I've been a rural girl most of my life, and although my family used to raise cows and I've collected eggs before, I've never witnessed how certain food is "harvested."
I got the opportunity Saturday, though, when the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture held a Yard to Skillet workshop. Recently, Columbia passed a law allowing "urban hens" in the city, meaning locals could raise up to six chickens on their property within city limits.
Because Columbia is quite rampant with farmers and individuals seeking natural or organic foods, many Columbians took advantage of the urban hen proposition. This means these people can harvest eggs on their property or raise chickens (and hens) for eating.
But just because you have a chicken doesn’t mean you know how to kill and cook it. So, the CUA held this handy workshop Saturday morning. Firstly, the CUA headquarters are awesome. They are housed in, well, a house, and upon walking in, there are huge squashes for anyone to take. There’s also a community garden on the property where anyone who puts the hours in planting and harvesting vegetables can grow what they need.
Behind the CUA is another farm with chickens running around. Instructor Jordan Dawdy held the workshop here. I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. I knew I would watch people kill chickens, but how do you actually kill a chicken?
Well, apparently there are different methods, but Dawdy taught participants how to snap the chicken’s neck, then hang it upside down and cut the head off.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, however — you know the expression “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”? I guess that expression is based in truth because those chickens seemed completely alive even when they were dead from having their necks snapped, and even after having their head cut off.
The broiler chickens (the white ones) that were first used were that bad, but once then the volunteers at the CUA got into the hens, and those girls don’t go quietly.
I was mostly OK with the whole process — it didn’t bother me all that much. I mean, if I’m going to eat chicken, I should be able to handle the fact that, you know, that meat comes from an animal that had to be killed. The movement after the chicken was dead was the only thing that really registered in my mind, mostly because I started to think about how other beings die and all that metaphysical and philosophical stuff.
The rest of the process was pretty easy. The bird was then dunked in boiled water to wet the feathers, and then participants massaged the feathers off. The next step was to remove the unwanted innards, such as the lungs, intestines and heart, and then rinse off the bird and chill it in cold water for 8 hours. I didn’t take one home or kill a bird (for conflict of interest purposes), but I walked away with plenty of splattered blood on my Chucks and fellow photographer Nick Agro even got some blood on his camera.
I enjoy earning “life points,” as I like to call them, through taking pictures. And I ate chicken the night of the workshop. Don’t forget to check out Agro’s and my slideshow on The Maneater.
All photographs copyright © Katie Currid and may not be reused or reproduced without permission. All rights reserved.