffer broken wings and legs as they are being loaded on the truck to go to the slaughter house. They are then again handled roughly as they are stuck in machines that hold them upside down.
Once to the kill cones the chicken gets slid into the cone, often with help to make sure the head goes into the hole, and doesn’t get caught sideways. We usually pull the head out gently, just to make sure there is one, swift cut. The knife gets drawn across the neck, under the jaw bone. When done correctly the blood starts flowing quickly and strongly. Although this may seem a horrible way to die, it’s very peaceful. As peaceful as death can be. Cutting them across the neck renders them unconscious in a few seconds. We then just let the chicken bleed out, and let the body stop flailing.
Once the chicken is dead, it’s moved to the hot water. It’s dunked a few times in the water, until a wing feather pulls out easily. At this point it’s laid out so the feet can be removed, and then transported to the plucker. The plucker is turned on, and water is sprayed into it as we drop the chicken in. Within minutes we have a nice, clean, feather free carcass!
From there it head over to the cutting board. Its head is removed, along with all the organs and entrails. I usually cut the tail off, and make a little slit for the legs to go through. The liver, gizzard, and feet are saved.
Everything else gets tossed. We end up dumping all those extra bits way out in the field. Within a day or two everything is gone. The chicken is given a final rinsing, any extra feather parts removed, and gets to rest in ice cold water. Once we have quite a few chickens done we place them in shrink wrap bags to seal them, and they are labeled and placed in the freezer.
Butchering day is long, messy, smelly and exhausting. However, opening your freezer to beautiful, local, humanely raised meat is worth it all.
A few years ago I faced a fork in the road. I had suddenly become awakened to the truth about our slowly devolving food system. I learned the truth surrounding fast food, poisonous additives, and the inhumane, unethical manner in which we treated the meat we eat. To say I was horrified was an understatement. This passion about knowing where your food comes from has just grown as I get older. I cannot understand how society not only doesn’t know what is happening to their food system, they do not care.
As a farmer, as someone who eats meat, I often feel a lot of heat and judgement for my choices. Although I do not run a big operation, nor is that ever my intention, I do raise food for my own consumption. That means I do, and will always try to produce enough meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables and fruits for myself and my family. Lest someone assume that I do this because it will in any way make me rich, let me assure you that is a hilarious assumption. Also, do not presume I raise animals for consumption without compassion, love, care, and respect. Because I grieve for every animal I kill.
I have loved animals since I can remember. Farm animals are no different. Even the fat, rolly poley chickens who look atrocious at times, and smell. I care for those chickens from the day after they hatch. When I receive them I dip all their little beaks in water, I clean their cage, offer them tasty snacks, and fill up their water more times than I can count. Once they go outside I continue to provide nourishment and water, even though they are free to roam about a chicken tractor. They scratch through grass, catch bugs, and doze in the sun. And I worry about them when it rains, or when it’s hot, or at night when the coyote howls. I check on them as often as I can, I call them “butterballs” or “kids”, and they cluck an excited chorus when they see me...and the food bucket coming. I dread butchering day, I will always dread butchering day. It puts a very honest perspective on being an omnivore. Because no matter what meat you eat, something gave up it’s life for you.
I eat meat, I enjoy meat, but I realize fully what has happened so that I get to eat meat. I avoid factory farmed meat at all costs because I think it is an evil, vile thing. There are a lot of vegans and vegetarians that crucify us meat eaters, and I kind of understand. When you look at how modern America has chosen to raise animals, it is nothing less than atrocious. It is wrong. Period. It’s black and white. Chicken raised factory farm style never goes outdoors, never chases bugs, and are treated horribly on their way to slaughter. Beef cows are stuck in feedlots up to mid leg in manure and gunk. Pigs are raised in cages, and often go insane due to lack of mental stimulation. Dairy cows have their babies ripped away, and do not always have access to the outdoors. These practices are ones we should all be ashamed of, vegan, vegetarian and omnivore alike.
As humans I think we naturally avoid the weight that comes with being a meat eater. We are so far removed from our food, and our meat, we chose to accept meat precooked, and unethically raised. Because it is easier, because we don’t have to think about it. We somehow think by not knowing we are exempt from being responsible for how the animal was raised and treated. Take a stand and buy locally raised, humanely slaughtered meat. Do you know where your food is coming from?
Homestead Blog Hop-Idlewild Alaska
My name is Monica, I'm passionate about farming, food, and the humane treatment of livestock.