Saturday, June 03, 2006

...And Then There Were None (Killing Time, Part 2)

So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." — Genesis 9:1-4
The world around us calls animals people, insisting that they have "rights." It then calls people animals, without purpose, accidental parasites on the planet. But God says, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:26) The United States Constitution affirms "that all men are ... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men." In fact, it was right after God gave Noah permission to have a cook-out (see Gen. 9:1-4 above) that He established the authority of "the State."

From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man.

Whoever sheds man's blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man."
It is precisely because He created man in His image that we have the "unalienable Right" to life! But the beasts of the field, not so...

Warning: Following the wisdom of Herrick Kimball, I'll tell you that the following story is not for the squeamish and/or sissified (though it's written by someone who mostly fits that description). If you want the basic story without graphic descriptions, just read the captions.
As planned, I show up with the boys to help "process" chickens at the house of my friend, the Chicken Farmer.

process /prä'-ses/ v.t. to turn live chickens into dinners.
SYN. butcher or slaughter poultry (ex. chickens)

To be...

The boys and I arrive around 11:15 and find Farmer at the killing shed (a VERY old log building), with all the macabre apparatus assembled to do the deed: killing cones, a cleaver, a gutting knife, pots of scalding water, a trash bag for feathers, heads and feet, and one for the carcasses. Oh! and a hose, poised ready to clean dirt and dropping off the chickens, and blood off of everything else.

Farmer hasn't always had chickens... in fact this is his first flock of meat birds. And the only processing he's done before today was a reaction to an aggressive rooster. Rooster, it seems, was chasing the children and otherwise hastening his arrival at the dinner table. So Farmer called a fellow-agrarian adept in the processing arts and in true med school fashion, Farmer got to "watch one, do one, teach one." And the first one he did on his own was Chicken #1 today.

Apparently these particular chickens are eight-weekers and should be processed when they're eight weeks old. Though God's plans are never thwarted, things don't always go according to our plans: Other priorities prevented Farmer from processing these birds at the 8-week mark. During week ten, the temperatures heated up and he lost more birds than we currently have in the line up. The survivors (who soon won't be) are now ten weeks old, and a couple of them aren't looking like they've got much fight left.

"You ready?" asked Farmer.

"Sure," I said, hoping I sounded convincing.

Head-first into the cone goes Chicken #1.

[Note: Here comes the descriptive part... to squeamish, sissified suburban folks, click here] to skip it.

Still with me? Good... to read the graphic parts, you'll have to highlight all of the following...

Click here -->As he's putting Chicken #1 into the cone, Farmer asks me to hold the feet.

"Now, she doesn't want to be in here, especially once I slit her throat, so you'll have to be ready to hold her in."

"OK." I say, more resolutely than I feel.

Then, as Herrick describes, sure enough, Farmer pulls the Chicken's head down and cuts through the artery. The object is to keep the brain connected to the nervous system so it will continue to tell the heart to keep pumping blood to that artery which will now spill it on the ground. Meanwhile, Chicken is squawking only a little bit... apparently from the initial pain of the cut, but then only as she tries to fight her way out of the cone.

When it looks like she's finally done bleeding out and appears to be dead, my job is to pull her out of the cone and chop her head off with a cleaver. (No, Herrick, I didn't do it the manly way and pull the heads off with my bare hands.) Sometimes, Chicken isn't quite done dying and begins flapping furiously, making me hold on more securely. If I put her down, she'd be running around "like a chicken with her head cut off"literally.

Still holding Chicken's feet, I dip her in scalding water—about 160-170°F—for about 30-40 seconds, which loosens the feathers. I then tie her feet to a rope and begin plucking all the feathers on her legs and breast—we've decided to process them down to only breasts and leg quarters.

Once the feathers are removed, I take the cleaver again and chop the legs off at the end of the drumstick, and then give the bird to Farmer who cuts through the skin and removes the breast "filets" and cuts off the leq quarters. A thorough rinse and that bird goes into a plastic zipper bag and into the fridge. The rest of the carcass is discarded into a separate trash bag. We put the bags in the fridge for three days and then the meat is eaten or frozen.

The first two take about an hour, but then we start to get into a groove.<-- and drag to here.

Ten hours later we finally bag the last one.

...or not to be...

There is no question - homegrown chicken is the best!
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