I never ever, EVER thought I would be doing what I did yesterday.
And I am REALLY proud of myself for stepping up to the plate and doing it.
Did I tell you that when I was younger, I couldn’t sink my hands into a bowl of ground meat?
I mean, if I made burgers for my family,
I WORE GLOVES.
Yellow kitchen gloves.
Raw chicken breast grossed me out even more, and when they began to put turkey burger into those little tubes, I will admit, the first time I used one I barely made it through the process without yakking into our turkey lasagna.
And now here I am.
Thanks to my dear friend Chelsea, of Kleine’s Country Farm and Mini-Bales I just spent a morning helping her butcher a flock of chickens.
Now, because I know some of you are squeamish,
I didn’t bring my camera.
And in retrospect, that was probably a good thing, because I am not sure I would have been able to handle it while doing all the things we are doing.
Or that, in retrospect, pictures would have been the best thing ever…..
But after that whole experience, I am quite sure of two things that happened to me during that time.
Number one, I have a heck of a lot more respect for not only the chicken that I eat, but for the people who do this every day for a job, like the Handy Hubby. While he does not have to take it from the farm to the table, he has to start from a not-very-pretty carcass and move it from there to what people think of as chicken they bring home to the table.
As to the chicken, while I am now thoroughly convinced these chickens were not the smartest chickens in the world (they sat in the wagon right next to the kill table…and no one had any issues with that for over four hours while they disappeared one at a time from the wagon)….it was not only eye-opening, but humbling to walk through the entire process from start to finish.
As the group of wonderful people (Hi to Amy, John, Mark, and Rick!) and I talked about during the whole process, so many people are beginning to forget that when the meat you eat appears in the grocery store on those little trays, it wasn’t just magically made in the back of the store. With my husband being a meat cutter full time now, and off and on over the last 17 years, he has had the craziest, and silliest questions and demands from people over the years. I could, and have, told stories that are hard to believe, because they frankly, are just incredible. For example, YES, there are people that believe, or tell their kids, that chicken nuggets grow on trees. Or YES, there are people who have no concept of how a chicken starts in a barn or a farm yard, and goes from there to the little sanitary plastic foam tray that they purchase it on in the grocery store, and come to meat cutters with the craziest demands and questions on how the animal was treated or placed on the tray.
And that brings me to the second thing I not only learned, but wish more people would think about.
In generations past, people kept chickens.
In their backyards.
In their basements or garages.
They knew what to do, and how to do it quickly, to take that chicken from egg layer, or gangly pullet straight to the table. From life…to death…to give life.
Instead, we have become such a sanitized culture, keeping those things, and processes away from the sight of our kids, away from the sight of the general population, that we have forgotten the beginning of the story, before we deal with the end result.
And that is a shame.
Butchering chickens is not, in any way, a pretty picture. But it is a process that can be done quickly, humanely, and with a thankfulness for the meal the chicken is providing for my family. While I am quite sure that my great-grandmother, who raised many children by herself after being left alone with a baby in arms and no husband to provide for hungry mouths, did the same thing I was doing yesterday…I am also quite sure she was not only more confident in doing it, but more desperate to make it work. She didn’t have the modern conveniences that we had yesterday, such as a chicken plucker, or water hose to help keep things clean. She didn’t have a modern barn with all its conveniences, or a turkey fryer to scald the chicken and keep things at the perfect temperature to make the work smooth and quick. She most likely had the crudest means available, and a lot of hungry kids watching from the windows or porch of the house. Possibly even a toddler hanging on her skirts while she did it, because she had no choice.
But she had to feed her family.
Â She knew what it took to take that chickenÂ
from the coop to the table.
Those skills are quickly being lost, and there are a whole lot of folks, just like me yesterday, who had no idea where to start and end. And I understand now why people had a lot more veggies, fruits, and nuts in their diets than they do today….all because it is a challenging thing to take the life of any animal to sustain your own. Â
Food for thought? Yes… yes it is.
And now for a lighthearted moment for you all.
Â My friend Chelsea kept giggling on and off through parts of the morning. I finally asked her why later, because I could tell whatever it was had really tickled her funny bone. Turns out that one of the young men present was talking about a course where he had been trained in using a broomstick to dispatch a rabbit, which is an accepted and mostly humane practice for many folks that raise rabbits. (I personally use the Rabbit Wringer, but that is another blog post for another day.) She had never heard of that before, and had vague visions of this delightful and energetic group of young men chasing chickens around a field with a broomstick, playing chicken baseball, in an attempt to dispatch them.
I laughed until I cried.
Then I explained it to her, and the lightbulb went on,
and she laughed even more.
I am still giggling this morning thinking about it, frankly because these were pretty big chickens, and once she explained it,
I began to think about it too.
Laughter really is the best medicine. 🙂
Nice that after a day of doing a bunch of things you had never done before, you could actually teach someone something you actually knew about. Even if it is a little thing.
So let me encourage you, if you are given the opportunity to help someone dispatch chickens, rabbits, any farm animal at all, set your squeamishness aside, and step up to the plate.
Who knows? You might be facing a time in the next few years that you not only want to know how to do it, but you NEED to know.
Part of learning to take care of yourself and your family, is having not only the knowledge, but the experience to do it. I am reminded of a scene in the series Jericho, where the smartly-dressed IRS lady from Washington, DC is sitting on a stump talking to the chicken she needs to butcher. Nothing could be further from her circle of experience, but as she says to the chicken:
Â “I’m hungry, and you and I talked about this egg-laying thing.”.
Â She ends up conquering her fears…and the chicken…
and after yesterday,
I totally understand where she was coming from.
Blessings to you and yours,