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Our poultry never leave our farm. Here's why that matters.

October 14, 2021

As the weather begins to cool down, I’m often reminded of a memorable fall day from two years ago. 

It was a freakishly cold day in October, with temperatures dipping into the thirties, the wind picking up, and freezing rain and hail expected. I had to leave early to teach. But it was also the day that we were supposed to process our chickens. They were loaded up in the crates and ready to go.

So, Joe bundled up the kids on his own, set up the tables under the pop-up tent, and amid the flickering propane light and his freezing fingers, butchered and eviscerated the last fifty broiler chickens for the season.

Some days on the farm are just like that. Everything seems like it’s working against you, and yet you have to press on. Days like that can be demoralizing. They are long and arduous. But they can also be inspiring and affirming. 

It would be easy, after a day like that, for Joe to decide to throw in the towel and move poultry processing off the farm. In fact, many small family farms at our scale – we now process 400 chickens in a day – do just that.

But we decided to dig in. Over the winter, our friend Logan built a simple processing facility that could withstand the elements, and allow us to keep the work here. So, the question is – why? Why is it important to process our poultry ourselves?

From an ethical standpoint, processing our poultry here ensures that our chickens always receive the highest standard of care, from the beginning of their lives until the end.

They do not have to endure the stress of riding for hours in tightly packed crates in a truck. They are killed humanely, in a manner that minimizes pain and suffering. They are handled with the same care and respect that they have received in life. 

Yet processing our birds here also allows us to design an efficient system that prioritizes quality. Our chickens go through four stages when they are processed – they are killed, scalded, plucked, and eviscerated (feet, head, and organs removed). They are then inspected and placed in a bucket of ice to chill before being sealed and labeled. 

This process – from the killing to the ice bath – takes about 3 minutes, which is a much shorter period of time than would occur in a large processing facility. 

In that process, we inspect every chicken by hand. Because we’re feeding our family with this food, we care about the quality. We want you to have the best food possible – the kind of food we’d be willing to feed ourselves.

As the kids have grown, they’re no longer toddlers tugging at Joe’s pants as he completes this work. They’re now large enough to help in the work – and they’re quite eager to do so. In fact, as they help me pull chickens out of the ice bath, bag them, seal them, and label them, they often elbow me out of the way if I’m not moving fast enough for them.

We’re proud to process our poultry on the farm. It not only ensures our standards, but helps insulate us from the fragile systems in our country that are prone to breaking down from events like COVID-19. 

In a time when we have to schedule beef and pork appointments 12-18 months in advance, we can control our poultry processing schedule. Likewise, because we work with a small team of people from Siler City, we can put our money toward people in the community - not a large corporation. 

We hope that you can recognize this quality and care in the chicken that you put on your table. Want to see a (very brief) tour of our processing facility? You can do so here.

All the best,

Michelle

Michelle Sroka

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