Yard 2 skillet: bloody backyard chickens

Backyard chicken enthusiasts who are keen on experiencing the whole process have been signing up for a new kind of workshop. This excerpt is from an L. A. Times story titled “A Bloody Lesson for Backyard Chicken Enthusiasts“:

Instructor Jordan Dawdy, 33, helps Elizabeth Lameyer, 23, cut off a chicken's head at the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture's "Yard to Skillet" workshop in Columbia, Mo. The town began allowing urban residents to raise chickens in February. (Eva Dou, For The L. A. Times / September 25, 2010)

Reporting from Columbia, Mo. —

Fluffy, white broiler chickens pecked around the backyard while a group of two dozen people — a set of knives laid out before them — eyed them warily.

Jordan Dawdy, his arm bearing tattoos of chickens and other farm animals, gave the crowd the run-down: Snap the neck, cut off the head, drain the blood, pluck, gut, done. He has the whole process down to seven minutes.
The group shifted uneasily and prepared to dive in.

Dawdy’s “Yard to Skillet” workshops are booked full in this college town of 100,000. The local Center for Urban Agriculture launched them in August, several months after Columbia began allowing residents to raise hens within city limits.
Similar workshops are becoming popular around the country as a growing number of eco-conscious city dwellers are raising chickens for eggs and also have to learn how to sometimes cull — a nice way to say kill — their chickens. Classes are available in West Concord, Minn.; Southampton, N.J.; Livingston, Mont., and other places.

Dawdy, 33, tells his students to think of the workshop as a “meat garden.” The San Francisco native has slaughtered more than 1,000 chickens, most of them while working on a farm in Tennessee. Now he’s teaching the skill to other city folk.
Among them is Joe Fornioi, 48, who grew up in New York. He recently started raising hens for eggs in his Columbia backyard and is thinking ahead to the day when he’ll have to cull them.

“I’m doing it for the economy and for self-sufficiency,” said Fornioi, a gunsmith by trade and father of six.

Others at the workshop don’t have chickens yet but dream of raising them someday. Elizabeth Lameyer, a 23-year-old graphic artist, is considering returning to her roots by starting a small farm.

“My grandparents did this,” Lameyer said. “They didn’t want to teach me, but I want to know how to do it because my goal is to be totally sustainable.”

Workshops like this cater to consumers who want to eat locally and get close to their food. Dawdy said he’d seen many people at the workshops who, like himself, grew up in urban areas where meat usually never appeared outside a polystyrene package.

For his students, there was no fear of being too far removed from the process. They all emerged with blood on their clothes.

Dawdy started by showing his students how to scoop up a chicken and break its neck with an upward-backward jerk.

He hung the bird up by its feet, still flapping and twisting, and cut off the head to drain the blood. Dawdy said a chicken will run around with its head cut off, but it’s not a good idea to let it do that.

“You’d bruise the meat and break bones,” he explained.

Dawdy swished the now-limp bird around in a pot of hot water laced with detergent to loosen the feathers. After plucking, the chicken resembled any other pimply supermarket bird, except for the yellow feet still attached.

Next came evisceration. With a few cuts, the guts, liver and heart slid out easily. The lungs were trickier to remove. Dawdy had to scrape around with his fingers to pry out the bright pink blobs.

“A lot of times, they just get left in there,” he said. “Sometimes when you eat fried chicken and you’re like, ‘What’s that on the rib?’ That’s the lung.”

Finally, a few strokes of the knife, and off came the feet and neck. He rinsed off the bird and popped it in a cooler….”

Read the rest of the story here on the L. A. Times.

1 Comment

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One response to “Yard 2 skillet: bloody backyard chickens

  1. nedlud

    Years ago, just about everybody had some chickens and did the butchering of the chickens themselves.

    Now, I want to tell a little story that I read one time in a country magazine maybe 25 years ago: The author, was talking about a time maybe 5o or 60 years before that. He said that when he went to school, which was a country school, all the boys brought guns to school and the teacher had them put them in the back room or the closet during the day. No one thought anything of it, everyone did it. He said they did this, because on the way home, the boys would then hunt for rabbits and squirrels and quail and such to add to their family’s meat supply. The boys, maybe 12 and up, BROUGHT THEIR GUNS (and bullets) to school!

    Imagine that.

    Isn’t that just something how much we’ve ‘progressed’?

    Now they get kids for drawing a $@!&^* picture of a gun and they call them disturbed and dangerous. Maybe some of the poor kids are. But I doubt whether it’s the kids’ fault….

    Who and/or what is REALLY disturbed and dangerous? Who and/or what is responsible for this cultural shift? This dramatic change in attitude and the level of fear/paranoia we now have??

    I submit it wasn’t the country folk or the family farmers.

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