I know I have a lot of vegetarian friends, so I want you to know up front that I'm going to be talking about harvesting meat. Skip this post if you need to, but rest assured, there are no photos, hopefully, that will be offensive.
It's been a busy week since I last checked in here on the blog. Over the weekend, Ted and I had a spur-of-the-moment opportunity to join with two other families to buy some Cornish cross show chickens from local FFA students. The students had finished with the chickens and the birds needed to be sold and harvested. It was a great chance to fill the freezer with meat we knew a little bit about-- not organic, but well cared for and harvested humanely.
A couple of years ago, we raised our own chickens for meat and harvested them ourselves for the first time. It was a steep learning curve, but that experience turned out to be useful to us and to these two other families who wanted the same skills, in the effort of feeding their families.
We don't take this job lightly. We appreciate the cost. It costs us, too - harvesting chickens is an exhausting, sobering job, but I'm coming to know that there's a lot more integrity in looking your dinner in the eye, than in chowing down on anonymous processed protein that presumably was once alive. Not everyone can or even wants this responsibility--it's definitely not for everyone--but as quasi-homesteaders, this makes sense to us. Five adults and occasionally a kid or two processed 60 chickens in about five hours. Time was not on our side, as we had to start late, and worked until after the sun went down. The birds ranged from over four pounds to about seven pounds - they felt like small turkeys! This harvest will feed us for a good long time. It's a very physical job, and I was really wiped out the next day.
For some people seeking a life closer to its origins, and whose lifestyle is intentional and omnivorous, I've posted some of the photos of our day on my Flickr page. Also, here's the link to Herrick Kimball's website, where we learned everything we know about processing chickens. We've adapted his techniques because we don't pluck our chickens, but all the basic information is there.
This opportunity will come around again next year when the Future Farmers of America students have their chickens ready to harvest. Let me know if you'd like to learn more.
I'm trying very hard to pay closer attention to my food, which is a challenge in this culture of convenience. Join me?