In which there's a party and ten big fat turkeys will be delicious

Although most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as a kind of harvest feast,
I've learned that many people prefer not to think about the process of harvesting
all the stuff that lands on the table in late November.

These birds free-ranged most of their lives, but were contained
on this, their last day.  

If you are among those who prefer to think of turkeys as a food that starts and finishes at the corner deli or in the freezer compartment at Costco or is best shown wrapped in waxed paper, fear not.

Whenever any of us at the harvest party felt like they didn't want to see or hear the goings on, we would sing.

So here is a song.  Click on the song, sing along, and quit reading this post.

Come back here in a few days, and I'll have more pictures of ponies and stuff.

It's okay: you won't hurt my feelings.

If you are interested in the process, perhaps considering raising your own meat, and want to see the not-terribly-ookie pictures and narrative, follow after the jump.

This is before the jump.


This is after the jump.  

From here to the end of the post, there may be some blood and stuff.  

(Plus, a picture of eyeballs and a brain towards the end.  Can you guess which is bigger on a turkey?)

Processing stage 1: the cone and the vat

Jenni brought the enormous vat AND the industrial sink.
I kinda have equipment envy.

Mel raised the birds from poults.
Turkeys truly have lovely souls, but intellectually they are very dim.

The bird's feet are tied together, and then he or she is held upside down inside the cone.  The cone contains the wings so there is minimal flapping and struggle, and when blood rushes to the head the bird passes out.

This was Henry's first harvest party.  Jenni showed him how to do stuff, and he lifted and cut and immersed
and plucked and did everything else along with the adults, all day long.

When the bird is unconscious, the throat is slit.  There's a big bucket under the cone to catch the blood. (The blood bucket is not pictured, because I like y'all.  It was pretty ookie.)

When the bird is dead, it's time for the immersion vat.

This bird was so heavy it took two people to lift it into the hot soapy water

The immersion vat water is kept between 150 and 165 degrees F, and has a bit of soap mixed in.

 Immersing causes the feathers to release for easier plucking.

heavy wet bird?  "Henry, can you lift this one please?"

The plucking table.  Many hands, light work.

The dis-assembly line

After plucking and gutting, we double-bagged each bird and used a shop-vac to remove the extra air.

 The last stop before the freezer: the scale.

Yes, this bird really does weigh more than 35 pounds after dressing!

Here is the promised photo of eyes and a brain.  You know how everyone always says that turkeys aren't very smart?

The brain is the little thing in the middle.

When all was done and hosed off, we had a small feast to celebrate.

No turkeys for this feast:  we ate pizza and drank some of Haiku Farm's
2016 hard sparkling apple cider!

And tonight we brought home two prizes as a result of the turkey party:  a 30-pound bird to eat during the holidays, and

We've named her "Thirteen" in honor of Twelve.

a new young hen to join the flock at home.


  1. The hot water pot, Schlachtkessel, is what I've been looking for around here but they are either antiques and expensive, or new and expensive, and so heavy you can't just put it in a car. They have a built-in fireplace in a lower level. I want one to put candles under and keep my horse water from freezing in Winter.

    You know we have an ostrich farm nearby - well they use electrified clamps around the neck to disable them. Sort of like jumper cables. Since the birds are taller than people, I'm not sure I want to know how that goes.

  2. I use to help my sister-in-law and brother-in-law when it was time to harvest their chickens. Much the same way as you did with the turkeys. I couldn't watch the slitting of the throat but once they were on the table to be plucked, I was ok. Plus, my dogs were happy with the "treats" in the form of feet. I just kept telling myself that we were doing it as humanely as possible and that the chicken I eat from the store probably wasn't as well cared for as these were.


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