Gallery: Should Meat Eaters Slaughter Their Own Meat?

  • Fresh guinea fowl

    A freshly slaughtered and dressed guinea fowl, ready to cook.

    Happy go clucky

    Deborah's chickens on their last day in the mobile coop.

    Guinea fowl

    Guinea fowl have really pretty feathers with tiny variegated white and black patterns along their length.

    Deborah with a chicken

    Catching the chickens is probably the hardest part of the slaughter. Once you've got them, the best way to hold them is close to your body, with your hands holding back their wings so the can't flap or flail around, risking injury. The goal is to kill the chicken as quickly and with as little stress and injury as possible.

    Bleeding out

    The chickens and Guinea fowl are inserted into an inverted metal cone so that only their heads stick out the bottom. The tapering shape of the cone prevents them from struggling or flapping their wings.

    Once in the cone, a quick stroke to the neck with a sharp knife severs their jugular vein and the chicken bleeds out in under 30 seconds (though legs and wings will continue to twitch involuntarily for several minutes after the bird is dead).

    To make the process easier, an electrified stun-knife is often employed to deliver an incapacitating electric shock to the bird to calm it before slaughter.

    There will be blood

    It's essential to allow the chickens to bleed out completely or you risk compromising meat quality. A few score of chickens and Guinea fowl release quite a bit of blood, so large buckets are necessary.

    Guinea fowl, post-slaughter

    Deborah's husband holds up a recently slaughtered guinea fowl and prepares it for its scalding bath.

    Scalding

    Scalding the birds at 180°F in sterilized water for a few moments helps loosen up its feather to make it easier to pluck.

    Ready for plucking

    A couple of birds, ready for plucking.

    The Greenbrier Poultry Plucker

    The Greenbrier Poultry Plucker

    This vintage machine is a smaller version of the machines still used today to pluck poultry. A series of rubber "finger" rotate rapidly on a drum and pluck feathers from the birds. Some models feature a washing-machine shape where several birds can be dropped in all at once for automatic plucking.

    Plucking the fowl

    Plucking feathers off the birds is a lot like driving a car. Get a two-gripped handle on a carcass, and "steer" it across the fingers just like turning a steering wheel. The feather get plucked right off and deposited below the machine. The hardest bits are deep in the joints, and birds usually require a good once-over with a par of tweezer (or strong fingers) to remove stragglers.

    Outdoor station

    Our outdoor slaughter and dressing setup. Killing cones in the back, scalding bath, plucker, sink for rinsing pre and post-plucking, and butchering station for removing and sorting edible and inedible guts.

    It's messy business

    After all the birds are slaughtered, it's cleanup time. The hardest part is the blood, which coagulates within minutes of flowing out of the birds, forming a semi-solid cake at the bottom of the barrels.

    Ready to eat

    After allowing the birds to rest for a couple of days post-slaughter (larger animals need to rest for several weeks to lose their rigor mortis, but smaller poultry only needs a day or two), it's ready to cook. Here I pan-roasted the breast on the bone with some butter and fried a rillette of the legs. It's served with mashed sweet potatoes, arugula, seared fingerling potatoes, and a hazelnut jus. This is late fall eating at its best!