Took 14 Cornish Xs to the processor today

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by suburbanhomesteader, Nov 19, 2007.

  1. There was a thread a couple of weeks ago about whether people took their birds to the processor or if they did it themselves. I thought I would throw in my two cents here.

    I have processed 9 birds myself; skinned them all. 3 at one time, then my hawk-killed hen, then 5 Cornish Xs this weekend. I've decided 5 is about all I want to do in one sitting; it takes just about 2 hours, from set-up to vaccuum-packed and in the freezer.

    Right now, I'm working 60 hour weeks and our weather is supposed to turn much colder (perhaps our first freeze) by Saturday.

    All of that combined to help me make the decision to take my Cornish Xs in to be processed; there were 14 of them.

    First you should know that while I eat meat, I am very concerned that animals be treated humanely and with respect at all times, and I do my very best to get an immediate kill, whether I'm hunting or processing.

    Here are my thoughts on the day:

    I was stressed loading them into the large dog crate I was going to use to take them in. From the squawking they did, you would think I was killing them when I picked them up. Their screeching bothered my hens, who were running back and forth in the chunnel (100' away), completely freaked out.

    I was stressed by the dirty looks of the commuters in the lanes next to me; I can't image how Tyson drivers must feel. To be honest, even though there was probably 3square feet of empty space in the crate, the chickens all crushed together along one side of the crate, and it looked like I had spent hours torturing them. That in itself stressed me out, too.

    When I got to the center, the guy grabbed my birds by any body part he could find (wing, foot, head) and literally threw/dropped them into the low, 10-bird crate to take them inside. They had never been handled so harshly, and I was a little irritated that they squawked more when I gently picked them up than when he was throwing them around!

    He dropped (literally) each bird upside down into a large cone (big enough for a turkey), pulled on the head, and slit the throat. Based on touching their eye, I would guess that they were alive for a good 30-45 seconds (depending on the depth of the slit) after the cut. I hated that. My sadness and guilt just about did me in, but it was too late to turn back.

    He threw the chicken out of the cone and into a large, colored trashcan (colors to help keep the orders separate), and then the chicken was dropped into a spa (have to inject a little levity somewhere), where it floated in the hot whirlpool for a couple of minutes. Then it was off to the plucker, and out spit a clean carcass.

    I dragged a different trash can full of carcasses over to the gutting station, and they cleaned the carcasses. Then I dragged the carcasses to the cutting stattion and they guy cut 7 into pieces for me (used a bandsaw) and left 7 whole, except he cut off neck and feet.

    I loaded the meat off the cutting table into my cooler, and dragged the cooler out to the car. They recommend strongly that you NOT ice the birds for a couple of hours (in fact, 3 workers there told me it was DANGEROUS to ice the birds too quickly), but my Serve-Safe training got the better of me and I iced them as soon as I got the cooler into the trailer. It was 36 minutes from start to finish.

    Would I do that again? No. When I process my own birds, it is a quiet, contemplative time. There is, ironically, very little violence. Even the two birds on which I first used the dispatcher, that were paralyzed but probably not killed, didn't flap as hard as the birds in the cone. There is almost no blood the way I process them. I treat them, alive and dead, with reverence and appreciation for what they are giving me.

    At the processor, they also processed turkeys, goats, sheep, and cattle. They process Halal for Islamic clients. Watching the goats and sheep get killed was very difficult for me.

    The processor only charged $1 a bird, which was a deal financially (they're only about 30 minutes from my house), but today took an emotional and spiritual toll on me I'll not soon forget.

    So, for me, it's back to processing 5 birds a day, myself. But, I'm glad for the experience, because now I know what is important to me.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2007
  2. IHeartChickens

    IHeartChickens Songster

    Nov 13, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Oh man, and I thought I had a tough day. I'm glad you shared this with us. I've never been to a processor before. You've spared me from having to experience what you did. Thank you.
  3. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    I bet they squaked less because they were in utter shock and didn't know what else to do. I agree with the idea of treating them well from start to finish. My meaties rarely ever put up a fight when they go to butcher. It's just a stroll behind the house as usual, only difference is they don't come back round the front.
  4. hoosierhen

    hoosierhen Songster

    Sep 26, 2007
    I have never processed any chickens myself- not yet. I work with a girl and she and her parents process their own. I told her that the next time they harvest their birds to let me know, and I will help them in order to learn how. Then I will know if I can do it. If not, I will stick to egg production only. I only have 1 roo and 12 female chicks currently. (10 weeks) I can see it now...dozens of geriatric chickens wobbling around the place, and a little chicken graveyard with tombstones!! I do like to eat chicken who knows!

    Sorry you had such a bad day. I know it broke yor heart to see creatures that you lovingly nurtured being treated so badly.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I definitely will not go the route you did, and I have you to thank for that.
  5. nccountrygirl

    nccountrygirl Songster

    Jul 31, 2007
    Sanford N.C.
    I am so sorry that you had to go through that today. I have only laying hens because I am to sqeemish to do any thing like that.
  6. domromer

    domromer Songster

    May 11, 2007
    It's ironic how much we care for them to the very end. I'm sorry It was such a crappy experience. I plan on doing mine myself. Not because I want to but in a weird way I think it show more respect for them. Sort of like the Native Americans thanking an animals spirit after they killed them. I just think I'd feel less guilty if I do it myself.
  7. I'm really sorry you had such a bad experience at the processor. Believe me I would not go back to that one either! But they are not all that way, the place I was at this summer treated each bird with much care, there was no brutality at all. Having said that when I home process there is certainly not the transport stress. I minimalise that by using the horse trailer as a shelter attachment to the pen so that they are used to going in and out of it by free will. The night before going I herd or entice them in there and close the door so they do their feed withdrawal in there. The truck is already hitched up so all they know is before first light the shelter starts moving. That is ideal I know and even I can't do that all the time, but when I can it works wonders. If you have to catch and pen or cage them there will be unavoidable stress.

    It concerns me however that you say there is little blood when you home process. For your safety please consider that they have to bleed well in order for the food to store safely. With blood in the tissues the meat will spoil even in the freezer. Chicken killed without bleeding is a delicacy in some cultures but must be cooked the same day as it is killed.

    As for the cooling they are right only in saying that the birds should not be iced right away, but your right they must be cooled properly. If iced there is the chance that they will start to freeze and that should not happen for at least 4 hours or your meat will be very tough and stringy no matter what the breed. With a small amount of birds and a cooler with lots of ice they might get ice crystals in the meat too soon. Shoot for sure less than 40 degrees but not less than or even really near 0. I go the full 24 hours but lots of folks only do 6 hours.

    When I bring 150 birds home from the porcessor I make sure they are in cold water till they are that cold (fastest transfer of heat in submersion) done at processor mostly, then often they can all go in the freezer together as there is no way the freezer will get them frozen overnight anyway. With only 14 birds sticking them in the freezer right way would be a mistake. If home processing I put them in the fridge overnight so I'm limited in the numbers I can do by fridge space.
  8. greyfields

    greyfields Crowing

    Mar 15, 2007
    Washington State
    Since I sell my birds, the only real option I have is to use a processor. I agree that mine as well handles the birds a little roughly. But, when he cuts their throat, he does a far quicker and better job than I can. I'd say all the birds are asleep within 15-30 seconds. There are some wing convulsions a bit later, but they're already asleep by that point. It is much faster than I can do it so I feel my processor is doing it more humanely than I can.

    It blows me away how cheaply processing is done in the rest of the country. I pay a minimum of $4 per bird. My other options (I already drive 2 hours to mine, then next nearest are 5 hours each way) charge pretty much the same.

    I often wonder how it is mentally on the people who do the processing. They use pseudonyms when they're on the job. Scott goes by "killer". Another guy is "necker". It's probably their way of dealing with it, which must be tough mentally.

    Regardless, don't sweat taking them down the freeway. Every moment of those birds existence was superior to anything 98% of the chickens in the US experience. You did them well.
  9. Thanks to everyone for your comments.

    Adoptedbyachicken-you're right, I should have told you how I ice them down; it is with ice, over which I pour water until the birds are submerged in it. As for bleeding out, the dispatcher allegedly separates the vertebra enough to allow a space into which the blood drains as they hang.

    It is my experience with 40 years of processing and freezing/eating deer and 1/2 year of processing 9 chickens [​IMG] that there is really relatively little blood in the meat tissues. In an animal which has not had meat tissue trauma, a 4 hour soak in ice water (salted or not), then draining the water, another 24 hour soak (then a drain and a final 24 hour soak if desired) in ice water (we're not talking about a few cubes swimming in ice; we're talking about 50/50 cubes and water, with water temps around 38-40 degrees normally) , leaves the meat tender and (especially for venison) without a gamey taste (for venison, I have even added 1 gallon of no-fat milk to the ice water before the last soak, and people swear it is veal I am serving them!).

    I did not know about the ice crystals, though; thanks for sharing all that info!

    Greyfields-I don't know if it matters, but I was the only Anglo at this place. From the look of it, no one there was used to paying high prices for processing. Also, the casual, self-serve "walk your meat along" procedure was probably different (I'm guessing) than $4-a-bird processors.
    I also thought about the emotional toll this job must take on the guys there; they were all pretty tough-skinned, it seemed. I hope this doesn't sound prejudicial of me, but it has been my experience that Americans and Europeans are much more apt to treat animals with gentleness and kindness than many in other cultures. The Africans, Mexicans, and Asians I know all laugh at me for the way I handle my animals. "They're just stupid animals; they don't have feelings!" is the comment I get most often. In all my world travels, I have never seen another culture of people as sensitive to the way animals are handled as is our culture. The processors at this place were all Hispanic; the customers were all African, Asian, or (presumably, based on the Halal slaughter) Islamic. I wonder if that was part of the difference in the way the animals were treated? (again, I am NOT a racist, but I do acknowledge that different cultures sometimes have different behaviors).

    I have to admit that I prayed for each of the processors. None of them looked like they enjoyed what they were doing. I don't know how well they are paid (and I didn't tip them; no one else seemed to be doing that, and I didn't want to seem condescending or somehow better than everyone else), but I am sure if they could find a better job, they would do so. I am guessing that many of them are in the country illegally.

    Thanks also for the reminder about the fact that my chickens lived a better life than 98% of chickens out there. I passed a turkey truck on the highway today and many of them were bloody-at least my chickens, even if they LOOKED like they had been tortured as they pressed themselves against each other, were not bleeding and had NOT been tortured.

    What a humbling experience!
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2007
  10. nccountrygirl

    nccountrygirl Songster

    Jul 31, 2007
    Sanford N.C.
    (presumably, based on the Halal slaughter)

    What does this mean exactly. About 10 yrs. ago my MIL's neighbors were cutting a goat and a pigs feet off WHILE they were still alive and they were screaming. My MIL called me in tears and asked me what she could do, I called animal control and they went there and shot the poor things to put them out of their misery. I quess I'm just ignorant to Islamic ways. Thanks Laura

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