In our personal journey to understand meat production and challenge ourselves to truly “know our food”, we are big fans of backyard chickens. Not only do they gift our family with the most nourishing eggs on the planet (radiant orange yolks, thick shells, unbelievable flavor), they also provide us with endless entertainment as they frequently get themselves into trouble. Just the other day I came home from work to find all of our chickens in the front yard being chased by a fat cat.
We have had our flock of backyard ladies for a year and I can say that it has been one of my favorite additions to our home! What might seem intimidating to some, is actually incredibly hands off and self sustaining. In my experience raising a flock of chickens is easier than gardening, composting, and brewing kombucha! Its something that everyone should experience and an incredibly rewarding way to produce your own food!
In the spirit of being a conscious carnivore, Katie and I have decided to slaughter a handful of our backyard birds. Its never easy, but I find that the experience gives us a greater respect and appreciation of the animals that provide nourishing food for our bodies. The act of backyard butchery might seem complicated and laborious, but its actually very simple and something that every chicken consuming omnivore should experience. We had our Director of Operations, Kirk Blanchard slaughter one of his backyard birds last week so that we could provide you with the confidence and basic skill set to become amateur butchers (like us).
The first thing to remember, is that we all have deep rooted (often dormant) genetics that provide us with instinct and intuition to perform butchery. Our ancestors used stones, sticks, and primitive tools. Grab a sharp knife, and trust yourself. Step one is to harvest your bird. I prefer using a hatchet to quickly remove the head. The best method here is to hold your chicken in one hand and gently turn the bird on its side. This position will calm your chicken down and allow you a quick direct swing to its neck. Once the head is off, keep holding the bird and invert its body. The chicken will continue to move, and these reflexive contractions help the animal bleed out.
Next, bring a large pot of water to boiling temperature. Turn off the heat and submerge the chicken into the hot water. Allow the bird to be submerged for 90 seconds while agitating the water. After removal, you will be able to easily pluck the feathers out. This part takes the longest, but its one of the most interesting and rewarding.
Once the chicken is fully plucked, I remove the feet. You can simply cut them off with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Cut at the knee joint and save these feet for a broth! Next, start cutting down the front of the neck (make sure all your cuts are superficial, as you want to avoid puncturing any organs). Continue your cut down to the base of the breast, from here you will use your finger to break apart cartilage and connective tissue that envelops the crop, esophagus, and trachea.
Once completed with the cranial part of the chicken, make a precision cut around the cloaca. This is another superficial cut that surrounds the entire cloaca. From here, make another small cut up the abdomen. You are now free to use your finger and breakup the connective tissue that holds the intestines in place. Once free, you will be able to pull out the entire digestive system in one single piece! Make sure to save the heart, gizzard, and liver to add to your broth.
From here, you need to rinse your beautiful bird and start seasoning her to your liking! This will be the most delicious (and healthy) chicken you have ever prepared so invite some good friends over to share your story and honor this amazing animal.
For those of you attending Paleo F(x) this year, Kirk and Taylor will be performing a live chicken slaughtering and butchery on Saturday, May 28th at 10:00am on the main cooking stage. We will walk you through the entire process and provide greater detail in a user friendly step by step session! Connect with your food and be a conscious carnivore. See you there.