For those of you just joining us, let me give you a recap. Approximately 10 weeks ago, we purchased 50 Cornish Cross meat chickens to raise and process as meat for our family. We wanted to try this for several reasons; knowing where our food comes from, the cost benefit, etc. Last Saturday marked the ninth and final week of our meat chicken journey. I told you five weeks ago that I would update you, so here goes…
One disclaimer before I get started, however. I am going to walk through what we did, so if you are squeamish, now is the time to stop reading.
Since the wife and I had never processed Chickens before, we called our good friend “Bob” (see the Bobcats, Coons, and Possums…Oh, my! Post) to help us out. He and his girlfriend came over and the four of us spent the next six hours processing the lot. The first thing we did was set up everything we were going to need for the day.
|Cones – to hold the birds|
|Buckets – to catch the blood|
|Scald tank or large pan with propane burner with water at a temp of 140°|
|Hose with a spray nozzle|
|Rubber utility gloves|
|Cooler of ice water|
|String or ties|
Once everything was set up, Bob went about teaching us what we needed to do. It became an assembly line of sorts. We were each given jobs based on what our particular strength or weakness was. For instance, Eva has the smallest hands so she was lucky enough to get to clean the chickens. I am the most squeamish, so I got to pluck. Bob had done this the most, so he was our bleeder/scalder.
This is how the process works:
- Bob grabbed a chicken from the pen and put it in the cone, head down. Once the chicken is in the cone you slit the throat so that it bleeds out. As a kid, I remember watching my grandpa put the chicken on the block and chop their head. When I asked Bob about this, he told me that the blood doesn’t run out and that they are much harder to clean that way. Just a FYI.
- Once the chicken has bled out and stopped moving, essentially having died, you take it by the feet and dip it in and out of the scald tank for 30 seconds. If the water is too cold, the plucking is VERY difficult. If it is too hot, the skin rips while you are trying to pluck. You have to find the sweet spot for this.
- Once the chicken has scalded in the tank, you put it on the table and spray it with the hose while rubbing it with the rubber glove. You really need two people for this. Bob’s girlfriend was with me on this job. We took turns spraying and plucking. If you have scalded correctly, the plucking is super easy with the hose and gloves. The feathers really come right off when you rub the chicken. You still have to pull the wing and the tail feathers.
- Once all of the feathers are off, with the chicken laying on its back, you grab the foot with one hand and extend the leg. With a sharp knife, you cut right at the leg joint. This is now the bottom of the drumstick. At this point, we handed the chicken off to Eva to clean.
- The next step is to cut off the head at the base of the neck. Then you cut the gland off the end of the tail. Once that is done, you cut a small slit in the vent; only large enough to get your hand in. Once the slit is made you have to reach up into the chicken and pull the innards out, all of them. We kept the heart, liver, and gizzards, but threw everything else out. Once it is all cleaned out you spray the insides with a hose to clean all of the blood and any leftover little pieces out. Once that is done, you drop it in the cooler of ice water so that the meat relaxes.
- After the chicken has sat in the water for 30 minutes you move it out of the water to the drying rack so that it can air dry.
- Once the chicken is dry, you tuck the wings and pack it in the bag. Get as much air out of the bag as possible and tie it with the string.
|Feed – Purina Broiler Starter x 2 (50lb)||$36.00|
|Cornish Cross chicks x 10||$0.00|
|Cornish Cross chicks x 40||$43.60|
|Feed – Albers Grower/Finisher x 12 (50lb)||$191.88|
|Processing x 38||$0.00|
|Cost per Bird||$7.14|
My estimate in the original post was that I would end up with 40 birds at a cost of $6.31 a bird. In the end, we ended up with 38 birds at the cost of $7.14 a bird. Still not too bad and less than what I would spend at a grocery store for chicken that is “enhanced with 15% chicken broth.” I know, because I looked today. I feel pretty good about what we accomplished with this batch of meat birds and we both agree it is something we are going to do again.