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Chickens, from start to finish (the intern blog by Courtney McDonald)

Last Sunday (Mother’s Day) was the day that Dan and Samia decided was perfect for killing and processing the chickens they had been raising for the last 8-9 weeks. Julie, also an intern with Flying Mule Farm, came along with her parents, and I brought Eric, my boyfriend. Since both Julie, Eric, and I have all been or are currently chefs, the killing and processing of the chickens is especially interesting to us. I hold the belief (as many others do) that if you can eat an animal, you should at least know how that animal got to your plate.

A few months ago, Eric and I tried processing some spent hens ourselves without really knowing what we were doing. Our research involved watching some YouTube videos of other amateur attempts and reading a few books-each of which recommended a different method. We settled on chopping the head off with a hatchet, not scalding the bird before plucking (I don’t recommend this), and ended up doing the evisceration after dark, outside by flashlight. It was a great experience still, but not very efficient (and a little traumatic).

Last Sunday was a completely different chicken processing experience. By the by the time Eric and I arrived at the farm to begin, all of the equipment and prep areas were already set up. There were a total of ten Cornish cross chickens to be processed, and they were HUGE! About five pounds each!

After killing the chickens and keeping them in upside-down metal cones off the ground to bleed out completely, they were scalded in 145 degree water for about 45 seconds. Then they were plucked using a very efficient machine called a chicken picker, which used it’s rubber knobs to quickly pluck the feathers out in about 15 seconds per bird. Into the house next, where Samia demonstrated how to cleanly remove the head, feet, and insides of the chickens. Since she is a veterinarian, we were able to learn the correct terminology for the chickens’ anatomy.

Finally, after being washed well after every step of the processing under cold water, the chickens were put into an ice water bath to chill to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Ready to eat!

Eric and I roasted our chicken on top of the chicken feet and had it for dinner on that same Sunday evening. It had fantastic flavor, and a much different texture than a store-bought chicken. I will have a hard time eating any other kind of chicken from now on!

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