Cleanliness of skinned meat?


8 Years
I was processing some chickens the other day, a couple plucked and one skinned. Now, I'm far from a germophobe but I'm pretty safety conscious about food processing. I started to think about the fact that skinning a chicken was really exposing the meat to grossly contaminated, filthy feathers, there is really no possible way to get around this,especially with a Cornish X, but really any chicken, since feathers are inherently dirty. If you are going to skn a bird, you almost can't avoid getting stuff on the surface of the meat. Really, if you think about it, even the skin of the bird, after we pluck it has to be horribly contaminated with poo and bacteria and all we're doing by rinsing and chilling is hoping to avoid massive blooms of bad stuff. But when you're flinging around a dirty skin full of poop, peeling it off the body and trying to keep as much of it from touching the meat as possible, is that worse than plucking? Is it better or worse not to be dropped in a dirty tank of scalding water? I don't know.
For some reason, I just started thinking about this, maybe I was just seeing and smelling too many poopy Cornish X. There is no possible way to completely avoid bacterial contamination but I think I may pluck from now on, even if I'm not planning on using the chicken for roasting, unless it's destined for the pressure canner where the high temperatures will kill anything and everything. I don't know, I guess if it will be dog food meat it's probably still fine to skin since the dogs seem to be able to tolerate a pretty good load of bacteria compared to people.
Maybe it's just that I had a minor bout of food poisoning from a restaurant chicken dish recently and my stomach has been off for the past week because of it.
Has anybody else thought about this before? When skinning, how do you keep the meat clean and free from contamination?
Also, what steps do you take, overall to assure safe, clean meat? I rinse frequently, clean my work surfaces, knives and hands. Including washing my hands after handling/killing the chickens and before completing the cleaning process. I'm sure some people go through the whole process from catching the chicken through cleaning the carcass, in fact, I've never seen a video where somebody washed their hands after handling the live bird and then handled the meat.
Why is that? I mean, if you pet your dogs or go out to the barn you wash your hands before cooking dinner, don't you?
Am I being seriously weird about this?
you can rest the meat in clean ice and water with heavy apple cider vinegar to help clean. You can also us a mild bleach solution about 250 to one ratio while resting then just rinse off before cooking. it wil kill anything and does not traint the flavor. That is what they do at butcher shops but probably a little stronger truth be told.
If you were processing others with skins, and scalding and plucking... you can still scald a bird you choose to skin (unless it has a large wound and you don't want soapy scald water getting in it)

I find that the scalding process itself helps rid the feathers of poop, dirt, mites and anything else. It might help make the skinning process cleaner. I also always chill my birds in a chill tank of clean water. This helps get things off the birds before packaging, as sometimes in processing, you can still have a stray feather or anything else from the processing table stuck to the skin. The chill tank helps those things get rinsed off, as well. It's a good idea to chill the meat before you bag it, anyhow.

We only skin chickens on rare occasions, since they are so easy to pluck once scalded. But we do prefer to skin ducks - we still rinse them before skinning to rinse off any "stuff", and then we peel the skin back and fold it away as we skin, sort of tucking the feathers inside the skin as it is peeled, so it isn't flailing around. Much like we do when skinning "mutton" It keeps the feathers/wool from coming in direct contact with the meat. It takes some practice.
I am going to start using a mild bleach solution, I like that idea. I need to figure out a simple way to measure out my ratio to pour it into my tub.
Great ideas here, let's continue thinking about them. I mean, clean, safe meat is a big reason to raise our own food, isn't it?
I need a bigger scalding pot, too, one that can go on my propane grill. Any recommendations? Tamale pot, canning pot?
standard turkey fryer is probably the cheapest and best. it would have to be a big burner on a grill to heat a 30qt or larger scaling pot.
Hi Tracydr,

I've thought about this too (a lot, as I usually skin). And I reckon it's nothing to worry about. In fact, I still think skinning is less germy! I'll get to my reasoning on that later, but in the meantime, the seriously bad germs that often inhabit chickens are destroyed during cooking. Salmonella is a good example of something quite easily destroyed if meat is cooked properly.

In fact I think there's nothing that makes a chicken worse to eat skinned than a pig or a rabbit or a cow unless cooking is improper, or the meat is actually spoiled (which is a storage issue and can happen with other meats).

Now for some simple logic. As I see it, if you leave the skin on, that skin has been in contact with all sorts of nasties. Aren't you therefore eating more of the germs if you don't skin? In other words, if contamination of the meat by skin was an issue then the skin would be more dangerous to eat than meat. Clearly it isn't. Chicken skin is absolutely delicious and no more dangerous than any other part of the bird as long as it's cooked.

Some more thoughts, sorry about the long waffle (and all the bolding... Just wanted to pick out salient points). When you cut into a bird to eviscerate it, you're effectively contaminating part of its meat (and cavity) with external germs. When a plucked bird is washed or put into an ice slurry, there are plenty of external germs being washed through the cavity. Then of course we cut head and legs off, so they're places where the meat is being partially contaminated too. And very often a plucked chicken's skin can tear too, or you might find the odd feather hiding in the cavity. Supermarket chickens are chilled in a slurry with extremely high bacterial counts (that would never occur at home unless one was really sloppy). None of these things matter if storage and cooking are done properly.

Here's my reasoning on why I feel it's more hygenic to skin. The faster the processing time, the less germs have a chance to reproduce to toxic levels in meat. Basically the sooner you get that bird on ice the better. And the fact is, skinning makes the whole thing so much quicker than plucking. I get birds on ice on average 7 minutes after they were alive. I defy any germ to cause spoilage under those conditions (even if I've nicked the intestine by accident).

There are other precautions of course. I use a fast flowing hose and use it liberally. I never put that skinned meat surface down on anything that hasn't been well sluiced first (the table is scrubbed before the first bird and after the last one, then dried in the sun). I wash down every so often as I go, and I have the table on a slight slope so when I angle the bird a certain way the germiest parts (e.g. guts, or the tail area skin) are carried away from the carcass, not toward it. I rinse my hands frequently as I go and I rinse the knife thoroughly too. When I remove livers etc for keeping, I rinse these straight away and bag and chill them at once. My garden hose is strapped to a beam so it overhangs the table, and it has a lever-nozzle so I simply press with the back of my hand to let water come gushing where it needs to go.

A final thorough rinse is all you need. Lift the bird and rinse it in the air so none of the meat touches anything else. Then rinse and pop in the bag for chilling. It's clean and simple and fast.

The other day I forgot about some chicken livers I was thawing to make pate. In another life I would have chucked them out when I found them 24 hours later (still faintly cool but not cold), and if they'd been supermarket livers I'd have been mad to contemplate using them. But I knew how carefully I'd got those livers out of the bird and how clean they'd been. The new daring me smelled them, thought they smelled not only fresh but good, and used them to make the best pate ever.

So those are my thoughts... Or is it a rant? Hard to tell these days, but I hope it's grist for your mill.


Took me so long to write this, Oregon Blues said it all...
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We always skin. And we've eaten many skinned birds. We're all healthy... I think proper cooking methods are more important then skining vs plucking.

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