Friday, June 22, 2012

Raising chickens for food

First - a warning.

There are photos.

Meat chickens are not like egg chickens.  They are bred for large breasts and have a mere 4 month life span.  (Heart attacks are usually the cause.)  They just eat and grow and poop.  Repeat.  Last year we were a little grossed out by our birds but realized that they were bred to be quick meat production.

We came home from vacation to all of our Noms the right size, even a little big, for the freezer.  Aaron & I did the first 4 last Friday (they were 6-7 lbs each) but today it was just the family.  The girls had watched last year, and had a intimate chicken anatomy lesson but had not been involved before.

We set up on our back porch while the neighbors were at work and split the duties.  One parent and the kids killed and plucked, while the other parent cleaned the bird and removed the organs.  Juju found the warm blood disconcerting, but Mesha just insisted that any bird she pluck she gets BOTH drumsticks.

This group of Cornish Cross chickens were much less freaky than our previous group.  They did not grow so fast that they had areas bald of feathers.  They walked around more and took dust baths, flapping their wings enthusiastically.  They had a higher meat to fat ratio.  They even seemed to have more of a "chickeness" about them.  But a couple had lime green meat along the tenderloins caused (we found out) by deep pectoral myopathy.

To quote a contributor at "The condition is caused by intense exercise of this muscle in meat birds ( flapping hard, trying to fly).  Meat birds are being bred to have bigger and bigger breast meat and because the tenderloin is so far down in the muscle it is enclosed in a relatively unyielding membrane, any swelling of the muscle tends to cut off the blood supply. Without adequate blood supply the tissue of the muscle begins to die, or suffer necrosis. There is no way to know that it is there before hand. The rest of the chicken is fine to eat, If you ate the green it shouldn't hurt you, however it probably will not taste very good."

This is called a disease by the poultry agribusiness and they are currently researching a vaccine.  To me it is bad breeding, that this chicken can't even live in comfort as a chicken.  It makes me sad that I caused pain to these two animals by just letting them live as they should.  I will move on to heritage or dual purpose breeds from here on out.


  1. of all the breeds we did the jersey giants were our favorite. we butchered the males at 6 months and again at 1 year, super tasty and big!

    1. Thanks for the info, I think we will try a couple different breeds this next spring and I will add the Jerseys to the list.