FO-00701 Reviewed 1998
The processing area should be a place that is clean, has an adequate water supply, and is free from flies. The processing procedure should be done in three steps: 1) Killing, scalding, picking, singeing; 2) eviscerating (removal of internal organs) and washing; and 3) chilling and packaging. To reduce possibilities of contamination, the operations in the first step should be completed before starting the evisceration procedures or done in a separate room or outside. The area should be arranged and equipped for ease and cleanliness of work.
Knives should be sharpened before starting work. Boning and cutting knives (fig. 1e) are adequate for home dressing of poultry. Special knives with thin, sharp blades and points (fig. 1d) make some phases of eviscerating easier. If birds have pinfeathers a pinning knife (fig. 1c) may help scrape off the pinfeathers after the larger feathers are removed. Kitchen shears are used by some processors for harvesting and cleaning giblets.
Clean plastic or galvanized garbage type cans make good containers for scalding and chilling water. Similar containers or boxes lined with plastic bags can be used for feather and offal containers. A sturdy table will be necessary for a worktable. Most tables will not have a good clean working surface so a disposable plastic covering should be used. Giblets should be placed in a clean kitchen pan large enough to hold giblets from the number of birds being processed. Scald water temperature can be better adjusted with a thermometer that registers in the 120° to 212° F. range. A pocket model with a protective case (fig. 1b) is less subject to breakage when not in use. Have an adequate supply of packaging materials so that birds can be packaged for handling and storage after they have been processed and cooled.
Killing. Remove birds from coops and crates carefully to reduce bruising (fig. 2). Place the bird in a killing cone or hang it from a shackle. If neither of these devices is available, poultry can be suspended from a clothesline or other support by the feet with a short piece of rope with a small square of plywood held fast to the end by a knot d (figs. 1a, 3, 4). Hold the head in one hand and pull down for a slight tension to steady the bird (fig. 5). Using a sharp knife, cut the bird's throat from the outside just behind the lower jaw. The cut should sever both the large vein and the cross vein at this point to bleed freely. To reduce carcass contamination, do not cut the esophagus or windpipe.
Hold the front part of the head securely to avoid cutting your hand. To prevent excessive splattering of blood, hold the head of the bird for a few moments until the bleeding and flopping stops. Catch the blood in a container to aid with your cleanup operation.
Other farm slaughter methods include wringing the bird's neck or chopping off the head with an axe. Not as much blood may be pumped out of the carcass by those methods as with a good throat cut.
Scalding. Dry picking today is usually limited to some waterfowl processing. Pick these birds immediately after they have been bled.
The appearance of the dressed carcass as well as the ease of feather removal will be determined by the time and temperature of the scalding procedure. Lower temperatures are used with longer periods of immersion in the scald water. The hotter the water the shorter the scald time and more chance of overscalding. The use of higher temperatures results in the loss of the yellow cuticle layer of the skin and may result in more skin tears during feather removal. Boiling water should be kept nearby to keep the scald water hot enough during the entire processing period. For best results check water temperature with a thermometer.
Young birds with easier to remove feathers can be scalded at 125° - 130° F. for 30 to 75 seconds. The proper length of time for adequate feather removal leaves the epidermal layer of the bird's skin intact. Temperatures of near 140° F. for 30 to 75 seconds can be used with older birds for easier feather removal. The cuticle covering of the skin will generally be removed at this temperature. Because of the difficulty in removing feathers from waterfowl, ducks and geese are processed at higher temperatures 1 to 2 minutes in water at 160° - 170° F. Adding detergent to the scald water helps water penetrate through the feathers, especially on waterfowl.
Immerse the bird, head first in the scald water while holding the bird by the shanks (fig. 7). The bird should be moved up and down and from side to side in the scalding container to aid in more even and thorough scalding. If a proper scald has been achieved, the tail and wing feathers can quite readily be removed. Repeat dips of short duration may be necessary for difficult-to remove feathers.
Picking. Hang the bird back on the rope or shackle for ease in picking. Use a slight pressure with gentle rubbing action for more rapid and easier removal of feathers (fig. 8). Do not delay picking after the scalding. Develop a picking procedure, pulling the large tail and wing feathers first and then setting a sequence of removing the rest of the body feathers. Rinse the bird with water after most of the feathers have been removed. Use a slight pressure and rubbing motion to remove any remaining small feathers and pinfeathers. A pinning knife or a dull knife helps remove the small pinfeathers.
Waxing waterfowl. Waterfowl are often immersed in a container of paraffin wax to remove small feathers and down after most feathers have been removed. Follow directions supplied by the wax manufacturer. Usually at least two dips of a fairly dry carcass in a wax bath at 135° - 160° F. and then dipping in cold water to set the wax will build up a wax coating to remove the feathers. Some directions recommend a hotter temperature for the first dip, with a dip in water or a short air cooling period between wax dips. The wax should be removed when it is at the flexible stage, not cold enough to be brittle. A little experimentation with times and temperature should lead to satisfactory results. The wax can be reclaimed by heating and straining out the feathers. Dirt, blood, and water will separate from the melted wax.
Singeing. It's usually not necessary on young birds. The more mature chickens and turkeys may have a few hairs which remain after feathers are removed. Use a bottle gas torch or an open flame on a gas range to singe these hairs, being careful not to burn yourself or the skin on the bird's carcass (fig. 9).
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