Processing: Quality Control?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by V-NH, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. V-NH

    V-NH Chirping

    Mar 24, 2013
    New Hampshire
    I processed for the first time last Thursday with some close friends who also had no experience doing it. It went relatively smoothly, but slowly. We processed 25 birds in 5 hours with six people working various stations. I thought it was going to be terrible, but it was actually extremely easy and I didn't feel any nervousness or hesitation after the first one. I worked every station at various times throughout the day and I feel like I have a strong grasp on exactly how to do it for batch number two. I am concerned about eating batch number one, though. Here are a few concerns about quality control that I was hoping someone could address:

    1) Given that I was going from station to station, I went from touching live chickens, to scalded chickens, to gutted chickens and even packaged some. Is it possible that I contaminated some of the meat by doing this?

    2) The scalding water turned brown after 3-5 chickens, which resulted in me replacing it and a sizable amount of downtime. How long can scalding water actually be used before dumping it and replacing it? As a note, I used a propane fueled turkey fryer to scald.

    3) Some of my assistants were less than stellar at plucking. I tried to do some degree of quality control at the end of the process, but I am certain that I missed many pin feathers. Is this going to make the chicken unedible?

    4) Other assistants were less than stellar at the evisceration process. When I was packaging up chickens, I found a couple with lungs still inside and I found one where the vent was still attached but the intestines and other organs had been completely removed. In other words, they had detached the intestines from the vent. Do mistakes like this make the chicken inedible? I am mildly concerned about E. coli contamination.

    5) Ultimately, the entire process just felt dirty. I realize that killing and gutting animals is not a clean endeavor, but I felt like there were times that I should have completely sterilized my hands, knives, and workspace before moving on. Instead, I simply settled for spraying stuff off with the hose. At some juncture in the middle, what seemed like an entire nest of wasps arrived and I had to spend 20 minutes killing all of them before my assistants would come back and help again. Later, I accidentally squeezed one while I was opening it up and it sprayed poop all over one of my helpers. Is there any way to make the process more sanitary, or should I simply not worry about it?

    Right now all of my processed chickens are sitting in ziplock bags in my chest freezer waiting to be eaten. I just feel like I need some affirmation from people that know more about this process before I start digging in [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  2. SIMZ

    SIMZ Crowing

    Apr 29, 2011
    Northwest Indiana
    First of all, congratulations on your first processing!

    I think it's completely normal (at least if you're a borderline germophobe like me!) to feel that it was gross, dirty, and resulted in inedible meat. :)

    The chickens should be just fine in all of the questions you had. Remove the missed vent and lungs, but the chicken will be fine. I always do a final check for things like that and finish with a good rinse before finishing their resting at 40 degrees or below. It's hard to get every pinfeather, so get what you can. The meat will be fine from that, too.

    You can make it more sanitary by having hot soapy water to wipe up yuck with. Clean your table well every 5-10 chickens if you want. Clean up any poop that spills with bleach or something similar. Wash your hands well before moving to a new station. Just the fact that you're concerned about sanitation is going to result in safer meat.

    One of the biggest things you can do is to make sure your bird goes from living to 40 degrees as quickly as possible. Cook it to a safe temperature as well. That way, even if there is a mistake and something happens, the bacteria won'tt have a chance to multiply and cause problems.
  3. Elke Beck

    Elke Beck Songster

    Jun 24, 2011
    Sunny So Cal
    The butchering process is not neat and clean, and is never going to be. As long as you rinse the carcass well, chill it quickly and keep it refrigerated below 40 degrees you should be fine. If you think your processing is bad, just remember that commercially processed chickens are dumped into a tank of chlorinated water and tumbled around to share any feces and bacteria with all the other chickens. It makes your processing sound squeaky clean.

    On plucking, removing the pin feathers seems easier to me when I wait until after the chicken has rested. I have never had anyone get sick from eating a pin feather.

    I use disposable vinyl gloves during processing so that I don't have to keep washing my hands every time I get something on them. I can just peel off the soiled gloves, put on a new pair and I am back in business with clean hands. I also keep kitchen wipes on hand so that I can do a quick sanitizing if anything spills or leaks. But none of this is necessary to produce healthy meat -- it just makes me feel better.

    You and your assistants did a good job, and you should be proud of what you have achieve.
  4. bigredfeather

    bigredfeather Songster

    Oct 1, 2008
    Yorkshire, Ohio
    First thing I will say is your chickens have to have E coli in order for it to be an issue. If your birds where raised in sanitary conditions, it's likely not present. That doesn't mean you can go about it haphazardly, but it should make you feel better.

    The scalding water is going to get dirty unless your birds are really clean. I've noticed pasture raised birds are generally cleaner than ones raised on bedding. Not sure how you did yours, but that is one way to fix this.

    Pin feathers - I always go over mine really well before they get packaged. If you wait until the next day to package, you'll find your eye will catch things you missed during the actual process.

    If you take away their feed for 18-24 hours prior to processing, you'll find they have less feces in them which can make things cleaner during the process.
  5. Triple Willow

    Triple Willow Songster

    Mar 1, 2013
  6. V-NH

    V-NH Chirping

    Mar 24, 2013
    New Hampshire
    I just processed for the second time today. I tried something different and I was pleased with how much time it saved. I only defeathered the wings and legs, which I then cut off and packed up together. I then skinned the breast area and cut the breasts off for "boneless skinless chicken breast." I didn't have to do any gut removal at all, so this ended up saving me loads of time. The only downside was that I had a lot more to bury when I was done. Thoughts on this method?
  7. ChocolateMouse

    ChocolateMouse Crowing

    Jul 29, 2013
    Cleveland OH
    I think that method wastes a lot of good soup/broth/canning meat. :3 Chicken broth from rib cages and backs is the best.

    Here's something that I do with rabbits. I have processed every animal this way.

    Get a bucket. Fill with 3G water and 3TBSP bleach. Fill another, smaller bucket with clean water. Between everything, swish hands, tools, knives, everything in the bleach bucket, rub off any gook into the bleach bucket, then rinse in normal water. Take a cup of water out of the bleach bucket as needed to rinse off tables/stands/cones/whatever.

    The bleach water will stay clean and bacteria free no matter what you dump in it, bleach kills EVERYTHING. I have dumped a whole rabbit's worth of blood into a bleach bucket by accident and 15 minutes later the water was clear again. You will never feel like bacteria is spreading this way and the rinse water will keep the bleach off your meat. However, the rinse water can be skipped since this follows the federal regulations for bleach levels for unrinsed equipment in meat processing facilities. To me it's just to keep chemicals off of the meat.

    I would also cut around the vent and then use a bit of twine or the intestine itself to tie off the end of the intestine.

    A bucket with some Dawn dish soap swish it around in it to clean off the gross bird feathers before scalding.

    Fast the birds for 24 hours to make less fecal matter in the intestine.

    Maybe next time it won't be so bad.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: