Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkeys: The Slaughter Gone Awry

Y'all, I'm not going to lie. This story is not for the faint of heart. It is a story of a turkey slaughter gone awry. It is a story about an event that traumatized me for about three days... then I started thinking it was pretty hilarious and definitely a big learning experience. Read on, if you want to hear a traumatizing yet funny story. Read on, if you can handle a lot of all caps, because I don't think I can restrain myself when it comes to this particular story.

Neither of us had ever killed any poultry before but I had watched Farmer Stacy kill chickens so I had the gist of how it was supposed to go. Both of us had watched multiple videos on youtube to prepare ourselves for how to do the deed. We were fairly confident that we could do it well.

Several factors conspired against us (the sun had just set so we didn't have full light, the plank we hung the turkey's feet from wasn't high enough so his head was touching the ground, the knives weren't as sharp as we thought they were) and, suffice it to say, the turkey slaughter DID NOT GO AS PLANNED. Not even a little.

From the start I was worried about the conspiring factors and mentioned to Josh that I would prefer to do it the next day. Josh, however, had been amping himself up all day and was mentally prepared to kill these turkeys. He thought that my protestations were panic, that I was trying to back out of the whole thing. He pressed forward and ignored what I was squawking about. He was just trying to do his manly duty of getting the job done.

We proceeded with the initial set up. Picture this: I am hugging the turkey, which has been hung upside down by his feet. The thought behind this was to prevent him from flailing around when his nervous system went into its death throes. So I am hugging the turkey, watching Josh try to cut its throat... and it isn't going well. What is supposed to be one clean slice across the jugular, resulting in a quick and humane death and a giant spurt of blood, is instead... sawing. And sawing. And SAWING. With a knife that is FOR SURE not sharp, not even a little.

This is the point where I really DO start to panic, screaming things such as, "IT'S NOT RIGHT!" and "THERE ISN'T ENOUGH BLOOD!!!" at Josh, who is just trying to kill this dang turkey already. All the while I am hugging that turkey like my life depends on it, just trying to not run off around the field screaming.

After a few minutes we step back and look at the turkey. Not much blood, but it's not really moving around. Josh asks, "Is it dead?" and I angrily reply, "I GUESS SO" and go get the other turkey. I am furious at this point, saying plenty of mean things to my poor husband who had just tried to do his best at something he'd never done before.

I come back across the field, lugging the very heavy second turkey upside down by his feet when I noticed the first turkey had fallen off the plank it was hanging from. I said something to Josh, and as he turned around to look at it... THE TURKEY SAT UP. With a big gory hole on one side of his neck, dripping blood. HE SAT UP AND LOOKED AT US. And then, my friends. Then I lost my shit. Started screaming even more at my poor husband, who was rooted to the spot with shock.

I dropped the turkey I was holding, ran to entice him back into his pen with food, and ran back to help Josh hang up the first turkey AGAIN to cut his neck AGAIN. This time, mercifully, though it was almost totally dark by then, Josh cut the right place and we could hear blood gushing out. The turkey was done with his death throes within a couple of minutes and it was very obvious that he was dead this time.

Poor Josh, at this point I stomped off and left him to do the processing himself. He did a great job, despite the dark, and within a couple hours the turkey was looking like what you'd get at the grocery store. Maggie was fascinated with the process (though we had her stay inside during the killing part) - she had a moment of being sad for the turkey's death (upon seeing him dead she said, "Oh! I liked that turkey!") but was very curious about seeing his organs. Josh pulled out the heart to show her and she asked, "Is that where Jesus lives?" to which we said, "Ummmm... not quite!"

Looking back now, this story is pretty funny but also sad. It took me quite awhile, and a conversation with a sympathetic friend, to calm down enough to talk to Josh about what went wrong. It seemed like something out of an awful indie black comedy movie.

Am I glad that we killed our own turkey for Thanksgiving? Absolutely, no doubt.  Although round one went fairly awfully, we realized that our turkeys still lived a hugely better life than their factory farmed counterparts and even the turkey's death was likely more humane than the horrible things that happen in poultry processing factories. I've heard some awful stories about those places. At least we had good intentions - and we learned for the future! Turkey #2 (the bronze one) was processed by Josh and his brother Jeremy, using specific poultry killing knives, and it was very quick and humane. All a part of the learning process of being a farmer.

RIP turkeys. Thanks for being so tasty.


  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, I think I like her pretty well. Looks like we will be keeping her around for awhile! ;)

  2. I am so completely in awe of you guys right now. All of you. Turkeys included. Way to be. And I was thinking - you were holding that turkey like your life depended on it, and really . . . in theory your life DOES depend on it. This is so cool and I hope I can try it a little later in life.

    1. Thank you girl! I can definitely picture you raising and processing your own meat animals at some point. You're doing so much to move towards a life of respecting your food!

      After the shock wore off, it really was a great feeling to know the face of our dinner. A lot more to be thankful for. I've been reading through the Old Testament lately and am very impressed with the importance the ancient Israelites placed on the value of every life, even animals. Sacrifices had crazy rules to them and it was all about respecting the animal life that was taken on behalf of the people. Good stuff to learn from.