Saturday was our first poultry processing day at Triple J Farm. I must say, it was amazing. I am so thankful for a family who supports this farming adventure. There is something very special about raising your own broilers and processing them yourself on the farm. We learned a lot this first go around. It took three guys four hours to process forty birds – not too bad for first-timers. Several folks had asked about coming out to watch, but I wanted to limit that since this was our first time with so many unknowns. A good process developed as the three of us worked with each other, each learning the subtle nuances of the entire procedure. We switched around stations so we could all practice each one. We used the same basic process that Polyface Farms uses (you can watch Joel Salatin explain HERE). After a couple hours into it, we had a pretty good rhythm going. We laughed a lot too. The gentle breeze of an open-air shed made the morning enjoyable.
The process began at the killing station where we used four killing cones purchased from Featherman Equipment. I made my own stand for them, and it worked fine. The scalding was basic as we just used a tall stock pot over a propane gas burner. Once we got the water regulated to 140º, we learned it took about twenty dunks to get the bird properly scalded. The whiz-bang chicken plucker was the key to on-farm processing. I would not attempt to process without one! (Thanks Pete for letting us borrow it!) We found it worked best with two birds at a time while using the hose to spray water while the plucker was spinning. An old piece of stainless steel countertop and two saw horses served as the eviscerating table. We used four coolers with ice blocks as the chilling containers. Next time, I plan to use a larger container, maybe a large stock waterer instead. The smaller coolers seemed to be a little more difficult. After chilling for about an hour, the final stage was packaging and weighing. We used the broiler shrink bags from Cornerstone, and they worked great and provided a nice presentation for our customers. Most of the birds processed out between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds.
All in all, it was a great day. We learned a lot, and I look forward to the next processing day which will be in about three weeks.