Chickens and other poultry can be a great addition to a farming enterprise, whether commercial or hobby level. Processing itself can be a mystery to the newcomer however, and regulations and food safety can be daunting. To encourage more farmers to try their hand at poultry, NABC set out to offer a straight-forward, practical master class in processing birds for consumption, and explain the rules and best practices in simple terms.
Whidbey Island was the first to host a class, thanks to the Organic Farm School and support from WSU – San Juan County. On a sunny July day following a slideshow primer, 17 students sourced from the Farm School and open registration gathered around NABC’s Mobile Poultry Processing Unit to observe MPPU Supervisor Miguel Martinez and crew members Cristina Guerrero-Cisneros and Juana Torrez-Jimenez demonstrate how to dispatch, de-feather, clean out and package chickens to the highest humane and sanitary standards. Students then received one-on-one coaching, and successfully performed all steps in the process. The lunchtime lecture included a summary of regulations guiding commercial production, basic sanitation, and food safety. At day’s end everyone joined in learning packaging tips, and took a sample of their work home to enjoy.
With lessons learned from the first event, WSU-San Juan helped NABC bring the workshop to Friday Harbor. Using NABC’s rental equipment (providing a more affordable transport option), the team presented a second version of the workshop geared more to homestead flocks. Participants hailed from San Juan and Orcas Islands. There was a last-minute scramble when the original venue fell through, but a local firefighter came to the rescue, graciously offering his property and home. In gratitude, the homeowner was gifted one of the bagged pasture-raised chickens. The informal atmosphere created a low-stress learning environment for students new to butchering activities, and an easy pace.
Feedback from the two classes have been very positive. From the Whidbey Island class evaluations, “This is a perfect starting point. I now have enough knowledge to research further,” and “Great hands on workshop.” The possibility of a second class in the San Juans is being explored for October.
Please contact Sera Hartman at the NABC office if you are interested in scheduling a poultry processing workshop in your area: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-336-3727.