Raising turkeys is a little different from raising chickens. We raise the chickens principally for their eggs, but turkeys are mainly for meat and the pleasure of being around such fun animals. The joy we receive from these creatures surprised even us and so when it came time (Thanksgiving) to slaughter one, we wavered a bit. We had raised these birds from chicks (or poults) protecting them from all the various harms that could come to them, they have grown to trust us and love being around us. However, as meat eaters who routinely eat turkey meat, we knew that it was important to us to do this if only to truly understand the connection between animal and meal.
Britton and the “chosen one”
First we chose the bird. We picked one of the males as they are slightly bigger and they also have begun fighting amongst themselves. Of the twelve birds we raised into adulthood, they were evenly split 6/6 male and female. So it was necessary to also bring down the numbers of males before mating season begins and the hens start laying eggs. We are planning to facilitate broodiness and hatching the next generation.
We had gathered all the necessary equipment including knives, a long hose, bags to collect the feathers and a cooler full of ice to quickly cool it once it had been gutted.
There are many ways in which to do “the deed”. We chose to hang the bird upside down and slit the neck. The turkey became very calm upside down. We said a blessing and thank you for his life and his time on earth spent with us. We appreciated him for giving his life in order for him to further our life. Life feeds on life and this is no more clear than in the moment of death. It took a few deep breaths before Britton was able to kill him, but it went very quickly.
When the head was removed we both commenced the long process of de-feathering. We didn’t need a pot of hot water; nearly all the turkey feathers came out without much trouble.
Our friend Anthony came over and helped to gut the bird. Overall it was fairly straightforward. We cut an incision between the legs and pulled most of the organs out that way. It was interesting seeing what makes up an animal and how many of those same parts make up us as well.
Finally, we dropped off the bird with our chef friend Tommy. We had planned on sharing it with everyone at a Thanksgiving dinner where he is the chef (Rincon Beer Company) but there was a change in plans.
Tommy cooked the bird using some culinary techniques that I had never heard of before (like valentine) and stuffed it with a flavorful risotto. A few days after Thanksgiving, Britton and I shared a moment giving thanks in quiet reflection and gratitude for our lives and all that make them. We are thankful for all the moments that have led up to this one. We are thankful for so much. And right at the moment of our first delicious bite we felt the completeness of what it meant to be truly thankful for our food and all the steps and people involved in bringing fullness to our lives and bellies.