This weekend we hosted our Raising Meat Chickens Class. The class is a 4 hour class. The students day begins with a pleasant group discussion, sitting outside by the garden in beautiful sunny weather.
The first hour is spent talking all about chickens. We address the question an aspiring farmer will always be faced with… “Why would you want to do that? Don’t they sell chicken at your grocery store?”
The differences between commercial and heritage breeds is explained, and students get to see for themselves as we have both here on the farm.
What will you house your chickens in? A coop? Chicken tractor? Will you let them free range? All of these questions are discussed in detail.
What a great turnout we had! I am allways amazed, when we host this class, to see who arrives. People from all walks of life come, and are united by a desire to get more connected with their food, and a goal to feed their family better, healthier food.
The first vehicle to enter my driveway was a great big work Truck… Followed by a midsize Lexus. One student lived in a Townhouse, and we laughed thinking about what the association would think if a chicken tractor showed up alongside the sidewalk. There was a couple who just had purchased their own dream property, and were now preparing to start their own farm. A mother, who is almost finished with her schooling to become a midwife, talked about perhaps getting her flock started this year, hoping to teach her child where our food comes from.
After the discussion, student get a hands on lesson in chicken processing. First is a demonstration, where they observe every step of the process, beginning with the killing cone, and ending with the shrink wrap bag and labeling.
After the demonstration, students process their own bird, start to finish. What an excellent job this class did! They overcame their fears, and before you know it, we had beautiful finished birds in the cooler. Each student had their own techniques. Some wanted to use the mechanical plucker, wile others hand picked the birds clean. Some students were already planning how they themselves would handle this process with their backyard flock. They helped and encouraged each other, and all left with a beautiful chicken fit for the dining room table.
Its a great responsibility to take on. Some decide that they don’t want to know where their meat comes from. By ignoring the reality of meat, animals are allowed to undergo a sad life, raised in poor conditions, and ended in an automated diss-assembly line. Not these students. They took responsibility. The birds they brought home lived the happiest life possible, and had a respectful end. They made a step toward self reliance, wile supporting sustainable agriculture.
And now they have the confidence to raise their own flock, Pasture to Plate.