Thankfully, the chicken project is finished. When I was at work on Wednesday, Martin and his friend Bill (paid in chicken) slaughtered them. The chickens were 9 weeks old and most were reasonably well grown. These chickens are bred to be processed at 6 weeks and grow fast, they also need to eat a huge amount to sustain that type of growth. I raised them on grass, moving their pen twice a day giving them access to a bit of green pick and sunshine. I had more chickens die than I expected, which may have been because of the cold or something not right with my management. If I did it again I would use a different hatchery for the day old chicks, and raise a smaller group. That said, none of the chicken had any sign of disease when killed, with healthy livers and good carcasses. The total cost per chicken was $12.50 to raise. Now I'm looking forward to the taste test for the effort.
We like to kill our own meat for home consumption as much as possible. That way we can be sure that the animal has been grass fed, had no harmful chemicals, treated gently for whole of life, and is killed humanely. ( We stun the sheep with a bullet in a comparatively stress free situation, before cutting its throat). There is also pleasure in being able to eat meat that has been born and raised on our farm, and offers a good opportunity to check the quality, as these are the animals we sell to others to eat, and are the progeny of our rams. We can see if they are carrying too much fat, if the livers are healthy, and that the carcase yield is up to scratch.
I love the challenge of cooking all of the animal, but I always seem to fail on what to do with the flaps or lamb breast as I heard them called on "Masterchef" the other night. The easy option is to feed them to the working dogs, but there must be wonderful tasty things to make with them. I have set myself the challenge of finding ten great ways to prepare them before we kill the next sheep, so if anyone has any great recipies let me know.