Warning: the post you are about to read contains graphic pictures of roosters being processed to eat. Do not continue reading if these images will upset you.
Some friends of ours invited us over this morning to learn from a master, Christian of SugarHouse Farm in Altadena, how to process chickens (that is a cute way to say "butcher" or "kill"). They had ordered the minimum number of chicks most hatcheries will mail -25- about 6 months ago, and were ready to cut down on feed costs and noise. With a small urban coop and 2 beehives, it is a necessity for them to be courteous to the neighbors, so the thirteen roosters had to go.
I'm so thankful to have had the experience of seeing and participating in the butchering process with such wonderful people. My chickens are still a long way off from slaughter, but when the time comes, I'll be able to show them the respect and dignity they deserve. I walked away this morning with a larger sense of community, a greater understanding of where my food comes from, and an increased respect for all living things.
And now, the demise of "Dinner" the rooster and his 12 buddies.
Having the rooster hang upside down calms the animal as the blood rushes to his head. A swift cut to the jugular vein quickly pumps the blood out so the bird will pass without suffering.
I think this is an amazing example of beauty in death. The blood drained from the chickens will solidify and be used in compost, which will feed the plants, some of which will be fed to the remaining chickens.
After dunking the bird in hot water to loosen the feathers, Christian demonstrates how to pluck a chicken.
Not too bad.
The feathers and unused organs will also be composted.
After plucking, it is a delicate procedure to remove the organs without cutting into the wrong part of the bird.
The heart and lungs proudly displayed (this is more difficult to do than it looks).
Once we got our two chickens home, they never made it into the fridge.
They went straight onto the grill for some Santa Maria style barbecue.
With some barbecued squash, beets and zuchinni from the garden and beans and rice, it tasted great, but the meat was really tough. We ended up shredding it into some stock we made with the necks and had some delicious chicken soup with "dinner."
My grandparents know how to slaughter a chicken. They respect food in a way that I hadn't quite comprehended, even though I grow a lot of our produce, until today. I enjoyed sharing the experience of slaughtering the roosters today with old and new friends. Its a strange thing to think of as being a great experience, joyful even, but there you have it. I am so grateful that I was able to eat a truly fresh chicken today, an experience that most city dwellers will never have.
At the same time, I don't think chicken will be on the menu quite so often as before for me. I'm not giving it up! But now that I know what goes into the humane treatment of these awesome creatures firsthand, it will be a lot harder for me to eat grocery store chicken. I knew all about poor factory conditions, fattened up birds unable to walk, and "free-range" chickens that get an hour in sunlight every day before. But after raising my own pullets and taking part in the processing today, I can't possibly justify eating a chicken that comes from who knows where. Maybe I am more affected than some would be because I have chickens...
I think it was best put by Ernest Howard Crosby in Tolstoy and his message:
"If we each had to butcher our own meat, there would be a great increase in the number of vegetarians."