A couple weeks ago I mentioned our New Hampshire hosts’ chicken slaughter and promised more detail for those of you thirsty for blood. This is the account of the first batch. 20 more were killed last weekend.
Campbell accused me of sadism for asking for the details. It’s not sadism. Humans are omnivores and that means meat and that means death and killing. I believe it’s responsible to be informed and to get over whatever squeamishness I have if I’m going to continue to eat it.
And so, more from Campbell:
Preparation is the first step. Water must be warmed to 140 degrees, weapons of slaughter must be sharpened and ready, a block for beheading must be set up, twine with which to tie the deceased to a tree and allow them to bleed and wits must be mustered.
The second — and arguably most mentally taxing — step is selection. Man must play God as he chooses which birds are worthy of continuing their lives and which are not. Having selected a bird each, Josh and I made our ways to the front yard, right on the corner so everyone could see, where our station had been setup.
Now is slaughter. The first bird was manual — hands breaking the neck. Either the chicken had an adamantine skeletal system or Josh did not do it correctly. The bird remained intact and upset. After 20 seconds of trying, Josh put the chicken on the stump and cut its head off with a cleaver chop.
I took the next bird, starting with the cleaver. Unfortunately, a combination of a loose blade and a faulty swing left the chicken with a massive gash in its neck, but a head still on its shoulders. It took two more swipes to remove the head.
The four other birds were executed old school: an ax to the neck. While holding one of the birds for Josh, the blood pumped out of the chicken and onto my face. After losing their heads, the eyes remained open as did the mouths. Some of the birds continued a breathing motion to no avail. They looked like freedivers returning to the water’s surface, greedy for air. The bodies were much livelier. Whoever held the chicken while the other cut it would pull the body away and hold it upside down while the headless bird flapped and spewed blood everywhere. After, the corpse was hung on a branch to continue bleeding.
Blanching is next. The birds were dipped into water heated to 140 degrees by a propane heater. Having been bathed for 30 seconds, the body returns to hanging and is plucked.
Plucking takes as much time as all other steps combined. Rather than plucking the smallest feathers, we burned them off in the fire.
Then we eviscerated the birds, my favorite step. Josh and I took them to an outdoor table where we removed their feet, crop, oil secreting gland and intestines. To remove the feet is easy and fun, simply hold them and cut through the knee joint. The crop is located in the neck and was loaded with the food the chickens had been eating. Because we had decided to do this last minute, the birds had been eating earlier, although we should not have let. After the crop has been pulled from the neck, one cuts off the oil gland with two triangular cuts above the anus. To remove the innards, we had to carefully pinch the anus and cut around it, then pull out all the innards through the newly enlarged asshole. We kept the hearts and livers and tossed everything else.
With the six bodies cleaned out, they look like grocery store meat, but are nowhere near as clean. Josh and I brought them inside and spent about half an hour washing them and another half hour plucking the missed feathers.
In all it took about three hours to prepare the six birds, having only 2 people, except when we had 5 during partially plucking.
Later I found pin feathers in my drumstick. That made me very ill at ease — a reminder that the meat was once an animal. They tasted like chicken.