April 17, 2007
Thoughtful discussion of butchering methods

While rebuilding the website yesterday I got a wonderful note from Utah 4-H Livestock Specialist Ross Jacobson. Both Ross and one other Cooperative Extension Poultry Specialist have expressed concern on the same issue, so I thought I would quote Ross and then answer with my opinion. Here's his letter


Thanks for reminding me that I had not responded to your request to view the video and give comments.

I just finished the complete video and like what I see. It is very user friendly and loaded with useful and timely information, not just for raising chickens, but being selective and preparing them for showmanship classes. Dr. Bradley was exceptional in her interest and explanations, very easy for youth and leaders to understand and follow. I will share your flyer and information sheet with each of the Extension Agents and FFA Advisors in Utah.

I actually started with the last section, butchering or harvesting of birds. I have done quite a bit of backyard and slaughter plant poultry processing with my family, harvesting both broiler chickens and turkeys over the past 25 or so years and have learned a few tricks of my own. Let me share just one experience that I prefer to do with the initial bleeding. I like to put the bird in a cone of some kind to contain them and keep them from flailing about, letting them stand a minute or two with their head down and then holding their head and beak in one hand and stretching their neck cut the jugular vein right under the jaw bone with a sharp knife and allow to bleed out. By not cutting the neck completely off with an ax or heavy knife it keeps the neck skin attached to the head and keeps the neck clean and lessens the chance of contamination. In the processing plant, having the neck and head still attached, the head is placed up on the hanging rack, positioning the vent for easy access and the eviscerating process.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to view your production. I like it and will recommend it to those who might have an interest. RAJ

This concern about my recommended method of killing chickens including sanitation issues and how well they "bleed out" is shared by Dr. Francine Bradley. Both of these experts deal with not only backyard poultry fanciers but also large producers who may process hundreds or even thousands of birds in a day.

My DVD recommends using a hatchet or large knife to completely remove the head of the bird. If you read the blog I wrote about commercial "Free Range Organic Chicken" you know that I for me there is a personal side effect of eating a chicken that was killed by letting it bleed to death while hanging from its head on a conveyor belt.

For those of us who eat meat, the question of sentience in chickens is one that must be answered on a personal level. I think that the method of killing I recommend is more humane than the way that the experts advise. That is my opinion.