I did not grow up on a farm. I indulged on McNuggets as a kid. I bought the cheapest chicken breast in college. I definitely never claimed to be a vegetarian. I did not care how chickens were raised, killed or sold. But I love chicken. And now I care.
The words free-range and organic only entered my vocabulary a couple of years ago. As the terms starting popping up in the media, I started to pay attention. Wait, you mean to tell me that the chickens I just ate never saw a trace of daylight? They were pumped full of steroids and antibiotics so they could be egg-laying machines? Companies like Tyson and Hormel are making a killing off of an incredibly cruel industry and not paying their farmers fairly? Ah, hell no. Watch this.
I started working in the developing world in 2013. Within every village I have visited, there are chickens. LOTS of chickens. Roosters that refuse to let you sleep past 4:30 am - little jerks. Cute little chicks that follow their mother hens anywhere and everywhere. Chickens taking full reign over their owners front, back and side yards. Chickens that have never experienced rapid body growth. Happy chickens.
Remember, I love eating chicken. But, I believe in respecting all animals. The reality of eating chicken is that the chicken eventually has to die in order for it to become dinner.
WARNING - Stop reading if you’re going to accuse me of being cruel or if you genuinely don’t believe in eating dead over alive chicken.
Over time, I have developed a bucket list desire - to assist in the entire process of a chicken going farm-to-table (AKA I wanted to kill, pluck, clean, cook and eat a chicken). This desire came from a curiosity and a need to understand proper v inhumane practices. Call me a weirdo, whatever. But, in order to properly pay respect to the chicken I had a criteria:
- The chicken had to have had a happy clucking life free of steroids, cages and machinery.
- The chicken had to be bought at a fair price (not the $1.99 special from the Wal-Mart Supercenter).
- The process had to be supervised by a professional.
- The whole experience had to be documented.
So the day came - March 5, 2015 - the day the saying "running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off" finally made sense to me.
Lucky for me, my trek coordinator job with buildOn takes me across the globe to lead school building treks in villages that do not have access to a proper education. On a recent trek to Haiti, my group was craving protein, since trek typically consists of vegetarian cuisine. I saw this as my opportunity to check another item off the ol’ bucket list and to make a cultural activity out of it for the group. Cue the song Circle of Life and enjoy the photos.
The chickens were bought from a local farmer in the village for around 700 GDES = $14.94 USD. Check the fair price off of the criteria list.
The buildOn Haiti cook, Anna, has been cooking for trek teams for years. She has seen it all and cooked it all, always with the biggest smile on her face. She chuckled as I explained through our translator that we wanted to help kill the chicken. She was probably thinking, “How else do they get their chicken? This is an every day activity for me.” If anyone could be called a chicken killing professional, it’s Anna. Without hesitating, Anna agreed and a plan was put into action.
Come to find out, I wasn't the only person in our group that had an interest in helping. One of the trek members, Leah, took the honors of initiating the kill with Anna's close assistance. Between the three of us, it was a very educational, interesting and tough process. Leah's face says it all. I was blown away that the chicken literally took off running after its neck was chopped.
Once things calmed down and our rooster was definitely dead, we cleaned him with a lemon, butter and water mixture. Next, to loosen the feathers, we poured boiling hot water over them. The feathers were so beautiful; they reminded me that everything is perfectly placed on purpose and that there is beauty in everything in this world. But, as beautiful as they were, they had to be plucked in order for us to have a chicken dinner.
To finish up the preparation, the chicken had the be held over the fire to sanitize it more and to drain a lot of the blood. Lastly, Anna used the knife to filet the chicken meat. We were amazed at how underneath the feathers and skin there was a delicious looking piece of chicken meat that looked exactly like the chicken we buy from the grocery store... I don't know what we were expecting?! But, it was reassuring that our chicken was 100% organic and free range.
Finally, we had a delicious dinner of chicken, veggies, rice and fruit. Needless to say, the protein tasted a tad bit better because of the hard work we put in to preparing it and the respect we paid the chicken. If you have any interest of participating in this chicken farm-to-table process, my advice is to DO IT. You will have a whole new appreciation for the chicken you eat and will hopefully start to be a little more conscious with your food purchases. Bon appétit!
PS - Watch this if you want to experience the CUTENESS OVERLOAD I experienced in the village. Mothers are awesome.