Each year when I offer my birds I get questions from people who are curious about the process, and I invite them out to watch. First, if I'm doing something I don't want them to see, should I really be doing it? and second I honestly think that getting close to your food, and understanding where it comes from, makes it more precious. I do appreciate the sacrifice that the turkey makes for me, and it's always a little sad for me to kill an animal. At first I wrote "...a little sad to see an animal go" and then realized that I'm specifically saying the euphemisms and distance are what I hate about packaged meat. So "kill" it is.
I posted this ad on the local craigslist:
TURKEY PROCESSING CLASS
Date: 2008-11-20, 10:41PM PST
you can bring your own turkey, or we'll sell you one. you'll start with the live bird, and end up with an oven-ready turkey.
At every step there will be someone to explain the actions, and demonstrate them on another bird so you can get it perfect the first time.
If you provide the bird, the class is $30. If we sell you one, it's $55. Class is 2 hours long, at my farm in everett. All tools provided, bags and ice provided. Our turkeys are heritage breeds, never penned, and carefully hand raised on my farm.
I recieved a number of replies; a fellow who's part of a turkey coop that raised 7 turkeys in a backyard in Seattle and wanted a better idea of how to process their birds; a college professor who was really interested in getting closer to his food and wanted his daughter to know more about it; a park ranger who'd bought a half a pig from me last year and brought her nephew to watch the pig being slaughtered; an architect and brewer who's been involved in designing and working with farming regulations for a nearby demonstration farm.
So this morning was the morning of the class. I have to admit, I was pretty curious what the range of reactions would be.
We use large road cones for killing cones. I pick them up when I see them laying on the side of the road, and over the years I've found 4. I cut off about 4"s off the tip. After the turkey is unconcious you put the turkey head-down in the cone. The cone both holds the bird inverted for good blood drain, and prevents the bird from bruising itself with any twitching that occurs. We put down two sawhorses about 6' apart, and put a pair of 2x4s on top of them. The cones rest nicely between them. To make sure there's no issues, i nail the 2x4s to the sawhorses and the cones to the 2x4s. It's simple, cheap and works well. After the bird stops twitching we pull the tail feathers and large wing feathers here. The plucker handles most of the other feathers.
This is pretty much the hardest part. After this step it's basically cooking.
Pulling tail and wing feathers
After scalding the turkeys go into a tub plucker, not pictured. It removes most of the feathers, in aboout 45 seconds, leaving the bird looking like this