My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.

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The Chickens, Part 2 8

Posted on July 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

There are no pictures or descriptions of animals actually being killed in this post.  But I’ll tell you the rest of what happened when we brought the chickens from Paula’s Williston farm to the slaughterhouse in Morrisville.

The boys and I got an early morning start, but arrived at Paula’s a little late, and the round-up was underway.  Paula’s daughter and her friend were shooing the chickens towards the adults, who were putting them 2 or 3 to a box and the boxes in the cars.

I was not good at herding chickens, but did show a quick aptitude for finding stinging nettles while trying to coax the birds in the right direction.  The boys were hanging out with Ventura the turkey (his day had not yet come), and the beautiful egg-laying birds, but kind of got into the spirit of laughing and getting these flappy big monsters into boxes.   The birds were 8 or 10 weeks old (the two batches were in their pasture together), and enormous, looking too heavy for their legs and kind of thumping from side to side as they ran.   As I was tucking them into their boxes all I could picture was me on the interstate with huge angry roosters flapping around my head, boys crying and trying to escape.

At last we were packed and off we went.  The birds occasionally made some inquisitive noises.  Z. said, “Don’t worry – nothing bad is going to happen little birdie,” to which E. replied, “They’re on their way to BE KILLED!  Something VERY bad is going to happen!”  His brother shushed him and told him not to say that because it would scare the birds and that wasn’t nice.

We arrived at Morrisville’s Winding Brook Farm, which I’d always been curious about as I see their meat on lots of local menus.   We pulled in to the small parking lot in front of their barn, and spotted the Ag. Dept.’s mobile slaughterhouse, a regulation-looking white trailer with the door open and a guy with a long rubber apron moving around inside.    The plan had been to drop off the birds, but instead we stayed to help, and before I knew it Paula was handing the birds in one at a time.

E. & Z. found a place they could bounce on a big piece of wood, and visited the guinea fowl and calves.  There was another family there, who we started talking to.  They were waiting for a goat they had purchased to be processed, and the little girl who was with them joined our group’s kids.  The girls gathered around Paula and petted and kissed each chicken as it was handed over.

While we were there, all sorts of people were coming and going.  Men in button-down shirts stopped in to talk for a minute; I assumed they were managers or buyers for local restaurant accounts.  Then another family came in, three men and a young-ish girl, speaking an Eastern European language.  One of the men pulled out a whetstone and long knife and started sharpening it.  I asked if they did their own butchering, maybe for halal meat, which they said that they did.  The knife-sharpener said they were there for a lamb, and asked if I could help by holding its legs since his friends refused to.   (I pondered whether I could, decided I probably would so as not to be a hypocrite of a meat-eater, but we left before it was an option.)

After the last bird had been handed in, we followed the kids around on a tour of the farm, cooing at goats and piglets and peacocks and all sorts of farm critters.


We left for a few hours, visiting some of my favorite Lamoille County food spots – Bee’s Knees, Applecheek Farm, and Elmore Roots Nursery (which was closed, but I spotted several things of interest, including native ginger).

Then it was back to the farm to pick up our processed birds.  The butchers gave Paula a big vacuum pack of necks, one of hearts, and then started handing us the vacu-packed chickens.  It cost $172 for butchering 35 birds, including extra ice to chill them to a safe temperature.  (They told us that the price goes up when the weather’s hot.)

And now here are 10 of them in the freezer.  I’ll let you know what I end up doing with them.

The Chickens 4

Posted on July 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’ve been meaning to take a minute to write about the chickens.

It’s just that I don’t exactly know what to say.

In the winter, my amazing friend Paula wondered if we might want to invest in a small flock of meat-birds she was preparing to raise on her family’s farm.  The plan was that we’d come out and help with some of the care and feeding, and then eventually help with the slaughter.   We wanted in.  Of course I was nervous about the slaughter part.

So then spring came and her little peeps arrived.  She moved them out to her barn, and Z. & I went out to visit.  We met the meat-birds, who Paula got me in the habit of calling “lummoxes” as they’re bred for quick growth, big size, and not especially for smarts.  (You chicken-knowers may detect some ornamentals in the bunch.  Don’t worry – they’re being raised to show at the fair this year, not for meat.)

We helped fill their water and mix in the oyster shell with grain, helped shoo the layers where they were supposed to go.

And then I went out one more time and did some more of the same; of course Paula’s been going out every day.  And now all of a sudden tomorrow is chicken slaughter day.  We’re not doing it ourselves, but are instead packing up the birds and caravaning to Morrisville where there’s a butcher who will slaughter, dress and pack the birds for us.  We go back a few hours later and pick them up, all ready to go into the freezer.

I’ve talked to the boys extensively about this venture, about how animals should be treated well even if they’re going to be eaten.  How we as a family try to make sure that the animals we eat had good lives and were treated well, and that getting to know our food is part of that.

I would have thought that Z., who is younger and so very sweet, would have been especially traumatized.  But it’s his brother who’s taking it hard, refusing to go along for the trip.  And who has announced that he won’t even look at the birds if he has to be in the car with them.  I think Z. is okay because he knows we’ll be going to Applecheek Farm and Bee’s Knees and he probably suspects there will be juice boxes and treats involved.  He’s definitely right.

I’m looking at that picture of the bird in the grass, thinking about how right now as I’m listening to the crickets chirp it’s having its last night as a living being.  If I’m going to keep eating animals, I have to be okay with that.  Am I?  It’s hard to say for sure.  I’d like to be able to smugly congratulate myself, knowing that my freezer’s about to be filled with animals who lived a good and dignified life, and weren’t treated horribly and then stuck in a warehouse freezer.  I know this is better.  And I know that this ambiguity is appropriate.

And now I just hope we get through tomorrow.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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