Monday, April 8, 2013

Processing Poultry Tips

   Processing time came and went here on the little farm. Spring butchering filled our freezer with healthy food plentiful enough to feed our family and share with others. Over the many years we have honed a setup and work through plan that has served us well making large batch processing efficient and timely. For example, I 'fast' my flock the night before butchering to prevent busted crops and messy processing. Here are some processing tips we keep handy.

   1. Stations everyone! Whether I process alone, or have helping hands with me, stations are the best way to get the deeds done quickly and cleanly. 'Killing Cone' is station one: knives, cones, and lined buckets are ready, waiting, and stay at this station until clean up. 'Break Down' is station two:  cutting boards, knives, bowls of salted ice water, large lined trash cans are on hand for the main processing station. 'Cool Down' is station three: positioned near the sink are sealing bags, markers, and towels to rinse, dry, bag and label. There are also several large ice chests filled with ice for quickly cooling processed birds once they are washed. The final stop is the freezer..but only once the birds are cooled down.

   2. Loose the skin. One of the nastiest parts of butchering poultry is plucking; dipped in boiling water and stripped of every feather these birds leave a fragrant memory you never forget! I skip this all together skinning my birds before processing.
    3. Get to Pieces. Smaller broilers are selected to be processed whole for roasting and making broths, but the majority of my birds are harvested as 'breast and leg'. Leg and thigh are removed as one piece, breast and tenderloin are removed in one piece. This makes storage space stretch farther and helps the meat cool faster further preventing spoilage or loss.

    4. Party! Have a processing party. Grill some meat, bake some treats and invite green horns to come learn the fine art of processing. The more the merrier. Family, friends, local college kids can often be bribed with food..or the promise we often clean it you keep it.

    5. Relax. Plan ahead, play some music, and make the event work for you. My farm boy and I can process 50 birds in a few hours. We set the date, setup the stations, set the radio and get it done in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. It helps when the weather is nice (like was awesome!).

    If you have never had the privilege of processing your own poultry or if you are considering it, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and give it a go. Start small, maybe a few birds, and work to a goal that meets your family's needs. Sitting at the table tonight, we shared in good food and the satisfaction of hard work and the provision it brings, the security of a well stocked freezer, and the joy of fellowship shared over the task.

   Are you a home processing family? Share your experiences and tips with us..we love to hear from you!


Michelle said...

My friend Heidi,s husband made her a great plucking machine. I need to see if I can get her to do a post about it on her blog. It makes plucking go really fast.

Simply Scaife Family said...

That would be awesome. A local family purchased a plucking machine, but it was a huge investment we chose not to make. I would love to see her plans!

Mrs. Farmer said...

I'm getting to be a pretty good butcher. We haven't done meat birds yet (we're mostly a pork and egg production), but I'm going to post soon about buying larger cuts of chicken and cutting them down yourself to save money. It's not too hard once you try it!