A Polyface Processing Day

| 8/10/2015 11:16:00 AM

Tags: poultry, chicken processing, Polyface Farm, apprentice, Tim Rohrer, California, Virginia,

Before I began my journey down the road of farming, I had never processed an animal of any sort (that is, aside from post-mortem operating procedures conducted on buckets of extra crispy fried chicken). I had grown up around animals, and I was no stranger to chores or hard work. I knew coming into the internship last summer that I would be getting a lot of experience processing poultry, and even more so as I rolled over into the positon of Apprentice. What would I think of it all? Would I be able to do it? What part of the process would I be best at, and what if I couldn’t stand it at all? Lots of questions to answer. I didn’t know if I had the Guts to do it…yes, that’s a processing pun.

With the help of my family, I experimented with 13 broilers that we raised before I hit the road to Virginia. Wow. Talk about an interesting experience. For me, I took no joy in the killing of the birds, but I understood that If I was going to be eating meat, I had to be willing to kill the animal or I couldn’t justify consuming it. I cherish life and view it with sanctity. It has value to me. I don’t enjoy killing, but I have learned to work with it and understand that if I am going to provide people with better food, the animals will have the best life I can give them and the most painless and quick death that I’m able to provide.

Arriving here at Polyface with the grand total of thirteen birds to my processing history, I jumped in with a desire to learn how to process quickly and effectively. In the past year or so I have helped process literally thousands and thousands of birds. I still very much appreciate the lives of the animals that are entrusted to me, and I have become experienced past what I even hoped for. My area of expertise is gutting, and by the end of last summer I was able to gut a bird in an average of twenty to thirty seconds, and able to match Joel bird for bird.

I have had many people ask me to give a short description of what my day as an apprentice looks like when I am processing. What do I have to look forward to when processing time comes around? Well, our processing procedure doesn’t start the morning of, instead it starts the day before we kill the first bird. We want to make sure that their crops are empty, so we pull their feeders the day before we process them. They still have the Salad Bar to feed on, and this time off of food doesn’t hurt the bird at all, it just cleans out its system somewhat which enables us to be more efficient while we work and helps the whole procedure run smoother.

The morning of a processing day starts with us taking our truck and one of our gooseneck trailers out to the pens. We have chicken crates stacked on the gooseneck, and each crate holds twelve to fifteen birds each depending on how old the birds are. We only put ten birds into each crate to ensure that they have plenty of space and to also make keeping track of how many birds we have caught easier.

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