Sunday, October 7, 2012

processing....... life


If you are a bit squeamish this might not be the post for you.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go back to Facebook.  

Saturday was an action packed day!  Woke up to grey rainy skies and blustery winds.  A day not for wimps and it was chicken processing day at Blue Pike Farm.  
Blue Pike Farm is at E.72nd and Sinclair in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.  Carl, the chief gardener and chicken wrangler kicked off processing day at 7:30 a.m.  I rolled in around 8 a.m. and to my surprise there was a good group of intrepid souls ready to take responsibility for their food.  Processing had started and I found my place on the plucking table quickly.  
Other people trickled in throughout the morning.  I was very curious how this would be viewed by this pack of omnivores.  My experience over the past several weeks after sharing what I would be doing this Saturday was shock and horror.  I had one or two positive comments but the majority of my meat eating friends were just disgusted.  I worked diligently to take responsibility for my food over the last few years and if you're going to eat meat this is part of it.  We are still not eating beef....... 

I quickly found these young educated, intelligent, passionate people were on the same journey I was on.  Looking around at this group while waiting for the first chicken to bleed out I had to ask;  Has anybody killed a chicken before?  One hand shot up, Dawn!  So the rest of you guys are virgins?  Yup....  and I asked each one why they were there.  The answers were refreshing!  One kid said;  I live in the suburbs, I eat chicken and where else could I experience this; my parents think I am nuts". 

 I found myself laughing as two girls on the evisceration table had been through anatomy class and this was hands on.  "Oh look this is the gizzard!"  It was dissected and determined this particular bird had a very good life with very healthy internal organs and a nice layer of fat.  All harvested to be used later, even feet were saved for soup.  Every part of these 58 birds would be put to use in one way or another, nothing was wasted. 

The other part of the process that made this a bit easier, other chickens looked on.  All morning we had birds around our feet, sitting on the table, clucking, carrying feathers off.  They were unperturbed by the entire process.  We talked about that, a lot!  Well if they aren't upset Fred just bit dust I guess we should be ok with it.  Right?  
Carl has managed to raise 120 chickens on his 2 acre urban lot.  He supplies 40+ CSA's fresh fruit and veggies, eggs and honey from this urban plot.  The chickens fertilize, scratch up the soil, consume massive amounts of bugs and dropped produce, and they make a lot of chicken music.  Carl also maintains bee hives to pollinate the fields.  

The first part of the process.   
This is the most humane way to kill the chickens.  If you want to read more about why, I would suggest this website;  Razor Family Farms.  
After the bird is dead it is scalded in a pot of water at 145 F. to loosen all the feathers.

Brought over to the plucking table it took more than a few minutes to pluck a bird.

After plucking, the still warm bird was taken to the evisceration table. 
The weather was cold and windy and one girl said;  I can't believe I am going to look forward to sticking my hand in this warm bird but I am as she pulled the entrails from the carcass.  The liver, gizzard, neck and heart were separated and saved.   Lungs, intestines and others stuff was put in another bucket. 

Notice the book with step by step instructions.  

Hosing down and cleaning off the tables after each bird was processed.

Dawn bagged and popped them in the fridge.  Done! 

One woman from the neighborhood was so happy with Blue Pike Farm she stopped by to purchase two fresh chickens and left her change!  Another woman stopped by to see the process, although fascinated, was not ready to jump in.  She too was very supportive of the process and Blue Pike Farm.  

I had to be home by noon and said good bye to new friends and Carl.  Carl gave me a wonderful jar of wildflower honey for my trip.  It was wonderful on hot cornbread.  I ran home showered and changed but still smelled wet feathers...... an aroma that isn't unpleasant but not sure I want to go to Don Drumm's opening smelling like wet dead chicken.  Back in the shower and scrub again.  Second trip through I passed the smell test.  In the car by 1:00 pm and off to Akron.  
FANTASTIC!  The show is a wonderful marriage of work.  When I dropped worked off I really questioned how all these mediums would go together, but they do!  The show is named perfectly; "Out of Our Minds".  It fits!  Butch and I wandered the nooks and crannies of Drumm's gallery.  It was my second trip through and it still felt like a treasure hunt.  The place is really worth the trip!  

Back in the car, stop at the house to check on the dog, throw a fruit and cheese plate together and run down to the sailing club for the end of the year clam bake.  I passed on the chicken....... 

What a day!  


  1. Where do you get all that energy?
    I loved reading the 'process'. I have clear pictures in my head of my grandmother 'swinging' the head off a chicken, let it run till it drops, dunk it in a tub of boiling water and plucking the feathers--all in the backyard. Then she gave me the chicken feet to play with--I remember not knowing what on earth I was to do with those chicken feet! Nice memory, thanks!

  2. LOL! Well that is quite a memory!! Think what you could have done with a whole pot of chicken feet! So you were never told; Don't play with your food? :)