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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Broiler Harvest

By Dale M. Johnson

I spent an enjoyable day helping friends harvest their broilers. There is satisfaction in turning these chickens into food for human nourishment. It is not cruel or abusive. It is ethical treatment of these animals. It is part of the circle of life which the Lord has laid out for us. It is a symbiotic bond.  Our purpose is to take good care of these chickens for their short lives. Their purpose is then to sustain our families. They have a right to a life without pain or discomfort. We have a responsibility to raise them properly and a right to use them for food. I believe it is a holistic relationship ordained by God. 

I understand some people feel squeamish about the harvesting process. I did too at first. It is not pleasant but you get used to it. You get blood on you. The smells are disagreeable.  Eviscerating the chickens is distasteful. But in the end when you put an iced carcass in a plastic bag and is ready to put into soup or in the frying pan or on a rotisserie, you know that it is all right and there is a sense of fulfillment in being involved in the processing. 

I am not suggesting that everyone needs to raise and harvest their own chickens. But I am encouraging everyone to understand and accept this process and appreciate the farmers who do it for you. So when you pick up a frozen chicken in the store, please remember where it came from – it once lived on a farm, a farmer took care of it, a processing company harvested it for you, and there is nothing wrong with you, your children, and your grandchildren eating it as long as you appreciate it and give thanks to Heavenly Father for it. 

Dale at the killing cones.

 Dale eviscerating a chicken. The gizzards in the foreground will be cleaned later. 

 The finished carcass goes into ice water.


Frugal Life UK said...

Ideally we'd all be vegetarians but we're not! I'm not. We need to remember we are eating an animal and be thankful for the life it had. I hope you made lots of pate with the offal.

Laura said...

I really enjoyed seeing how that equipment works, I would love to find enough people to form a co-op to make purchasing such equipment economically worthwhile. Very interesting post.

Mrs. T said...

Thank you, Dale, for sharing the process with us. I hope to be able to do it someday when I have my own chickens. You have a very organized setup there. I've only seen single cones before, so that multi unit was interesting. Thanks, again.

Laura @ Getting There said...

Thank you for the informative video. I've never seen equipment like that before, I didn't even know it existed. I would imagine it would be quite expensive though for a single homestead to purchase.



~ Janis said...

Thank you for the video. Great idea!

Much different equipment than what I have used. Love the mutiple cones and the scalder and de-featherer. Much more efficient.

I like the respectful calmness that was present during the processing.

Wish you had filmed the rest of the process of cutting up the parts and cleaning the organs etc.
Very interesting.

Great job!


commoncents said...

I just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog! Keep up the great work!!

Common Cents

ps. Link Exchange??

katiegirl said...

That was a nice set up. I really like the rotating cones. How old were these freedom rangers?

Dale Johnson said...

Frugal Life - Like you I enjoy eating meat, but it goes further than that. I believe it is the ideal. See my article "Spiritual Conversion of an Omnivore"


Laura - My friend is raising these pastured broilers to sell at the farmers market. So he can justify the equipment. Even so, he bought most of it used to try to economize. The cooling tank is a whirlpool from a gym that he got for $50.

All the equipment is stainless steel. Cleanliness is a priority in the processing. The cutting table is particularly clean. A hose with spray head is always within easy reach to clean things off. The chicken is cooled down immediately in ice water in the cooling tank.

Dale Johnson said...

Katiegirl - These freedom rangers were 10 weeks old.

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Hello Dale. Thanks for that great video. I was really touched by the compassion you had when you slit their throats. I've only processed a few of my laying hens, but I find the same compassion for the value they've added to our lives. I agree that it is a divine holistic relationship ordained by God.

My friends and I will be processing our Freedom Rangers next month. Your set up is very efficient and hopefully we can take away a few tips for our harvest day. I was first caught by your set up in the woods. Was there a reason for that location? Maybe less flies? Do you let them age for a couple days or do they go straight to the freezer? or in this case to market. Great job!!!

Karina said...

My kids and I enjoyed watching the video and learning.

Dale Johnson said...


The main reason for the location was water and electricity. There is a tap and electrical outlet near by. But the shade from the trees cools the location a bit. Any small particles that fall on the ground and can't be cleaned up quickly break down into the soil.

It was a cool day with no flies around. That was nice.

My friend sells these chickens fresh out of a cooler at a farmers market. If they don't sell in two days they are frozen and sold out of a freezer. The price is the same. Some people want fresh chicken because they will use it immediately. Other want a frozen chicken that they will use in a few days.

When I harvest my chickens, they go immediately to the freezer. Even so, putting 50-100 chickens in a regular freezer will take a couple of days for them to freeze through.

Freedom Rangers are harder to process than Cornish. They fight a little more in going into the cones and they do not pluck as easily. The final inspection to get a few feather tips out takes longer than with Cornish.

FoodBlogger said...

Good work Dale. I had a recent experience harvesting some homegrown chickens. I was very nervous at first but after they are feathered, they pretty much look like dinner anyway. I was best at taking the guts out because at that point it's like prepping any other meat. I was not lucky enough to have the fancy equipment, but our efforts to terminate the chickens were done as humanely as possible. They were loved and well cared for, which makes for the tastiest chickens. And they were thanked for their sacrifice.

Sheyenne said...

Thanks for the video. I've never seen how this was done before. When I was a little girl, I watched my dad cut the head off a chicken, and was wondering why it isn't done that way, since it's an instant death. Is it just because it's easier to have them there in the cone held tight to one spot? Also, my mother-in-law has said that in Argentina where she grew up, all the people just held the chickens by the neck and gave them a sudden pop downwards, which would break the neck and kill the chicken instantly. What do you think about these methods and why are the cones used instead? I've never done any of this myself so I have nothing to compare.

LeAnn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dale Johnson said...

It is important to get as much blood out of the body as possible to improve the quality of the meat and carcass. Upside down in the cone with just the artery cut, the brain continues to signal the heart to beat which quickly and completely pumps the blood out of the body. The blood from all the chickens is funneled from the cones to a bucket along with the heads which are cut of after the chickens are dead for easy disposal. Using the cones also restricts the movement of the body. If you cut the head off or break the neck without the cone, the nervous system continues to make the chicken flop around which is unpleasant to watch. The chickens stay in place in the cones until they are ready to put in the scalder.

Georgia said...

Thank you for taking great pictures and the wonderful video! I have been hearing about all of this equipment and set up for months and glad to see in the works.

-Sydney- said...

That plucker sure takes a lot of the work out of it, doesn't it? Thanks for the video. I'd also like to see more about eviscerating--that seems like a tricky bit and I've heard there's an easy way and a hard way to do it.