Madani sources chickens from a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, committed to quality meat. These chickens are a less domesticated, fiestier breed with larger legs and smaller breasts. Madani also sells duck, squab, guinea hen, and other lesser-known poultry.
These are your average broiler-fryer chickens. Though they come from the same environment as their wilder brethren, they are noticeably quieter, less ambulatory, and less alert.
Madani is a small facility, but it goes through animals fast. Customers purchase between 3,000 and 5,000 animals a week, and that's retail alone.
The price list for poultry. Items are listed by live weight before slaughter. About 50% of a bird by weight is edible, depending on the species.
Weighing before slaughter
A bird is weighed for pricing before being transferred to the kill room. In accordance with halal tradition, kills are conducted out of sight of the other animals.
The bird's throat is slit (blink and you miss it). Just as fast, it's transferred to a bloodletting cone for the blood to drain away. The shape of the cone minimizes the bird's movement, making it less likely to hurt itself during spasms.
Uddin claims birds die in about 30 seconds, but the body twitches a minute or longer afterward. These spasms are violent: over the years they've torn back the metal wall next to the kill cones.
After the bird is finished twitching, it's transferred to a hot water bath to ease plucking. This model is a giant drum with paddles that carry the bird in a circle.
Some customers prefer a cold water wash pre-plucking, for religious and personal taste reasons. Madani offers both options.
After sclading, the wings and feat are trimmed.
Modern plucking techniques require almost no manual labor. A machine that looks a lot like a clothes dryer outfitted with rubber fingers whips carcasses around at high speed. If you have the opportunity to see one up close, stand less up close, or you may get hit with wet feathers and bird juice.
After plucking, birds are transferred to a separate butchering room.
Spending time in a slaughterhouse is a bizarre sensory experience. Death looms everywhere in its most physical aspects: the commingling odor of livestock and fresh blood, the clucks of birds taken off to slaughter, the sight of the transition from life to death, which almost absurdly takes place in a cone, stuck upside down. In its own way, that plucker lies at the heart of the slaughterhouse. Feathers plastered to the wall are a flag of transformation—a carcass on one side of the window becomes meat on the other.
The bird becomes meat
Just like that, with wings, feet, and feathers removed, what was a dead body becomes what we recognize as meat.
The head and throat are removed first.
Madani is very open and inviting about the killing and butchering process. The hands you see in this next string of photos aren't staff—they're chef and fellow Scooped columnist Ethan Frisch's, who came along to buy a duck, and asked kill and eviscerate it as well.
The internal organs must be removed quickly and delicately. If they burst the bird is in high danger of contamination.
A gizzard, what birds use to break down food before digestion, fresh with grass.
All those organs need to go somewhere.
In the days of manual plucking, birds were sometimes torched to remove pin feathers. Though modern plucking has rendered this unnecessary, some customers prefer the flavor of a skin-torched bird, so Madani offers the service. In the slaughter-to-order world, customer service is everything.