The question is, how do you process a chicken for meat? While collecting eggs is a simple task, processing chicken meat needs skills, knowledge, and courage. Speaking of courage, I can tell you that butchering and processing chickens for meat isn’t for the faint of heart. This is not to discourage you, especially when you are getting started with raising meat chickens. Learn more about how you can process your chickens for meat in the following sections of this article.
When it comes to processing your birds for meat, you need to follow the right procedure. This procedure is lengthy and involves several steps starting from butchering to scalding the bird all the way to storage.
Many people hire experts to help them with the butchering of their chickens. In your case, you don’t have to go that way when we can guide you accordingly.
Knowing how to process a chicken for meat is quite simple and timeless. All you need is mature meat chickens, special equipment and the right skills. Everything else falls in place once you know where to start, how to go about it and how to handle the whole process.
If you are a newcomer in chicken keeping business, we will show you the way. Read on to learn a great deal on how to process a chicken for meat.
Steps To Process Your Chickens For Meat
Get Everything Ready
- The first task in processing your birds for meat is to set up your station. In this case, you will need the following items:
- Knives: At least two or three and they should be sharp enough to make your work easier.
- Killing cone: This is a special metal cone designed for poultry.
- Pails or buckets: You will also need a bucket or pail placed below the killing cone. The main purpose of the bucket is to hold blood, feathers, guts and discarded pieces.
- Water: You may need a steady supply of clean water for washing your hands, tools and other equipment. Also, you will use the same water to clean your chicken after each step.
- Gloves: Although these are optional, you will still need them to keep your hands safe and clean throughout.
- Old pieces of clothes: Since you will be having the mess all over the place, these clothes will help you keep yourself clean.
- Table: You will require a table covered in tarp to process the chicken.
- Scalding Tank: This can be a large stockpot or simply a turkey fryer with hot water. Make sure that the scalding tank is large enough to accommodate a full chicken when scalding it. This will make plucking of feathers effortless and timeless.
- Thermometer: For checking the scalding water temperature.
- Cooler: You will need a cooler full of ice or cold water to chill your chicken for a short while after processing.
- Paper Towels: To wipe yourself after the task
- Chopping Board: For cutting the chicken into smaller pieces.
- Zip-close plastic Bags: You will need these bags to store the chicken after processing. One or two-gallon size bags are suitable for your chickens.
- Once you have all these items in place, you can start the process. But first, you need to grab the bird of your choice. Hold it carefully by the feet and allow it to hang with the head facing down. Then transfer the bird to the killing cone.
Cut the Veins and Arteries
To cut the veins and arteries accurately, pull the chicken’s head through the bottom side of the killing cone. Hold it there and cut exactly where the tendon joins the beak and tongue.
- Most likely you will feel the hard piece (cartilage) at the jaw attachment. Make a firm and deep slice on the neck to cut the carotid artery and jugular vein. Then pull the chicken’s head down to let the blood drain.
- You will see the bird kicking and jerking as a normal part of the butchering process. Once the blood has drained and the chicken is calm, you can proceed to scald it.
Scald the Chicken
This step comes after slaughtering your chicken. As such, make sure that you have enough water at a temperature of 153-140 degrees Fahrenheit. This water temperature is ideal for scalding your bird before plucking feathers.
- Take your chicken out of the killing cone and dunk it into the scalding water. Swirl it gently in the scalding tank to ensure that every part comes into contact with hot water.
- Check the condition of the feathers before you start plucking them from the chicken. If they don’t come out easily, give them more time. Keep in that a scald that takes too long can damage the skin and affect your chicken’s shelf life.
Start Plucking Feathers
You can hang the chicken by its feet from a firm plank of wood before starting the plucking process. Place the bucket or pail underneath so that all the feathers fall inside it. Alternatively, you can just lay your chicken on the chopping board to make the plucking easier for you.
- Start by removing the feathers by simply rubbing your fingers and thumb against the grains of feathers. This should be the first thing to do instead of trying to pluck all feathers at once.
- For tail and larger wing feathers, you should pluck only one or a handful at a time. At least, you will avoid tearing or mutilating the skin.
Pluck Pin Feathers
- After you are done with the larger feathers on wings, tail and rest of the body, you should turn to “pin” feathers. Use a specially designed “pinning knife” to make this process easy.
- Hold the knife and start scraping gently on the surface of your bird’s skin to remove all pin feathers. Rinse the chicken with clean water to get rid of any loose feathers.
Remove Oil or Preen Glands
- At this stage, you should remove the preen or oil gland. If you don’t remove it, you risk this gland ruining the taste and flavor of your chicken meat.
- To remove it, make a simple cut just above the gland. Cut everything down the bone and then slide the knife gently stopping at the tail. Remove the gland and ensure that no yellow glandular tissue is left on the chicken.
Get Rid of the Feet
- This is simple and does not require any form of expertise. All you need to do is to straighten both legs and cut them from the joints.
Remove Other Parts as well
- The next step involves removing parts such as the trachea, esophagus, crop, and head. Use a sharp knife to cut through the bone in order to get rid of the head. Then proceed to slit the skin at the back of the neck to separate the esophagus and trachea.
- Keep going down the trachea and esophagus to reach the crop. Loosen it from the skin and carefully pull it out of the main body. Leave the crop, trachea, and esophagus hanging out of the body for the next procedure.
Slit Open the Chicken’s Body Cavity
- When cutting open the cavity, you should insert the knife at least an inch above the vent. Cut the skin open to the breastbone. Take care not to cut the intestines. Pull everything out of the body including the intestines.
Remove all Content, Chill, and Store
The last stage in to process a chicken for meat includes removing the inside content, chilling and storage. Here, you will have to reach deep into the chicken’s body cavity to get rid of everything.
- Start by running your hand inside the body to get out of the entrails. Find the gizzard and pull it out. The entrails will follow suit when you pull the gizzard from the body cavity.
- Also remove the loosened esophagus, crop, and trachea along with other content. Don’t forget to remove the lungs while taking precautions not to break them into pieces.
- Then remove the neck carefully by cutting the muscles around the bone. After getting the internal organs out of the chicken body, you should prepare for the chilling process.
- Chilling starts with the immersing the bird in ice water for half an hour. After chilling for a while, get it out and lay it gently on paper towels to dry it.
- Store the processed bird in a zip lock bag (about 1-2 gallon size) and place it inside the freezer. Let the meat to age for a while before eating it. That is all you need to do when you process a chicken for meat.
How long should the processing of your chicken for meat take? If you are new to this process, it should take you at least one hour. But if you are experienced, you should take less than 30 minutes to complete the task.
What types of chickens are you supposed to process? You can butcher all types of chickens as long as they are of the right age. This includes layers that have aged as well as roosters. The process follows the same steps as highlighted above.
When processing your chickens for meat, there are steps you need to follow. Make sure that you know every step to avoid making mistakes. In the end store the chicken in the freezer for future consumption.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Chicken Board!!