Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Over heated meats.

It was bound the happen. Wednesday one of the meats couldn't stand the heat - and he never made it to the kitchen.
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!


Kristin @ Going Country said...

Every day I look in the chick cottage (Rhode Island Reds)to measure how much more growing they need before we can start having some chicken dinners. I think the two dozen we got in our straight run includes more than half roosters, which is great. More for the freezer.

Those roosters are starting to get chuffy. Bad news for them--the day they show any signs of aggression to any of us the day I get to have chicken for dinner. I figure by the Fourth of July we could maybe have one.

Fun fact: Store chicken tastes APPALLING to me when re-heated, especially in the microwave. But the meat from our chickens can be re-heated even in the microwave and doesn't have that horrifying re-heated poultry taste. Bonus.

Robin said...

Your "Mo" does look like my "Miss Banana"!

Now that all that sweaty work is done...head on over the Jane's at Hard Work Homestead and make yourself some of that fine perfume. I'm sure that you will come up with a great scent to work with :)

Jody said...

So sorry you lost one. They're such an investment. We like Freedom Rangers too. Right now we have Kosher Kings or Silver Cross. They're a step up from "meats", but a step down from Freedom Rangers. Thankfully they've survived the heat so far. At one point I resorted to spraying them down with water. We'll take them to our butcher in the first week of July.

Enjoy your meats. They're much more desirable now that they're in the freezer!

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Sounds like you did the right thing for you and the birds. Better to just get it done and put up than take a loss. People have asked me about the How Can You...and when I think about what they do to the commercial chickens I think "how can YOU?" blech!

Rae said...

We're doing meat chicks for the first time this year, and they really are pretty gross. We call ours "icky chickies", though my guy chuckled over your "creepy meats" name for them. :)

While we have both processed wild game, this will be our first butcher of home raised meat. Only a few weeks more, and I'm actually looking forward to it! A couple friends are coming over to help, and we're gonna make a party out of it. I dare not tell my coworkers about the "butcher party", lest I get bombarded by the "how could you" comments. :) Happy Friday!

MizGreenJeans said...

Meat birds really are so lacking in personality that it's not like they're chickens at all. We do some every year for the 4-H project, and gleefully call them Frankenbirds.

For dual purpose birds I prefer my Buckeyes, because they have Cornish in their ancestry they have nice broad breasts, and the pea comb means they over winter well. The young males are quite tasty. :)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hi Kristin! We have a saying here - "when you start to crow, you got to go!" I'm kinda the same way with store bought meat - and growing our own food had totally ruined going out to dinner for me!

Thats what I thought, Robin! Mo was a wanderer - but I dont think he came from so far afield. But maybe I'll come up with my own story about how they are related. Thanks for the tip on Jane's!

Thanks Jody! I'll look into the Silver Crosses - and yep, you can always turn on a sprinkler or hose down the roof of the hen house to cool it off.

That's what we figured, TAPG, and we were glad to get it done. I kinda laugh a little about people's reactions. We walk thru the grocery and think, "I'm not eating that!" hee hee hee our Meat Dept guy has such a complex...

Rae - be sure to let me know how it goes! You'll have a great time and won't believe how easy it is. I was a little freaked out at how easy it is to "part them up" but its only because they are so young. You are gonna be wow'd with the results!

Hi MizGJ! Yep, they are pretty vacant. We like to give them dialogs like, "Uunga want food! Foooooood!" We've got some buckeyes too! A few of my hens are absolutely nuts tho - I'm hoping that I'll get some Buckeye x Light Brahma in the next couple hatches - and a lot of roo's to boot! For sure the "real" chickens are more chickeny - in taste and how they behave.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Very interesting OFG. Why are the meat chickens so fragile? Are they overbred? Sounds like eating healthy, hardy chickens would be better.

small farm girl said...

Sorry you lost a creepy meat, but glad you got a freezer full now. lol

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hi Ken! Always great to see you. Yep, they are really fragile. I think its because they grow so fast they have cardio problems. They really do get heart attacks. We dont raise our birds with medicated feed so there really isnt anything "wrong" with them - they just grow creepy fast. A lot of chicken-like traits are bred out of them. You there in France have birds under the Lable Rouge - which provides a more "normal" chicken. Our Freedom Rangers are similar.

Thanks SFG! Nothing but good eating here!

Anonymous said...

And to think I hose down my meats just because it's funny. I didn't realize I was doing them a service!

Larry said...

Wow, I can get into your blog again, someone in I.T. musta changed a security setting or something. Thanks for the e-mail today good to know someones thinking of you. I built a whizbang plucker and it works awesome. You gotta build one, I'll even send you the planbook if you want it. Makes thing much easier when yu are processing a lot of birds at one time.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...