On Tuesday, we harvested our first run of pastured broilers and we got to break in our new harvesting equipment (courtesy of a grant from RAFI-USA). It was a long day, a day full of learning lessons. Like, when you forget to put the nozzle on the end of the hose and turn on the water, you’re likely to get soaked… At least it’s summertime! Our first real learning lesson was the most time-costly: never trust a thermometer unless you test it first. The hot water tank had to get to 140 degrees F. The instructions said it should take about two hours if you use cold water (we were using an outdoor spigot, so it was cold water). After three and a half hours, the temperature still read 110 degrees F. I finally went home and got my digital cooking thermometer. Yup, the first one wasn’t working – the temperature was actually 150 degrees and we had to cool it down. So, we didn’t start harvesting birds until almost 3pm. Laura and I finally went home to dinner at 9:30pm, leaving most of the clean up until Wednesday.
I won’t go into details, but if anyone wants to come see the equipment, or help out with a future harvest, they are more than welcome! Even though these birds are not Animal Welfare Approved, we raised and harvested them under those standards. We feel it’s important to treat our animals with respect and high welfare standards.
There were some glitches with some of the equipment and definite learning curves, but not with anything that impacted the welfare of the birds, and now we have 25 broilers ranging in size from 4-6 lbs at $4.75/lb. Depending on the interest, we may make this part of our regular offerings – as long as it took this time to harvest, we learned a lot and know that next time won’t take as long – and the finished product is definitely worth the time.