'Chicken Day' at the Farm of Many Faces
(continued from page 2)
 
All in the Family: Rachel, 10, flushes out the lungs and other unwanted matter from the body cavity.  

 

The 'dunker' part of the contraption is a counterbalanced piece of pipe rigged to a geared down electric motor that dunks the birds eight times per minute. The system is governed by a timer and an on-off switch that always lifts chickens out of the hot water before stopping the scalding cycle.

'When Daniel was two,' laughs his father, 'we scalded birds in a big pot over a campfire. He could barely drag two birds behind him. And we did 50 birds a day. That was a big day!'

Now, Salatin processes 250 birds a day. He does that four days every month during the six-month season.

Daniel grabs four birds from the scalder/dunker and plops them into the feather plucker to his right. He flips a switch and sprays cold water into the revolving stainless steel drum as the birds bounce around against dozens of stiff rubber fingers (8.5 cm long) mounted inside. Fifteen seconds later, not a feather is left on the four birds. The plucker will handle up to 400 birds an hour with little or no hand-picking required. (It is made by PICKWICK Manufacturing Company, 1879 McCloud Place NE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402 USA. Phone: (319) 393-7443.)

'I need another crate!' yells Daniel. It's 10:17 a.m. Only a handful of crates remain to be emptied.

Joel carefully but quickly trims off oil glands from atop the tails, opens up the carcasses and eviscerates the birds. Livers, gizzards and hearts go into pots of cold water. Offal fills plastic buckets underneath the metal workbenches as the birds are quickly moved down the line.

'How do you do that?' CJ asks in amazement.

Joel pauses. His motions have become so routine over the years that he has to stop and think for a minute about exactly where he places his fingers and how he moves his knife and hands to make cleaning the birds seem almost effortless.

The Salatin children just smile. Like their father, they have been dressing chickens for so many years that it is all second nature them. As their father explains the routine -- 'I loop my middle finger around the esophagus ... scooping down ... and pulling back' -- the children keep the line moving. Daniel removes four more birds from the plucker and deftly slices off their feet, adding the carcasses to the growing pile of plucked birds in front of his father. At the other end of the processing line, Rachel inserts a flushing-type lung remover (also from Pickwick Co.) into the body cavity of a bird. The metal comb scraper on the device loosens the lungs. Then, with the push of a lever on a hose, Rachel releases a powerful water jet that flushes the lungs and other unwanted matter out of the body cavity.

'I need another crate!' yells Daniel. It's 10:30 a.m. That's the last crate.

The chilling tanks at the end of the processing line are almost full of dressed birds.

'Oh no!' mutters Daniel.

'What?'

'Doug's here,' Daniel groans as a car comes across the new bridge over the fast-flowing stream at the entrance to the farm.

It's the delivery driver. He is early -- a whole half an
hour early.


A Family Affair: The Salatin family clan


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