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How to Slaughter Chickens for Meat

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Eviscerate, Chill and Store
How to Slaughter Chickens for Meat
Photo © Lauren Ware

The final step is to reach into the bird and run your hand down along the sides of the ribs to free the entrails. Find the gizzard, which is a hard, somewhat round organ. Pull the gizzard out and the entrails will follow. If you’ve loosened the trachea, esophagus, and crop, they should also come out with the entrails. If they don’t, you can remove them separately.

You’ll need to go back in and get the lungs. You can usually feel them by inserting your hand into the body cavity and following along the outline of the ribs to the spine. Sometimes they break into pieces, so keep going back in until you don’t feel any more squishy lung tissue. There is also a tool called a “lung scraper” that may help with this step, available from poultry processing suppliers. Remove the neck by first cutting the muscle tissue around the bone, then bending it and breaking through the bone.

Give everything a final rinse with the hose, inside and out. Place the cleaned and processed chicken into your ice- and water-filled cooler. Make sure ice and water fill the body cavity and that the chicken is completely submerged.

Birds should chill in the ice-water solution for at least 30 minutes, and one hour is better. After chilling, remove the bird from the ice water, lay on paper towels, and pat it dry. You can then store the bird in a large (1- to 2-gallon) Ziploc bag in the refrigerator. The meat should age for a few days before eating it or freezing, allowing the muscles to go through rigor mortis and then relax. Birds that haven’t aged will be tough and hard to eat. For 6- to 8-week-old broilers, age 36 hours. For 10- to 12-week-old birds, age for a full 48 hours.

For the final cleanup, make sure to wash everything you used – knives, thermometer, pails, killing cone, tarp/tablecloth, et cetera – with a diluted bleach solution and rinse with water.

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