Saturday, July 25, 2009
Hilary (and other committed vegetarians who read this blog), you may wish to plug your ears! (I guess that would be "shut your eyes.")
We took our meat birds (Cornish Crosses, if you wish to know) to be slaughtered this last week. The dual-purpose birds (i.e., good for both meat & egg-laying) won't go for another few weeks or so. And of course we'll be saving about a dozen birds for eggs only -- our hen house is really not large enough for any more adult birds to room together comfortably.
We had planned to do all the slaughtering ourselves, but experienced bird-dispatchers kept hearing the numbers involved (in the Cornish case, only 7) and saying, "Oh, you do NOT want to do all the set-up for a slaughter operation for that few birds! Don't do less than 50 at a time."
Furthermore, I found that Phinney Hatchery, the local place through whom we got our chicks, will do the slaughtering for you -- for a princely (get ready) $1.95 per bird! Wow, am I more than ready to let them do it for THAT price! So Monday night, Scott kindly caught all the meat birds for me, parceled them out in our two large dog kennels for the night (they aren't supposed to eat the night before their big ... um ... event), and the next morning I drove them into town. The workers at the Hatchery picked them up out of the kennels as smoothly and casually as anything -- no clumsiness like when I try to catch one! Two hours later I came back to a lovely box of plucked, dressed birds.
I thought I might be a little squeamish about eating birds we had raised -- that I might find it difficult, or like I was eating a "pet." But I found this not to be so. I had known from the beginning that this was the end plan for these birds--they never were my pets, always something I treated as livestock. I also felt that, as someone who does occasionally eat chicken, it's much more honest of me to be willing to see the process (well, ALMOST all the process) that to just pretend like they someone how raised from birth as tiny chicken tenders in cling-wrap. It also satsified me to know that their life (although, ahem, short) was full of good food, clean water, plenty of room to run, scraps from the garden and kitchen, sunlight, etc.
The children were remarkably unscathed by the process. Emily was enthusiastic about it from the time they were chicks. Mara has no idea what's going on here. Steven was briefly bothered, and wanted to know if they "ran around and squealed" when they were killed. I explained about the slaughter process, and the fact that the hatchery goes to pains to make it as quick as possible. I also reminded him that chicken McNuggets (which he thinks quite the luxury) were made of ... chicken. Just like the ones we raised. And I assured him that he certainly did not need to eat any of the chicken if he did not wish to. He fell too quite happily.
We roasted one chicken that evening. I have to admit it was the juciest thing (even minus all the injected saline) I've ever cooked. Not to mention tender and flavorful. I think it's worth it.