Friday, July 18, 2008

A Time To Kill

It is past time for me to cull some of the chickens. I have two Cornish cross roosters that are about as big as turkeys. They need to go soon.

I’ve been asked by some how I can kill a living creature. My answer is, “I just think of it as the Aflac Duck and that makes killing real easy.” In actuality killing is never easy for me. I don’t hunt and I no longer go fishing. I, like most Americans like leaving the dirty deed to others.

The last time I killed chickens I used the old hatchet and stump method. The chicken is generally terrorized and you can see it watching you. One chop and the chicken runs around headless as it bleeds out, drawing the attention of the other chickens in the yard.

Today, the kinder, gentler way of killing chickens employs the use of a killing cone as pictured above. A chicken is placed head down in the cone. The cone cradles its body, and being upside down seems to confuse them just long enough for a very sharp knife to end it all, quickly without any running around or added trauma to them or the rest of the flock.

There is a certain somber reverence that is employed on killing day. Everything needs to be as swift and as precise as possible. It is always best to never name the animals destined for the freezer. It makes it all a lot easier.

It seems that Americans have become very disassociated with the animals we consume. When was the last time you saw a hog or a steer on the hook. Years ago this was a common sight in butcher shops, but now all we see are individually wrapped portions on foam trays under cellophane that is plastered with bar codes, labels and sales stickers. All we see is the red color of the meat and some white fat or bone.

I don’t think people that have removed themselves from this essential link to the food process fully comprehend the chain of events. It is important to consider and reflect on the meat that we consume. When one does consider the entire process there will be an appreciation for the food and less waste which will translate to more food for all.


Blogger Beth said...

I am one of those people far removed from the process. I admire your respect and reverence for it. Thank you for the reminder - and best of luck.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Bridget Locke said...

I'm a non-hunter - not anti-hunter, which is vastly diffeent, for sure - but my husband is a hunter and I don't have any problem with that whatsoever. He has a huge love and respect for wild animals. For us, it's food on the table. We utilize EVERYTHING. It's those who go out and kill and leave the animals to rot that fry me. Tho, in all reality, Nature utilizes THAT meat, too, for other wild creatures. But it's the principle of it. I don't understand the mindset of those who have problems with meat...every animal is butchered. At least those in the wilds have a better chance of getting away but I don't think people understand that. Good grief...even a carrot 'dies' when it's plucked from the ground.

5:27 AM  
Blogger MissKris said...

Ooooops...that was actually ME on the previous comment. I'm using my daughter's laptop and didn't realize she forgot to sign out - tho she could've written that because she feels the same way. Have a great weekend...I've got the grandsons all weekend so I won't be computer time, ha!

5:29 AM  
Blogger Mike S said...

Living where we do we buy most of our meat straight from the source & I've been known to pitch in and help when I'm able. This is 'hunting country' also and without hunting a lot of families would go without in the off seasons.

I also despise those who hunt 'for the thrill', thankfully there are very few like that here as meat can be as scarce here as jobs & money.

In my view, every kid should get a short stay on a working farm once just so they realize where all that food starts out:)

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last fall a neighbor came over with a crate holding 4 older laying hens. Usually he gives his layers to me when they stop laying well and I share them with my Laotian Warehouse crew. This time he said he really wanted to learn how to butcher them himself instead of giving away all this meat several times a year, would I show him how in trade for half the birds.

I said ok, and pulled out my old camping stove, set a big pot on it to start boiling. When I told him," This is to scald the birds so they are easy to pluck." He turned white, "That's CRUEL!" I just shook my head, "Not when they are dead first."

I reached in the crate snagged out an unsuspecting hen and did the whip crack to break her neck. "See, dead, now we scald."

To late, he was passed out on the ground, out cold. We never did get any further with teaching him to butcher, though I did finish those four hens later that day.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous CB said...

I agree. I think if more people had to kill what they ate we would actually have less people watching killing for thrills in the movie theaters and becoming desensitized to it.

I have shot deer, slit the throat and watched it bleed out, then skinned it and deboned it. I have watched steer getting shot and after being hung have helped to cut it up, which is one of the most painful things to undertake as there is so much fat on a steer that it works into your hands making them very slippery and you end up with hundreds of little nicks in your fingers which sting for about a week afterwards. I have killed rabbits, frogs, crab, and an assortment of other sea and fresh water food sources as well as small, medium and large land critters. I have not yet killed an elk but have cut up and packaged many. My grandson saw a real scorpion in one of our paperweights from some country one of the kids visited. He asked, "Can you get it out of there so we can eat it?" He knows the rules, you don't kill it unless you plan on eating, yep, even the spiders.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

I dunno. I lived in China (Hong Kong) for three years, and the "fresh markets" were a major source of food for many people. You could pick out a live chicken, pigeon, duck, fish, turtle, frog or snake (in season) and have it butchered and cleaned right in front of you to make sure it was really fresh (or, for the smaller animals, take it home alive and do it yourself).
The butcher shops were still exactly that - walk by in the morning and see whole carcasses (mostly pig) hanging (or even still lying on the ground being bled or scalded). By evening there were only individual cuts, sausages, and perhaps a head or two (for soup).

I did not notice any particular extra consideraton or reflection on the part of vendors/butchers or customers, except perhaps for the freshness or tastiness of a particular specimen. There was certainly less waste than here, but I don't think that was necessarily related to the proximity of death. Maybe there is a difference between butchering for yourself vs. for someone else vs. having something butchered for you (even if in your presence)?

9:20 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Anon, you put them in hot water before bleeding them out?

Killing is a serious thing. It isn't for everyone, though it is important we can relate to the sacrifices that are made so we may eat.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bleed them, the water wasn't hot yet when I popped her neck.

I did offer to show him how to use a killing cone, but he turned green when described how it was used.

He's back to giving me his old hens.

3:06 PM  

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