We had our turkeys processed -first timers

sullicorbitt(z5 MA)November 2, 2007

We raised 4 turkeys this summer, we got them as poults at the end of May, really my dh's project. Two BB white and two BBBrown (production birds). They grew like crazy! we found a couple not too far away who process turkeys (thanks to Patrick in NH) and set the date a few weeks ago.

One week before their scheduled date the two BBB got into a scuffle, with one dropping dead on the spot. Fortunately my dh was in the yard at the time and saw the altercation so we knew it was not death by disease. It most likely was a bonk on the head or stroke as the heart looked fine and there was no blood on the bird. He spent the next two hours processing the turkey as not to put it to waste.

A week later the other three went off to be processed, I tried not to get attached to these birds from the start but I found myself kind of sick to my stomach the day the left.

They all went into my MIL's freezer (we don't have one), with the three Tom's weighing in at over 30 lbs each and the hen at 25 lbs. My MIL cooked one this week and brought us over a load of meat which I used in a pasta dish that night. The meat really was excellent, the texture and taste far above anything I've had through a grocery store.

I had a little trouble eating the meat (emotionally) but I am determined to get over this!!! my hope is that eventually I will be able to eat our home grown meat with the same enjoyment as the factory farmed stuff.

We are already thinking about next year and possibly trying a heritage breed, these production birds grow so fast it's easy to let them get too big.


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wow. you did great. i think that sick feeling is normal. like people told me on here when i first said it, you would be weird if you didnt' have it.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 5:51PM
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terryboc(z5 NH)

Great news Sheila-where did you get them processed? Do they do chickens as well? Did you tell me you had raised meat broilers this summer as well? What did you get charged to process the birds?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 10:51AM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

Hi Terry,
we got them processed in Derry, NH, I can give you the contact info. if you'd like it. They only process seasonally taking the winter and early spring off. They do process chickens but I'm not sure what the cost is, the Turkeys were $10 each. We haven't done broilers yet but are thinking about the possibility this spring. We currently have a blue orp roo I hope to breed to my 4 orp hens this spring, I was thinking about having the extra roos I hatch processed by them. The blue roo is HUGE so I was thinking they might make good dual purpose birds.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 11:11AM
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terryboc(z5 NH)

Hi Sheila,
I'll keep that in mind if I decide to try some meat birds. I went to the Boston poultry show this past weekend and they had some beautiful turkeys there. I don't think I would eat one of them-they were really pretty! My DH did tell me that it had to be either chickens or turkeys-not both. We'll see... I did see some huge cochins-I imagine they are good dual purpose birds as well. If you end up with any extra blue pullets that you want to sell next spring, I'd probably be interested in one.

BTW-I got 3 eggs today! YoHoo!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2007 at 8:30PM
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Hey Sheila,

I've wanted to reply to your post for a while now, but I truly haven't come up with anything I think could possibly be comforting. We are now in the midst of our first season of culling, and also grappling with the same feelings.

I have really had to wrestle with the logic of it all. Am I coldhearted? No, more so than when we bought meat exclusively from the grocer. Was I MORE cold hearted before, being ignorant and likely contributing to a meat industry and their sometimes reprehensible practices? Argueable.

If i disassemble the process, which part(s) strikes a nerve? THe killing? The dressing? The eating? And why should I feel differently about meat i never "knew" from the grocer?

Hardest for me is the feeling of betrayal. I'm amused at the human behaviors we engage in to comfort ourselves....how we are frozen with our kill, stroking it until the inevitable nerve twitching subsides because we can't bear that it should 'die alone', or how everyone gets extra grain after a a comrade goes to "freezer camp". These silly things are however, signals that we are different than say, the coyotes, which are far less benevolent. However idiotic, I am grateful for all the inner turmoil. Would I rather be like the coyote? and to that end, aren't I much more like the coyote in my attitude toward the meat I bring home from the store?

A week or so ago, my co-worker asked if I didn't wish I could wiggle my nose and voila! All the birds would be dressed and cut and packaged and done! I think he was surprised when I very quietly and solemnly replied...'no'. It's hard, very hard, and I don't like it, but there's something very valuable about going through it too. I take from the experience a commitment to give our remaining animals the very best I'm capable of, a feeling of responsibilty I may not otherwise feel so deeply. And for the sacrificed lamb, this is the greatest lesson it can give to me, and the most important legacy it can leave for its fellow creatures in my care.

All creatures must come, and must pass. When we take them without their permission, we are humbled. We pray they move to an elevated state after this life, (if they wish), and shine our gratefulness upon those that remain. I think the greatest means by which we can insult them is to waste their bodies and/or ignore their teachings.

In the greater scheme of things, I think they would be content with that philosophy. I hope they are. In nature, they would still likely be eaten. Being a creature of higher consciousness (unlike the coyote) I can honor them with appreciation, or I can not. To me, coldheartedness is about THAT choice.

I have no idea if this rant helps or not, but i definitely know what you're going through. Hang in there and keep trying to sort it out. It takes courage for the thinking person. Congraulate yourself as being part of the inspired.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 10:09PM
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Thank you for this amazing post. It comes at a good time for me.

My 2 goat kids have to go. I've been struggling with this, and have decided that the slaughter will happen on-site. But not by me. This way, they will stay with their mom until the end, and will not be transported from one place to another.

It's going to happen on Saturday. Don't know how strong I will be.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2007 at 11:46PM
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Oh no! The slaughter guy postponed until next week. Was all psyched up. Now I'll be bonding longer with them.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 4:52PM
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littlereo(Conklin Mi.)

Sheila, I raise turkeys also, and YES you do get that feeling in you tummy when you get to the dinner table. My hubby took care of the tom this morning when I was gone. I figured him to be around 50 pound, he was 53 pound all dressed out. They are the BBW, we have two more hens to do, we will do them this week, with one for the table this Thrusday. I think they both are around 30-35 pounds each.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 4:18PM
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TorontoOntario, how did it go today? I thought about you all day. After two failed attempts to make it this far north, the old farmer who agreed to help us learn to process our geese finally made it over, so our big day was today also... sort of.

We clumbsily processed two of them over the past two weekends on our own, not knowing if he would ever make it by. The first one went well. The second bird did not go so well, but we got through it. It is so hard to teach yourself this skill, and I still can't believe how hard it is to find ANYONE to help teach this. In my search for answers, I have heard this echoed from others who have had to learn on their own too. The farmer who helped us today drove 55 miles one way. He asked only $20 for his time. (Needless to say, he was compensated much more handsomely).

He readied up two birds today (which we now feel we can give away as gifts, and really handled the whole ordeal smoothly and expediently. He showed us the ropes and filled in some much needed knowledge gaps. For example, our water was not NEAR hot enough the last two go rounds. It seemed as though we dry plucked for hours! I am thankful for the lesson, and filled with much more confidence now - only three birds to go.

I hope your experience was easier than you anticipated and has given you assurance also, for next season.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 11:26PM
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Did you ever think this would be the new direction of your education? Life is all about learning, and there are so many things that you simply cannot learn in books. There is nothing like learning from an expert.

Well, I still have the kids. The fellow, who was supposed to come, never came. And now does not answer my calls. This, after travelling all the way over to my farm to check them out, and begging me not to do anything until he comes.

Now i will probably have to 'send them to market' as I have run out of options and travel back and forth from the city to the farm :(.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 11:30AM
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sullicorbitt(z5 MA)

LittleO, those are HUGE birds!!!!! how are you going to cook them? You wonder when they would max out? My MIL struggled a bit to lift the bird into the oven! I can't imagine cooking a bird as large as yours!

LFRJ, I can certainly appreciate your story, somehow I think processing geese would be really difficult, especially if it was sweet natured since geese seem exceptionally intelligent. My husband traveled about 80 miles two days in a row to attend a seminar on processing chickens, it was so worth the effort. I know Maggie processed a bad natured gander last year and it took many hours as she dry plucked.

It is amazing how much there is to learn about, it keeps things interesting though.

TorontoO, I'm sorry the guy didn't show to help you out, it's very disappointing when people let you down especially when you are uncomfortable with the situation to begin with.

*** Here's to experience, something I think we are all gaining in different amounts this year.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 1:47PM
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Hi Sheila, Littlereo, and TorantoOntario,

To be honest about 'the new direction of our education'...I truly think that I'm learning more about myself than anything else! Three years ago, when our micro-farm was but a dream, I knew that butchering would be a necessary task, and accepted that I would have to contend with that. I didn't expect that it would be so hard to find a teacher.

But there's more... I used to be hemo-phobic (is that a word?) scared of blood. I avoid all horror shows and sheild my vision when I pass an accident. I didn't know I had the courage to handle processing until I learned that it wasn't the blood, but the emblem of suffering that made me queasy.

I didn't know about the extent of my strength and determination until challenged to move twentytwo, 80lb bags of cement mix so we could put in a proper floor for our chicken coop.

I didn't know I believed in a higher-anything until our geese suffered a dog attack. After rounding up the survivors and tending to their wounds, I found myself praying reciting a rosary in hopes of guidance or intervention to ease their pain.
It goes on....

Sheila, don't know if you've raised them, but geese are indeed highly intelligent. We brooded up ducks, chickens and geese. They topped them all. I love birds and have raised caged birds all my life. Few other species compare in intelligence. Parrots come close, but then there's the communnity thing. They really know when a comrade is MIA.

Litlereo, from what i've read here and elsewhere, we're thinking about turkeys next year ourselves. IT rains here a ton (hence the waterfowl) but if we can find a hearty breed, we may try it.

..and yes, an old hand who can teach a technique or two is so valuable. All we had was a handbook. Thank goodness so much is behind us now.

Good luck TorontoOntario...and Shelia, our best to you too. With Thanksgiving almost here, I wish you peace with whatever bird is on your table.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 10:55PM
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I know exactly what you ladies are talking about. I now have 2-yrs worth of my kids fair market goat projects as "pets." My daughter says to me while she looks up with her big brown eyes, "...but daddy, we can't eat Rudi. He is my best friend." Now what do you say to your little girl when she does that???

Now I do not have a problem taking care of business when the time comes. I do get attached to my animals...but the ones you know are going into the freezer...DO NOT NAME.

On the problem of finding out answers on "how to do these sorts of things on the farm"...there is an excellent series of books called THE FOXFIRE BOOK. I am told there are 9 books in the series...but I can only find 3 of them. They were written in the 60's by a group of high school kids in NC or Georgia (can't remember which). The students literally went out into the mountains and interviewed all the "country people" about everything from corn shuckin's - skinning rabbits - making jelly - building log cabins and even how to process chickens / turkeys. I love them.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 4:43PM
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53 pounds dressed out is amazing. I might try for a world record next time.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2009 at 7:46PM
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