A couple of months back we welcomed six eager students to learn how to process a chicken from start to finish. We have been eating our own chooks now for over a year and the taste is unbeatable. Knowing your meat has had a good life before it ends up on the table is reassuring, compared to those chooks that have been mass bred, transported in confined spaces long distance to then get the chop.
We chose to breed Light Sussex chickens as they are known to be both layers and meat birds. The roosters at maturity can reach up to 9kgs! I kid you not they are big birds. We choose to kill our roosters for meat, leaving the girls to live out their lives laying eggs, rearing young and general scratching around.
Many people think that roosters have tougher meat however we have found that the difference is the breasts are smaller but the drum sticks are bigger. We tend to roast or bbq our birds whole for a meal then break them down after cooking. What ever meat is left over we keep to reuse again in sandwiches or salads. The carcass is tossed into a large pot and boiled up with some onions, carrots and a little celery to make stock. Which we then freeze into containers ready for use. The aim for us is to get as much as we can from one bird and not to waste a thing.
Lead teacher Julian showed the group the technique we use to kill our chickens followed by everyone dry plucking a bird. A few of the students had a go at killing the birds with support the whole way through. Another important part of processing a chicken is gutting and getting it ready for cooking.
Roy (hubby) demonstrated how to break down a chicken in to different cuts before the day was through. Breaking down your bird for the freezer is a great way to save space as well as use up the bird in different dishes.
I was really impressed by the students who came along to the class with their many questions and eagerness to learn. They all had a go at the different stages of the processing and it gave me a sense of hope.