Chicken Processing, Part Two

So, its 6:45 in the morning. The sun is barely awake, and there I am sipping coffee and eating a piece of blueberry cake as a kind lady by the name of Jen is explaining the agenda.

In a day full of processing chickens, one processes chickens until there are no more chickens. Then you clean. Then you eat. Then you leave.

Seems simple enough, right?

So we wander over to the mobile poultry processing unit, a truck with all the pieces of  processing equipment that can be rented out to small farms around Massachusetts that do not have enough space/money for a permanent one.

Jen does a pretty quick demonstration with a bird, which she calls “hefty”, and I have now seen exactly two chickens being eviscerated (the night before I had a little youtube viewing session as homework).  I grab an apron, a knife, some pliers and head over to my station because now I am apparently an expert.

Just my luck, one of the few remaining work stations is next to the beheading and foot removal.

So I grab my first hefty bird, they are apparently breed to be chunky, and stare at it for a few minutes. I pretend that it is covered in feathers that I must remove before anything else can be, you know, cut open. They guy next to me is very eager, and just dives right in, but I am still hesitant. I am moving so slowly that Mr. Beheading Man on the other side of me grabs my knife, cuts a perfect hole around the bird’s “vent” (you can guess what that is from the smell coming out of it), hands the knife back to me and says “your turn.”

I reach my hand inside and begin removing the guts.

I take out the intestines, detach the gizzard and save it for later. I pull out the heart, and it goes in its own bucket, as does the liver, First, the liver has to be detached from the bile sack. The bile sack is full of green slime, and if it breaks, it gets everywhere. It’s gross and awful and I break it on every chicken I process. Then come the sponge-y lungs, the trachea, the esophagus, and the crop (whatever that is.) Rinse inside and out, put away. The end.

And that is how I process my first chicken.

I did that about twenty more times, and I found out that chickens only have one kidney, they use rocks to help digest their food inside the gizzard (because they don’t have teeth, duh), and their pooh smells terrible inside and out.

Then, I did a turkey. Its the same, just bigger.

Then I watched a guy named Pete hang the birds upside down in a cone, slit their throats, let them thrash and bleed out, dunk them in a hot water bath and de-feather them.

Then, I washed my hands twenty-two times.

But I did it.

The whole day with no vomiting, no passing out, no crying.

I went home and showered immediately, but the rest of the day, I could still smell the faint aroma of chicken feces, and I was afraid that I would smell that for the rest of my life.

Instead, I came away with a pretty weird experience, a new appreciation for small farming, and a very strong perspective on the consequences of killing something in order to eat it.

Thanks for reading,




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