Sunday, August 08, 2010

Requiem for a cockerel

The other evening we dined on the first of the chickens which we had raised from chicks. The chicks arrived last April, and the newly-matured cockerels went off for butchering last weekend on Saturday and were in our freezer Sunday. It's a little weird to look at it that way—chicks to meal—but I really haven't felt conflicted in the least.

Every single day when I went out to feed the chickens, or check their water, or make sure they were safe, or any of a thousand other chores I performed on their behalf, I would look at them as individual living animals and know exactly how their lives would end. As Joel Salatin puts it, "...a good life, then one bad day."

Virtually every other chicken I have ever eaten in my life—every drumstick, nugget, finger, roast, et cetera, et cetera, has lived a short, wretched life of misery and suffering. Our cockerels ran around like crazy in the sun and the rain, ate bugs and grass and some of our favorite flowers and garden plants, showed off for one another and the hens, and got to act like real birds of planet earth—hell, they got to fly; how many 21st-century chickens can say that?

To show respect for this cockerel and to appreciate exactly what a home-raised chicken tastes like, we did him up plain and simple: a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, a little butter in the pan to baste him. We baked him for a little over an hour, and accompanied him with roasted potatoes ( also simple, with salt and pepper only) and some sauteed summer squash fresh from the garden.

His meat was flavorful and toothsome; his bones solid and well-calcified. He was small, a little smaller than a regulation NFL-football, except with drumsticks. Three of us dined on him, with a decent portion left over for another meal. His bones will make another meal by way of stock. He was a real treat, unlike the bland, tasteless, textureless meat that is foisted off on us as "chicken" by the Purdues and Tysons of the world.

We have another dozen or so of his cohort in the freezer. I am looking forward to seeing what they're like.

1 comment:

Sam Burton said...

Fun update. We process our first batch of pastured chickens this coming Saturday. And we have 100 more one week old chicks in the brooder. Long live Slow Food.