Processing Chickens

Forrest Pritchard Prepares to Butcher Chickens

Forrest Pritchard readying to process more chickens

As I prepared our curriculum for the first cooking class at Smith Meadows Kitchen, I came across this article in Local Harvest. Many people are looking to learn about butchering their own meat. Although we do have a small facility on the farm to process chickens, and we have invited Hiu and Michael of Potomac Vegetable Farm to see how it is done, we have not entertained the thought of teaching a class. For one thing, it is difficult enough for us to find time to process our own birds, and we just didn’t think the demand was high for this kind of “On Farm Experience”. Little did we know.

Forrest built his processing facility for chickens in 2009.  It was an impressive design for such a tight spot. There are sloped cement floors that allow the mess of butchering to flow into a pit, where it is collected and taken to our compost pile on the farm.  There is a special plastic washable surface on all the walls in the facility. And there is specially designed, stainless equipment from an Amish farmer and entrepreneur nick-named “The Poultry Man”. Chickens are taken from the field in the morning and 150 birds can be processed with an experienced crew of  5 by the early afternoon.  Chickens are processed at Smith Meadows every other week for our 7 markets in the DC area.

Our Chicken Processing Facility

Our Chicken Processing Facility

We are proud to include the processing shed on our Farm Day tour each year in May.  Forrest explains the process very carefully to our guests.  He emphasizes how gentle handling of the birds and good timing keeps their stress levels low.  He also demonstrates how the scalder and feather plucker work.  Most people who visit the farm are impressed to see the clean and stream-lined facility.  Perhaps when the demand rises to see the butchering process, we will include that on the Farm Day tour.  Until then we are happy to include some photos of our crew at work on this post.  It is important for many customers to see and understand what “Humanely Raised and Butchered” is all about.  This does not always have to involve butchering your own.

Chickens in the Plucker

Chickens in the Plucker

Apprentices Lars Prillaman and Aaron Johnson at work

Apprentices Lars Prillaman and Aaron Johnson at work

Nancy Polo

Nancy is a first generation Italian-American who makes good food and thinks about it. She has lived on this farm since 1998.

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