Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tastes Like Swimming Pool

I have been going back and forth about whether to raise our own meat birds for human consumption next year. I would love to be responsible for more of my food and to also ensure the birds had a decent, pastured life before processing. However, there is little chance of me finding a processor near me who would process the birds for me. What USDA inspected processing plant cares about 30 broilers? So I either process them myself or forego. I mean, I want to "do the right thing", but I love my layer hens and I think there is quite a learning curve to processing your own poultry. I don't hunt and although I am not opposed to it, it's quite a mental leap for me.

What to do?

Then one of my dogs got sick when she ate chicken. And another dog. This is store bought "Manager's Special", boneless skinless chicken breast. Not even their usual disgusting discarded poultry frames. This is chicken meant for people to eat, and now my dogs, which have been fed poultry for, oh 8 years now, are getting sick when they eat it.

I did some research and found out that humans have an intolerance for store bought poultry, too, because in the US they dunk the carcasses in a chlorine solution after processing. Residual chlorine survives cooking (of course, cooking does not remove chemicals) and people ingest it and viola, they get sick. In fact, the EU has been banning the import of US poultry since 1997 and just recently voted to keep the ban. The reason? The chlorinated poultry.

It turns out, the solution they use to clean the carcasses is the same chemical they use to sanitize swimming pools. It is NOT the solution they use to sanitize municipal water supplies, which is, um, more palatable?

I've never been happier to be on a well.

Anyway, I don't know if my dogs are sick because of chlorinated poultry. In fact, it's probably a stretch. But they ARE sick from human-grade chicken breast I bought from the store. And when I have cooked up eggs (even store bought eggs) for them to eat instead, no sickness. Instant cause and effect.

So the decision has been made. I will be raising and processing my own poultry next year.


Jen said...

Hey Daun! I've been lurking for a while, first on the Brego blog and then this one, and I'm coming out of hiding! My family has a hobby farm exactly like what you're doing. We raise all of our own eggs, meat birds, meat cattle and a lot of fruits and vegetables. Our meat birds are raised in the same way you want to do, with the rotational mobile coop. We take our birds to an Amish facility near us for processing. Before they slaughter them we have to agree that they're being slaughtered for the right reasons and they say a prayer over each bird before it's slaughtered. It's very professional with excellent facilities and handling and they come back wrapped up in styrofoam trays and cellophane like at the grocery store. I live in Illinois so you won't be able to use that place, but maybe you could find something similar near you? Once you try homegrown poultry you'll never go back! Good luck!


Funder said...

Oh no, one of the dogs is sick? I hope she's not seriously ill. (Also are you just made of money, or were those breasts on sale? Cersei lives on pork neckbones, weird things I find at ethnic groceries, and .99/lb Tyson's whole chickens. Sometimes minus the breasts when we eat them. Ugh.)

Anyway, I suspect it's a weird mental shift to go from "friends" to "food." But butchering a chicken isn't terribly hard food prep, from what I've read, and I think the knowledge that your chicken was raised humanely and killed quickly will outweigh the weird guilt.

Remember when I went fishing in the fall? That's kind of what I was doing; I wanted to see if I really could eat something I'd killed and butchered myself. I had to console myself with the thought that fish aren't very bright... but they were tasty, local, and sustainable, in the end.

Daun said...

Hey Jen, Welcome and thanks for your post! I had not thought about Amish butchers, primarily because I don't think I have ever heard the word Amish uttered within NH state lines. There is one USDA recognized processes facility in the entire state. Just another sign that small farmers don't count anymore. I have seen ads on craigslist for people to come over and process your poultry, but they will probably be as hygienic as I will, so no dice. I just need to do it. Your story gave me some hope. Your family doesn't have a blog, do they???

I most certainly am NOT made of money. :) Those breasts were on sale for less than $0.99/lb. In the great state of Tejas, I could get chicken frames for $0.29/lb. Of course, illegal labor in horrid conditions do keep prices down. Up here, I can't find any meat for less than $1/lb so they get what they can. I haven't made my butchering connections to maybe get scraps yet, I am paying retail prices. Yet another reason to move them to eggs, once I get any, that is.

I remember your fishing post, and I agree. I figure my layers are pets I nurture, the meaties will be around for two short months and I won't talk to them. After the first couple, it should be ok. I fished a lot as a kid and had no trouble cleaning them and eating them. I eat lobster, etc. Plus, reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is inspiring me to do it so I can regain control of my food.

dp said...

We've been thinking about raising rabbits for the dogs. They are cheap to feed and easy...well...easy to breed! We spend at least $300/month feeding the crew, so it would be a huge savings. But then there is the idea of tossing dead fuzzy bunny carcasses to my dogs...

Not this year. Maybe next year.

Funder said...

Yall have economies of scale in your favor. I've tried it both ways - buy more expensive meat every couple of days, or buy in bulk and freeze and thaw. For me, it's easier to go to the grocery store every three days, and it's not much more expensive. Kinda like how someone with one normal healthy small horse can buy a couple bales of hay at the feed store, but the rest of us have to buy in bulk.

Daun said...

We also considered rabbits and bought a couple "fuzzies" online to try them out with the dogs. Half our dogs HATED them. In fact, the Pharaoh Hound's primary "natural" food is rabbit and she won't eat it.

Plus, we would need A LOT of rabbits. Our dog budget is not quite as big as yours but we still couldn't do it. We also thought of meat goats (sorry) and again, the amount of meat needed was insane. I am really hoping I can get this egg diet to work. Eggs are a "renewable" resource and no butchering required. Plus, my picky hound will eat them!

Anonymous said...

Hi Daun,

We had a neighbor who would help kill and process the chickens and ducks for us. It is a lot of work, and not particularly a nice day, so it helped to have help. She always took some chickens in exchange. It is hard to kill your own animals, and everyone knows this, and helps each other.

We NEVER fed our dogs eggs. Everyone hates an egg-sucking dog. Once they have a taste for them, you will never find any left for you.

Daun said...

Thanks for your input. The dogs are confined to a fenced yard and are never allowed access to chickens or their eggs. I've been feeding eggs to the dogs for years, but only in small quantities and they've been fine, no odorous problems commonly associated with eggs. :)

My neighbors love the chickens but would be completely useless when it came time to dispatching them. :)

dp said...

Our dogs will eat rabbit, but they do prefer chicken and turkey. Anything supplemental to bring down the dog meat budget would be a bonus for us -- with Titan in the equation I am feeding 7-9 pounds daily. Damnable herding dogs and their damnable metabolisms! And damnable 100-pound puppy!

Anyhow, I think your egg idea is great. They are good food for dogs, and biologically appropriate. What percentage of the diet are you hoping to achieve in egg?

dp said...

And haha Funder -- Can't imagine buying dog food every 3-4 days. We can store 1000 lbs between our three freezers and that's usually what I buy because I get a 20% discount at that volume. We feed about 50% ground chicken with bone in, 30% ground turkey with bone and vegetable, and 20% lamb neck. I have to buy ground to get it into the freezers efficiently. Then I buy turkey necks and chicken backs when I see them cheap at the store. Our total cost is just over $1/pound. The butcher who sells me all this stuff loves me, and it is great fun to watch other customers gape when I pile all this stuff into the truck and then hand over my VISA for a $1000 bill.