This post contains graphic pictures, with blood and guts! If gory stuff wasn’t on your agenda today, click away. There were animals killed in the creation of these photos. They were killed quickly, and they were delicious.
If you haven’t seen Part One, and want to see how we wrangle, kill and defeather our broilers, please read Chicken Butchering, Part One.
Once a broiler has been plucked, it goes to the ‘processing tent’ to be eviscerated.
All the gutting is done under cover. This is required for the “small processors license”, but we’re thankful to have the cover anyway. It keeps off the sun and the rain.
The stuff on the ground inside the tent isn’t feathers, incidentally. It’s wood shavings, to absorb any water that gets splashed around.
The plucked chicken first goes into a pre-chill tank unless we’ve got a team member ready for it right that second. Generally broilers don’t hang out in that tank very long; we generally stay on top of things pretty well.
The first thing to go on a broiler is the feet. We use (and sell) these for broth; once the skin is peeled off, the feet give broth a big nutrition boost.
Taking the feet off at the knee joint makes for a clean cut that doesn’t dull knives.
Here’s a beautifully cut leg joint.
Next to go is the head. We take that off at the same place that the kill was made. The necks also make great broth, so we want to save as much as we can.
We also loosen up the esophagus and the crop at this point, to make it easier to pull those through with the guts. I didn’t manage to get a picture of that…
Next, the oil gland is cut out of the tail. It’s a little bump at the end of the spine. Most grocery store chicken is missing the entire tail, but we just take out the gland. The rest of the tail goes to… you guessed it, broth.
Cut carefully around the vent to keep from cutting the large intestine.
One has to reach all the way into the cavity to get all the guts. They’ve already been mostly pulled out of this broiler, but most of the time it takes two tries or more to get them all. I try to grab everything and pull it all out on the first go; that way, I’m less likely to break the bile duct. I’ve heard that having bile in the cavity will contaminate the meat of the whole bird; we’ve never had that happen yet, so I can’t speak from experience.
Here’s the heart.
I add boiled, chopped chicken hearts to my turkey dressing. People usually react with an “Ew!” when I say it, but it makes dressing really rich and flavorful.
The heart, like all organ meats, is also high in iron. Before my first pregnancy, I had blood work done that showed that I was slightly anemic, and so I ate a lot of stuffing with hearts added. My midwife told me, in my third trimester, that my iron levels were higher than hers – and she wasn’t pregnant!
The heart has a thin membrane around it that we remove, and we cut off all the connective tissue to clean it up a bit.
Here are the gizzard and liver. I meant to get gizzard pics, but somehow missed it. None of us like the gizzards anyway… and neither do the customers, it seems.
The livers we save to feed to the turkeys and roosters. The green bile duct is carefully cut out and discarded, as are all the other viscera.
Here’s a lovely set of lungs. They hide up in the rib cage, and you have to dig them out with your fingers. It’s not difficult to do, as they’re very soft.
The windpipe gets pulled from the neck. We double check to make that both the windpipe and the esophagus (& crop) have been pulled at this point, because I personally don’t like finding either tube when getting a broiler ready for dinner! The first year we butchered, we missed a few. I don’t think we’ve missed any in awhile, though!
The now-empty bird is thoroughly rinsed,
… and goes in the chill tank to be completely cooled. It usually takes the birds over an hour to get all the way down to the mandated temperature range of 43 – 45°. We check a ‘test bird’ every 30 minutes to make sure that there is enough ice in the chill tank.
… for the rest of the process, see Chicken Butchering, Part Three.