by Hank Will — Photographed by Suzanne Griepentrog
The broilers were kept enclosed and safe from predators by using electric net fences and portable fence chargers. Over time, commercial broilers have had most of the normal chicken behavior bred out of them. Even so, ours were more mobile than experts suggested and were able to scratch and jump for seed.
When the bleeding began, some faces turned away. My daughter, Alaina, admitted that she thought she was going to cry. I agree with those who say that it isn’t wise to kill chickens very often because you face the possibility of becoming desensitized and taking their lives for granted.
That certainly was not the situation at my farm on that day. It was encouraging to witness committed people helping each other struggle with the discomfort and uncertainty of this process – from the actual killing to the scalding, plucking, evisceration, cooling and packaging operations.
People supported and coached one another. Some who had never experienced killing before looked for insight and guidance from those experienced at this task – stressing the importance that they didn’t want the chicken to suffer. Those who had never been around the insides of any animal sought guidance from those who had previously handled innards still warm from the animal. The uneasiness experienced by some participants reminds us that consuming meat comes with a price – a price that is sacred to me.
As upsetting as this process can be, it created a bond between our group participants and ensured that those 30 birds were not taken for granted. I know I will continue to raise and kill chickens for meat. I hope that it will be in the midst of equally committed and thoughtful people as it was this year.