Warning, this post talks about things that some readers may find distasteful. Please don’t read it if you can’t get your head around animals being slaughtered for food.
This is a repost from a while back on my food blog.
There is a feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you kill an animal. It’s that sinking feeling as you hit a wallaby in your car, that drop when you have to kill something for it’s own good.
These are the things I thought about as I held a flapping dead chook in my hand this afternoon.
3 hours previously:
Walking to collect the eggs, I entered the shed with the laying boxes and spooked one of my hens – she wasn’t laying, but she bolted when she saw me.
Another hen was laying at the time, curled up in her nesting box as I went down the row, collecting duck eggs and a chook egg.
Is that a peck hole? In my egg shell? Fuck.
It was, a suspicious peck in an egg – done recently as there was no dirt or grit around the entrance. As recently as me walking into the chook shed.
Some chooks, they eat eggs. Something happens and they discover what is inside an egg and they start pecking all the eggs to pieces. If left, they’ll teach the other hens how to eat eggs and it will end up terribly. No eggs = no baby chickens = no reason for keeping chooks.
There is only one cure for an egg eating hen, and that is a quick death.
A few days ago, I’d found a duck egg broken in the bottom of the nest. I thought it odd at the time, knowing how tough the shells on my eggs are and I wasn’t sure a duck standing on the egg would have broken it.
I didn’t clean it up at the time, planning to come back and clean the straw and broken mess out of the bottom of the nest when I got a chance. So this morning when I found the pecked egg, I remembered the broken duck egg and went over to clean the nest.
Only to find the entire egg was gone, shell and all.
An egg eater, for sure. A possum or rat, well, they would have taken eggs from the other nests as well and made a right mess.
At this point, I was fairly sure that the chook I’d seen disappear when I walked into the chook shed was my culprit. She didn’t make an alarm call of ‘I was laying and PREDATOR’ or act like the other hens, quietly clucking at me in distaste when I bothered them.
AND she was standing leaning into the nest with the pecked egg.
So, we did what you do with an egg eater.
We caught her and killed her, humanely and fast. One chop and she went from upside down and relaxed in my hand, to dead. It was fast and it was painless for her, over in less than a moment. Slightly more traumatic for me, as my stomach dropped and I felt the feelings that come with slaughtering something.
But this is how it works when you’re making an effort to live more sustainably and only wanting to eat happy, ethical chickens. No one likes killing, (no one normal anyway), but it’s a fact of life.
Once she stopped flapping the death flaps and relaxed, we strung her up by a leg and did what you do – skinning, gutting, cleaning. It took a little while, as it was the first chook I’d done myself. I watched plenty of times as a child, but the actual act of doing, well, slow and steady and all that. There are things I’d never asked my father, like ‘how do you get the lungs out?’ and ‘how do you make sure you’ve got all the unborn eggs and kidneys out?’ but no matter, I worked it out myself. Me and my sharp knife and Nathan chatting to me while I worked. It was okay once I started, less like killing and more like processing meat. No different to gutting and filleting fish – a regular part of my growing up.
And then I brought the meat inside and chopped it into pieces for soup – which is bubbling nicely at the moment.
Tonight when we eat, I will silently thank the chook for living a good life and enabling me to eat ethical meat my way and I will know that this chook, she had the best life possible before she died and that her death wasn’t traumatic, for anyone other than Nat and I. Amy walked outside just after we’d chopped the hen’s head off and we talked about it.
That this is where meat comes from. We don’t get meat from the supermarket, meat comes from animals and our job is to give animals a happy life and ethical humane death.
Note the yellow fat? Proper free range healthy chooks have yellow fat and skin. Supermarket chooks have generally been bleached to make them more ‘attractive’. Personally, I’ll take bright yellow over covered in bleach any day.
This is once I’d broken it down and was browning in olive oil.
Recipe for chicken and potato soup:
Take your chicken, make sure it’s free range and break it down into it’s various elements. Take off the breasts, chop the legs down close to the carcass and remove them from the body. Brown everything in olive oil, including the carcass.
When everything is well browned, add 5 roughly chopped onions and a leek. Let them colour a little. Don’t burn anything!
Deglaze the pot with some white wine if you’re organised, or if you’re me, deglaze with warm water.
Cover the chicken pieces with water and bring to a simmer.
Add 4 large potatoes, chopped.
Cook until the meat falls from the bones and the potato falls apart.
Season with salt and pepper.