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Chicken slaughter at home

Chicken slaughter at home

Chicken slaughter must be carried out in the most humane way. It is therefore ones responsibility to ensure that they are fully prepared in order to protect the welfare of each individual bird. The write up gives a six step guide on how you can ensure the task is done quickly, confidently and without causing any avoidable pain, distress or suffering.

a)    Preparation prior to slaughter

Birds must be caught and handled with care and consideration to ensure safety for the bird and the handler. Aggressive techniques result in birds panicking leading to injuries (bone breaks, dislocations and bruises) and stress which causes them to produce adrenaline that can affect the quality of the carcass. It is important to approach birds quietly and calmly under dim lighting conditions to avoid panic. The birds should not have access to feed for a maximum period of 12 hours prior to slaughter to reduce crop content and fecal contamination when eviscerating the carcass. However, access to drinking water is advisable (especially in hot climates) so that the animals do not suffer unnecessarily. Moreover, this will have a positive influence on meat tenderness. Finally, be sure that your tools are sterile and very sharp to make the process easier.

b)    Stunning

Slaughter methods usually involve a two-stage process; inducing loss of consciousness and causing the death of the animal. The process of inducing loss of consciousness is referred to as stunning; one can use either electrical or concussion stunning in which both are humane pre-slaughter methods. Electrical stunning uses a stun gun designed for poultry to pass sufficient current through the brain to disrupt the normal electrical activity while concussion stunning involves applying a severe blow to the skull. Both methods cause immediate unconsciousness and insensibility to pain. Death has to be induced by cutting through the jugular vein located at the front of the neck just below the head using a sharp knife. The method should be done within 15 seconds after stunning before consciousness is regained. Neck dislocation without prior stunning has been widely used however, research suggests that the procedure does not consistently concuss the brain and it is unlikely to cause immediate insensibility to pain.

c)    Bleeding

When slaughtering birds for consumption, for food safety reasons, birds should be kept suspended with the head positioned downward for about two minutes so that the blood can flow down easily, and the rest of the body is well secured. Ensure when suspending the bird, the wings are properly secured to prevent flapping that may interfere with the bleeding process.

d)    Scalding and plucking process

Scalding is then done to loosen the feathers for easy removal. The process involves immersing the bird in hot water (50⁰C to 60⁰C) for 60 seconds. The head is first immersed into the hot water, gently swirling the whole body and legs in the water around, up and down. Check the scald by rubbing your hand or fingers against the grain of the feathers on the leg, and by plucking a large feather like a wing or tail feather. If the feathers don’t pluck easily, more time is needed and as soon as the feathers come out easily, scalding is done. Ensure not to overheat the water or leave the birds in for too long, since both can cause easy tear of the skin or meat. Plucking should be done immediately after the scalding; otherwise the effect is lost for a big part and also the bird will become stiff. The de-feathered carcass has to be thoroughly washed to ensure all feathers and dirt is removed.

e)    Evisceration

Evisceration involves the removal of head, feet and the viscera (internal organs). During the process the birds can be put on a table, which, however, presents a risk of contamination, especially when more than one bird are to be eviscerated and cross-contamination could occur. It is therefore of utmost importance that the table is cleaned thoroughly between treatment of the birds.

To remove the head make a cut around the neck just behind the head, and twist to separate the neck from the body. The feet are removed by using a knife to cut through the skin and tendons around the joint, then simply snap the feet off by hand. Chicken head and feet are often not disposed as they make great ingredients in making stock and soup. At this stage, you should be able to see the esophagus, trachea and crop which can be left attached and be pulled from the body with the viscera or can be cut off before. Moving to the tail of the bird in which the scent gland is located and since it produces strong and odorous oil, it is often removed through a circular cut around the tail.

The next goal is to create an opening into the cavity of the body by making a cut around the vent (cloaca). Ensure the opening is large enough to allow you to delve in with one hand in a flat position and the top of your fingers pressed upward against the breastbone of the bird. Use a gentle, firm pressure to work your hand into the body cavity, and when your fingers cannot go in any further carefully curve them downward to scoop and carefully pull out the digestive tract from the esophagus to the intestines. When all the contents of the cavity have been removed the bird should be thoroughly washed. The by-products heart, liver and gizzard can be separated and saved for consumption since they are considered edible. The heart has to be washed and squeezed to force out any remaining blood. The green gall bladder should be carefully trimmed away from the liver to prevent it from damaging the liver and carcass, since the green liquid will not only spoil the way the product looks, but it also has a bitter taste. The gizzard needs to be split lengthwise and the contents washed away while the lining should then be peeled away from the rest of the gizzard to make it edible.

f)    Processing and packaging

After the evisceration procedure has been completed the carcass should be chilled in ice-water solution for at least thirty minutes to one hour to allow the muscles to go through rigor mortis and relax otherwise the meat ends up being tough and hard. If the carcass is to be frozen the gizzard, heart and liver can be wrapped in a small plastic bag and placed inside the body cavity. The dressed carcass can then be placed in a moisture-vapor proof plastic bag and frozen.