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,




Chicken Processing, Part One

Warning: This post includes words about the evisceration of birds. Its kinda gross, and maybe not your thing. Intentionally not posting any pictures.

So, this past Saturday, I processed some chickens. 

What does that mean, you ask? It means that I got very well acquainted with the parts of the chicken you do not get at the grocery store. 

I feel I should back up and explain what got me to the point at which I could reach inside the cavity of a chicken, gloveless, and pull out its innards. 

Let’s start from the beginning.

My entire life, I have been terrified of taxidermy. Dead things pretending to be alive. I can’t look at it, I can’t walk by it, I can’t think about it too long.  This has resulted in a semi-love/hate relationship with meat, because, I mean, it’s dead animal in smaller parts. 

Two years ago, I could barely handle touching raw chicken breasts long enough to toss them in the oven to bake, let alone thinking about it even more to realize that someone else had removed it from, you know, a whole chicken. Therefore, I ate rice and beans quite often.

Then, I moved to China, and the restaurant supply shop next door to my apartment took care of their chickens on a nightly basis, and I heard it all. Squawk, chop. They would hang upside down in the window, and customer would pick up their naked but still quite whole chicken (head and feet included). I got used to it. 

Next, I discovered The Brain Scoop on YouTube. Its about an intern in a natural history museum, and all the things she dissects. Its fascinating, incredibly educational, and features animal guts on a regular basis. Emily, the host of this show, has an admirable respect for these animals and all that she learns from them (don’t worry they are humanely acquired). 

I was getting very used to the fact that animals come whole. Imagine that.

Finally, I moved to Boston to do this Food Justice thing, and I read a lot of books about factory farming and giant toxic pools of poop, and other gross things that I will let you educate yourself about. I started buying chickens from small farms. And it hit me, these animals have to be alive for a while before I can eat them. But first they have to go from alive to dead. I decided that if couldn’t handle that process, then I should not be eating them.

So I went to a processing. 

Next post: me elbow deep in a bird, bursting bile sacks, and lots of gizzards.

Thanks for reading, 


An Education


When my parents got married, they honeymooned in Boston in the fall. I was eight, and I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. We had trees in Kansas, and just like in New England, they change colors and fall.

I have now found the difference is that New England is a bit showy about it. They have more trees that turn more colors, and there is even an tour industry built around “leaf peepers” making their way north for the view of rolling hills and picturesque barns with a pond gleaming in the afternoon sun. 

See, showy. 

But I am learning to appreciate New England for more than its landscapes. There are many things for me to learn about this part of the good ol’ US of A,  and I feel I might as well give you a few priceless nuggets of knowledge I have since gained in my six weeks in Boston. 

  • A water fountain is called a bubbler ( hear: bubblah).
  • There aren’t many street signs. There aren’t many straight streets. They aren’t many streets that keep the same name. Good Luck.  
  • Bowling is with three tiny balls and pins that are so skinny you are designed to fail.

See, practically native. 

There’s plenty more pertaining to my work that I am learning as well.  

Beyond becoming a better pioneer 150 years too late by making my own applesauce or understanding the ins and out of composting, I am becoming educated on agribusiness, food stamps, factory farms, non-profit land, GMOs, food deserts, biodiversity, urban farming, sustainable farming, vermiculture, and food in/security. And there is so much more for me to find out. 



Tomato Guts Are Everywhere

We’re learning to cook. We are learning to cook everything. When I say we, I mean myself and my three other roommates. As mostly recent college kids with very little foodie experience beyond rice, pasta, veggies and ordering pizza, this is a big deal. 

Today we made spaghetti sauce. Tomatoes all over. We made bread too, much simpler.

Tuesday we cooked a whole chicken, and one of my roommates got very well acquainted with the innards of said chicken. 

Thursday we made chicken stock from the chicken we devoured earlier in the week. Main ingredient: chicken carcass. 

Everyday we cut up lots and lots of vegetables, and try and figure out how they can become more interesting. Solution: butter.

I made some lentil patties. They were fancy french lentil patties. I don’t know why. 

Last week we made raspberry jam. We canned it, yeah I know, and then gathered around the pot each armed with a spoon because we could not waste any of our delicious jam.

We picked the raspberries at a local orchard. I may have sneaked a few for a snack. 

We have made Kale Chips twice. It is my preferred method of eating the never ending supply of leafy green that is Kale. There’s always Kale. 

I work in food prep at the kitchen at Women’s Lunch Place. I chopped carrots for two hours, then moved onto pears, chives, onions, and celery. I have a blister on my palm from all the chopping, and the head chef was so excited he gave me a high five and told me to show off my “kitchen wound”. My dedication to chopping was rewarded with a cookie that had a brownie on the inside. I did not help make these genius cookies (my two favorite desserts in one) , but I sure did enjoy eating it. 

And here is our weekly batch of fresh and local ingredients


10 Things I have done since leaving Kansas

10. Ridden in a van with a driver from Jersey who almost drove away from the airport with the back door still wide open.  Twelve people and all their stuff for a year almost tumbled out to the roads of Newark Airport. Not to be out done, about 30 miles later,  he backed out of an exit ramp. We were halfway up when he realized it was the wrong one, so he just put it in reverse.

9. Ate Kale, lots of kale. Orientation was at a nice conference center in New York. They had their own gardens, fed us from these gardens, and this included kale and cucumbers and lettuce and colorful tomatoes and green beans. 

8. Met 70 people all doing what I am doing in other places around the world. My facebook friends have increased quite nicely after my week in New York with like minded and a little crazy young adults all serving for a year. 

7. Heard “You’re not in Kansas anymore” fifty billion times. 

6. Walked and biked around half of Boston with my incredibly active and very enthusiastic Site Coordinator. We four YAVS (Young Adult Volunteers) followed her around Harvard and MIT and Cambridge and the Commons and food trucks and the FREEDOM TRAIL and to the top of a tower with 294 steps and downtown and to a concert on the river. All in one day. Oi. 

5. Saw a lot of famous dead people’s homes or graves, which ever was closer. Emerson, Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Hawthorne, Paul Revere, Sam Adams, Ezra Diggle son of Ezra Diggle. 

4. Saw a Lighthouse in real life for the first time. It was on top of a very big hill, looking down on the Hudson River. It was very cool. (Disclaimer: we don’t have lighthouses in KS or CO, and I have no memory of ever making a big deal out of seeing one ever before in my lifetime. I did not say that I did not know or understand the concept of a lighthouse.)

3. Saw my apartment, the neighborhood, the sites around, but have not yet been allowed to move in. I and my housemates will get the privilege of moving into our new home the same weekend as 125,000 other people because the 60 some colleges found in Boston all begin classes this week. 

2. Picked my own fruit and learned how to can it for preservation. Its a hot and precise art that allows for such pleasures as raspberry jam. We are pretty excited about the jam. 

1. Learned that, as a part of the Food Justice aspect of my year of service, I will be eating local for the next five months. LOCAL. No food grown outside the north east. (Except ETHICALLY produced coffee, rice and nuts). This will be a fascinating challenge and I am taking you all with me. 

Next up, work starts on Tuesday, Vermont this weekend, Maine next month, and a very excited Audrey. 

Thanks for reading, 



To Do List

I leave for my year in Boston in FIVE DAYS!

Here is my To Do List before those five days are up. 

1. Laundry
2. Pack
3. Repack because nothing fits right the first time.
4. Bake a pie
5. Go to my sister’s wedding where said pie will be eaten at the reception
6. Talk about China to my fabulous church twelve hours before I get on a plane for the east coast. 
7. Panic
8. Ask people to help fund my year in Boston.
9. Ask other people, and their friends because I need $3000 by September 1st. 
10. Read the required books for my year in Boston.
11. Drink all the coffee because none of this is getting done if I waste time sleeping
12. Say thank you to all the people who help me do all of these amazing things.

BUT, you heard me. I was given the goal by the Boston Food Justice Program to have all my money in (or pledged) by September 1st. I know it is fast, but if you were considering helping me out with this amazing opportunity, please do. Here is all the information again. 

Please make out checks to Presbytery of Boston with BFJYAV Program and my name (Audrey Holt) in the memo line, and then send them to:

BFJYAV Program c/o Maggie Holmesheoran
Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church 
155 Power House BLVD
Somerville MA 02144

Thanks again, Boston here I come.

Moving On

Okay. I have been back in the states for a week now, and I just want to thank everyone for your support and prayers and thoughts and whatnot that truly helped me get home from China safely.

The flight, with a stop-over in the fine country of Qatar (five bucks if you can find it on a map), went just fine, and I was home safe and sound last Monday night.

I have been fighting jetlag and a cold/allergies all week.I keep accidentally taking three hour naps instead of doing anything productive, and I have a lot to do because things are about to change…again.

I will no longer be abroad, but don’t you worry, I will keep blogging right here.

Boston Breakdown

I will be in Boston for the next year (August 2013-August 2014), working with the Young Adult Volunteer Program (YAV) through the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), and boy do they like their acronyms.

I will specifically be working in areas of Food Justice at Women’s Lunch Place.  At this point, I am not entirely sure what my responsibilities will be beyond working with women and finding good food, and I can update you fine folks once I learn these facts.  Until then I just want you to know that I will be in Boston, and the rest is dandy and mysterious. Isn’t that the best way to live life?

To do this program I have to raise $3000 for the year. (This is where I ask you for money.) If you think this any sort of thing that you would like to support, just let me know. If you want to pray for me or encourage me, that would be great too.

Make the checks out to the Presbytery of Boston and Send checks to:
BFJYAV Program c/o Maggie Holmesheoran
Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church
155 Power House BLVD
Somerville MA 02144

Please put my name and BFJYAV in the memo line!

Here is a video to give you more of an idea of where I will be working. I think good things are ahead.

Thanks for reading,


News, Good and Bad and Some about Boston


At this point we all know that I happened to misplace my passport in a location that caused an evil taxi driver to steal it and some money and my bag and my Bible and my clothes and my toothbrush.  

It has been a little bit of a nightmare getting it replaced, and hopefully it will all be taken care of by the end of the week. 

I have been crying and freaking out for the past three weeks, so here is where I keep asking you to just pray. Pray that it all goes smoothly, and that I get my visa in order to get out of this country on July 15th. 

I just want to go home.


Upon my eventual return to the good ol’ US of A, I am happy to say that I have plans, at least for the next year of my life. 

I’m going to Boston!

I will be doing a year of service with Young Adult Volunteers in Boston. I will be working at a women’s food bank, helping out with pretty much whatever I can. I will also be living in a community house sharing life, spiritually and otherwise, with other people in my program. This is an amazing and crazy opportunity that came out of no where, but it feels pretty perfect. 

I leave August 19th. What am I thinking? That’s a month after I get back from Chinalands. But I am PUMPED. 

I will keep blogging around these parts, to keep you all updated on my next adventure, (granted I get out of China), so don’t worry, the shenanigans will continue.

So that’s my news. 

Thanks for reading, 


Rainy Season Brings Out the Bugs

We don’t have Spring time here in this part of China or really seasons at all. We have hot, humid and rainy. And it is the time of year in which all three have come out to play. Its a delight. I find myself with sweat dripping down my nose as I teach the kids about prepositions, and they ask me if I am okay because I look like a wet cocker spaniel instead of a respectable teacher.

The curly hair has gone into a permanent braid, I double time the deodorant, and just sweat out every ounce of water I drink throughout the day. 

Let’s just say I was not made for this climate. 

On the upside, however, are the constant thunderstorms. Reminds me of home. 

Another down side are the bugs. They, turns out, don’t like the rain much. So they come on inside. And then the small children I teach don’t like the bugs much.

In fact, just this Monday, I had five children screaming at the top of their lungs because a few (massive) bugs had found their way inside of our classroom. It was around seven pm and we had the windows open because otherwise we would have suffocated from the humidity. The lights in the classroom attracted a certain kind of bug that were smart enough to fly directly into the light, but big enough that it only seemed to injure them. 

Then the kids noticed these poor bugs flying aimlessly around the room with semi melted wings, and screamed bloody murder right into my ears. Then they ran into the corner of the room, each protecting themselves with the stools on which they had been sitting. It was hilarious. It was as if I was watching the children’s version of Shaun of the Dead, which would of course have only Kpop on its soundtrack.

The kids continued screaming until I beat the insect to death with the children’s book we were supposed to be reading. Then they laughed and sat back down only for yet another bug to fly in and ruin our time. Rinse and repeat four times. FOUR TIMES.  

We found a snail at the middle school. There was a spider the size of something way to big to be a spider in my room. Then there was the cockroach that fell on my bed. I don’t want to talk about it. 

So many new experiences, so little time. 

Thanks for reading, 


PS I will leave you with a delightful view that reminds me that I have it pretty alright.Image