Rettland Farm

Rettland Farm

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chicken Plans, Part 1

Here we are, fresh into a New Year, and things here at Rettland Farm are already shakin'. So much for winter downtime, huh? Since we have the holidays behind us, I've been busy getting the wheels turning on some pretty big changes here at the farm, changes that are going to make the RF product line bigger and better than ever.

So let's talk about the biggest change first.

Those of you who have been with me since the beginning of RF (the Littles, the Moores, the nee Sheppards) might remember the early days of the pastured broiler program when I butchered the birds right here on the farm. Every Sunday afternoon, all summer long, I would break out my knives, my feather picker, and my giant gas burner, and butcher the chickens that I needed that week.
I ended up with sore feet, aching back, sunburn, and absolutely phenomenal chicken.

Ohh, what memories!

But for several complex reasons, it became necessary for me to hire out the butchery of the chickens. For the past year and a half, a small butcher in a neighboring county has done all of the processing of the pastured broilers. I have been mostly satisfied with the performance of this butcher and the care they took in processing my chickens.

The problem is, I think that there is room for improvement in our broilers. In an effort to constantly improve the taste, texture, and quality of the chickens that we produce, I've decided to bring the butchery back home.

Here's why: Despite the relative short distance between me and the butcher, it still takes about an hour to drive there. So, my chickens are caught, placed into crates, and the crates are put on a truck. That all takes about 30 minutes. Then I drive them to the butcher as quickly as possible, (the hour, as mentioned), and then they wait their "turn" once we get to the butcher. This wait can be as much as another hour.

Reducing that two and a half hours is where I am going to improve the quality of the meat.
Crating the birds up and then driving them down the road creates stress in the birds. It is a new, unfamiliar process to them, and chickens like monotony (as do most animals). The longer they are stressed before they are killed, the less desirable the meat becomes. (Which, incidentally, is one of many reasons that commercial chicken is unpalatable.)

By eliminating the drive, and most of the wait time immediately before slaughter, you, the loyal Rettland Farm chicken lover, end up with a chicken on the table that is more flavorful, moister, and more tender.

So, how am I gonna do the butchery, now that I am producing about 10 times the birds that I did back in the good ole days? Still gonna have my little table and my little bunsen burner on steroids??

Nah...we're going state of the art, baby.

Stay tuned for the unveiling of the all new Rettland Farm slaughter facility, coming soon.