This little Meat Ball is just plain creepy
Nothing makes a person as hat-throwin' mad as dead meat from the heat. What a waste! All that time! All that feed - just laying there in a heap. Dead from the extreme heat or from a creepy little meat heart attack. Regardless of the cause it was a total loss. We found our dead meat in the morning but there was no telling how long it had been there ripening in our extra hot sun. He was sent to purgatory, double bagged and in the garbage can, instead of to glory in a pot of noodles. G'bye meat! Sorry we couldn't have you in for dinner.
They try to be chicken-like.. but you know.... they don't quite get there.
While I love the food value of the creepy meats, they just aren't very chicken like. All our laying hens and the same aged chicks took to the heat like ducks to water. In fact, most of my hens sprawled out in the sun and soaked in the heat. But not the meat chickens. They do badly in temperature extremes - which is why we honestly prefer Freedom Rangers or Red Broilers(a similar breed but from Ideal) who seem to do a little better at being a chicken.
I would have been kicking myself more for not planning better, but I have a buddy who lost a lot of his birds on Wednesday also. So I think its just one of those things and we are just going to move on. However this also answers the question, "Do we want to do a summer run of meats?" Answer = no. Last fall our meats did great in the cooler weather and because we could keep them in the turkey house most of the time. We can also take advantage of an end of season sale, if we are lucky.
Standing there, dripping in sweat and looking at the dead meat we knew we had to do something. Before we knew it we were in the midst of an impromptu chicken harvest. We had planned to do the chicken harvest next week - but those meats were just doing poorly and required quick action before we had any more casualties. There really wasn't anything else we could do for the meats to help them survive the heat. They were outside in the shade and in the breeze - it was just too hot.
At this point I'll feature an adorable picture of our Little Mo, and excuse any tender vittles from the rest of this post. There will be no pictures, but we'll talk about our chicken butchering day. Go ahead and opt out if this "creeps" you out - tune in tomorrow and we talk about something else. Otherwise... onward!
Gaze into the very face of adorable-Mo-ness....feel the gentle calmness that emanates from his eyes.
Ready to talk about chickens and butchering? Are you sure? Do you need another glance at Mo to strengthen you? Ok - read on...
We "dressed" six of the largest creepy meats. Five were from the "first" batch and one was a monster roo from the second batch. The hens tend to be smaller so we'll save them for next week. However, I checked the first batch of hens and they seemed to be taking the heat again badly today. They are hiding under a bush and panting. Not a great sign - if their combs turn white or blue-ish they are done for - yikes!
The only thing worse then dry plucking chickens is dry plucking chickens on a hot day. We really didn't have a lot of prep time to get a big kettle of water going - and frankly, we were in a hurry so I only plucked one of the birds. The rest were skinned for a quick finish.
Our process, as always, is to select a "volunteer" and tie the feet with a baling twine. I stand quietly thinking happy thoughts and The Big Man gives the bird the axe. When the smiley part is removed he holds the bird over a bucket filled with straw to allow it to bleed out. Moments later we hose down the carcass, then I get to work on my part - the guts. The best tutorial for how to eviscerate a bird is here by the indomitable Harvey Ussery. Then we use the hose to rise the carcass really well, wrap it up, and off to our coldest fridge to chill for a couple days. And that's it.
I tend to get the same kinds of questions from folks so lets just do a quick Q&A:
Q: How can you DO that!?!? Isn't it gross?
A: Nope. I've seen much worse on network TV. If you've ever cut up a chicken from the grocery store - you can do this. Once the feathers come off you think to yourself, "Hey! There's a chicken!" and that's about all there is to it.
Q: But auauughghhgh how can you do that to a chicken you know?
A: Well, we don't name our meat birds, and even if we did....we don't love them. Like the dead meat we found, all these birds will likely die if we don't hurry it up and butcher them. They are bred to be fast growing and don't last long. And - we know exactly how these birds are raised, what they ate, and how they are treated. Aside from us calling them "Meat Balls" or "Creepy Meats" - they are not abused at all.
Q: Did you cry?
A: Only with joy over how beautiful they dressed out. They were all "dinner plate sized" - they were huge!
Q: What does it taste like?
A: Chicken! While our "normal" chickens are more "chicken-y" our creepy meats are tender and delicious.
Q: I could NEVER do that!
A: Sure you could! Believe me, if I can do it - anyone can do it. Once you start the process its so interesting that you kind of shake off the oogley-boogleys and just get to the task. And you have an overwhelming sense of "Hey, look what I can do!" - which really propels you to do and try new things that you didn't think you could tackle. Remember, we can count on one hand the number of generations to when everyone grew at least some of their food. If they could do it, so can we. So come on, order some creepy meats and give it a go!
I want to give a shout out to J over at Insurgent Chickens who had his first butchering day. He did a great job and I'm really thrilled for him. One of the best things he did was rent a plucker - wow! We haven't been able to find a rental place around here but I'm going to start looking a little harder. Great work, J - that's really the "can do" spirit and you had amazing results!
Happy Friday everyone! Keep your creepy meats cool!