Why is the meat so tough?

gardengalrn(5KS)August 8, 2010

My MIL came up a few weeks ago to help/show me how to butcher my meat birds. They are dual purpose birds, rocks, I think. Although I ordered a st. run, I ended up with all females so they were a bit small to butcher yet and we ended up just doing 4. Will do the rest in a week or so. Anyway, she's quite the expert and dispatched my birds in quick time. She cut them up and I soaked them in ice water several times as she told me to do before putting them into freezer bags.

I've read somewhere to "age" them for a day in the fridge before freezing but she didn't mention that and I didn't do it. Well, I baked one the other day and it was SO tough that we almost couldn't eat it. The birds are young, smallish, and have been eating all-purpose chicken feed with corn scratch. Any advice or insight as to why my birds are so darn tough? It almost isn't worth butchering them if that is the type of meat we end up getting. Lori

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calliope(6)

I'm sure you'll find folks coming on defending rocks, but I usually do runs of golden comets since they are such good eggers, but one year I did buff orpingtons and barred rocks with meat in mind. I had the same experience with them and their meat was dark and to me unappetising. The comets make a good meat chicken. How old were they when you butchered?

What I ended up doing was to can the meat from the rocks. Slow simmering on tough meat makes a big difference too. Most of those birds ended up simmered all day on low and with noodles around them.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 4:50PM
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gardengalrn(5KS)

Calliope, I just was really disheartened by it. I don't mind having a cut of meat that you have to simmer for a while but I just expected these birds to be tasty, LOL! Not that they weren't, per say, but the toughness detracted and kinda grossed me out. Maybe canning is an option. I printed off a lot of slow cooker recipes, just in case ;) I was hoping someone would pipe up about what I did wrong so I could fix it before butchering the rest. I got my birds as chicks around the first of April. Perhaps they are too old by now? I can't imagine that they could get any bigger in the time frame I had. They seem pretty scrawny. Perhaps that is why people buy Cornish Crosses. I don't know, live and learn, I guess:) Lori

    Bookmark   August 8, 2010 at 5:41PM
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calliope(6)

What I do mostly for butchering is to incubate a run off my own eggs, and use the cockerells for meat. When you butcher is important, because the older the bird is, the tougher the meat. Fryers/broilers should be butchered around 13 weeks, roasters no later than five months, and stewing birds can be mature hens. I wouldn't recommend using a full grown roo unless you like eating innertubes. So, if you had full grown hens, they are fit only for stewing.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:00PM
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gardengalrn(5KS)

Sounds like you have a good system. None of my hens went broody this summer (so far) which surprised me. Usually my Orps for sure. I hatched out some last year, generally for the novelty of it;) These birds we have been talking about for meat are about 4 months old so that may explain why they are so tough. The Rocks don't mature as quick as the crosses as you know and there was no point to butchering when you have no meat to speak of. I won't be doing this again. My MIL wondered why I didn't get the crosses and I explained that I wanted some birds that I wouldn't worry about gaining too fast, ascites, bone problems, etc. I told her I wouldn't be able to eat them if that happened. Well, I don't care for this meat, either:( But as you suggested, I will stew the meat I get from here on out, or can it. I just envisioned some wonderful fried chicken. Thanks for all your input, very much appreciated. Lori

    Bookmark   August 9, 2010 at 10:46PM
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calliope(6)

Gosh, that doesn't sound too old for butchering. I don't think you have to be afraid of all those physiological problems with most of the crosses, especially if they are dual purpose. I have never had a any of the problems you mentioned with any of my birds, and certainly not with the comets. It's not like they're bred for production runs where it would be advantageous to grow freakishly. They're simply a cross of two common breeds with the advantage of hybrid vigour. For a butchering chicken you would want a breed who would size up and fatten up quickly, so it could be taken young and tender.

I still have an old rock from my run four or five years ago. She is the last of the Mohicans and I am kinda fond of her and she begrudgingly spits me out an egg now and again. I haven't culled her because I don't want to eat her either. LOL.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 2:15AM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

Cornish Cross are a very good meat bird. I have not had any problem with them, raised them basically free range (large fenced yard to protect from predators) and had no health problems. Maybe the health problems are cause by such large birds in close confinement, because I raised several batches and they were trouble-free.

They also are not very smart, which makes it easier to kill them. I could never butcher my ducks; got too attached to them.

Nothing to do with toughness, but when you soak the birds in ice water, it is to chill the carcass quickly. Place the bird in a plastic bag, then in the water, to keep the water off the bird. You don't want to soak the flavor out.

Sounds like your chickens are headed for the crock pot.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 8:10PM
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lazy_gardens

How old were they? It sounds like you got "stewing hens" and not the roasters you thought you had.

Free range chickens will be leaner, tougher, and "gamier" than chickens of the same age raised in coops.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2010 at 3:33PM
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divadeva(7)

The meat was tough because it needed to "age" before cooking or freezing. In two words, "rigor mortis" caused your toughness. You need to let the meat sit (refrigerated) until it relaxes.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 2:47AM
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