I didn’t want to read or look at this, but I did, and it was an ok read (ok, better than ok) and thought-provoking.

Courtesy of Pat’s friend benjaminstein:

This weekend we sadly learned that one of our hens was actually a rooster.  It’s very difficult to sex a chicken when they are young; it’s not until they are a few months old do the tell-tale signs start to appear.  Roosters are generally larger with bigger, brighter combs.  Roosters also grow longer tails and an extra spur on their legs for defense.  

But the most obvious way to tell hens and roosters apart? Roosters crow!  Starting between 5 and 5:30am, Louise would wake up and start crowing.  She’d crow for the entire morning.  What a fiasco!  So it was confirmed.  Louise the hen was now Shlomo the rooster.

Considering that roosters are illegal in NYC (excessive noise), that he woke everyone up at 5am, and that he doesn’t even lay eggs (which is the whole reason we have chickens in the first place), it was clear that Shlomo had to go.  We debated our options briefly, but there weren’t very many good ones.  No other chicken farmers in NYC would want a rooster.  We could call 311 but they would just take him away and kill him.  Taking him to a farm upstate was a potential option, but so was “taking him to a farm upstate.”

In the end we decided to bring the chicken to a halal poultry store and have him slaughtered for meat.  It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it wasn’t terribly difficult either.  Remember, we’ve only had him around for a month or two (and most of that was spent fighting with Rhonda) so we hadn’t gotten emotionally attached yet.  

There are at least 5 live poultry stores within 2 miles of our apartment (I freakin’ love Brooklyn). We put him in a box and drove down the street to a Halal live poultry market.  Turns out Live Poultry markets are really popular.  There were 6 or 7 people in line in front of me, all waiting to pick out their bird and have it prepared for them.  They also had 5 or 6 goats and sheep in the back.  You have to order the whole animal which runs about $200.  A large chicken costs about $17.

I’ll skip the gory details of the slaughtering (it wasn’t actually that bad) but the basic process is this: cut throat, drain blood, remove feathers, optionally remove head & feet. We took the option.  5 minutes and $5 later, we had ourselves a cleaned & de-feathered chicken in a grocery bag and were heading home!

Once home, I cleaned the bird a little more; there were still a few leftover feathers to pull out.  Arin made her usual amazing Cooks Illustrated roasted chicken recipe and we had him for dinner a few hours later.  

In case you were wondering, it tasted like chicken.

The meat was tougher & stringier than we are used to eating.  Not sure if that’s due to breed (barred rocks are layers, not broilers), age, diet, or the fact that he runs around all day.  There was a lot less fat, as you’d probably expect.  The meat came right off, leaving clean bones.  The bones were incredibly strong and hard – not at all like the flimsy chicken bones our dog finds on the streets.

It was a pretty emotional and fascinating day for me.  Just wanted to share a few parting thoughts:

  • The thing I couldn’t get over is how much a live chicken looks like an animal and a dead one looks like dinner. Rafi’s first comment: Wow that looks exactly like what you’d buy in the grocery store.
  • People talk a lot about how Americans are very disconnected from the food that they eat. Arin and I agree with that statement but we’ve always thought of ourselves as an exception.  ”We have a garden! We have eggs! We’re very connected to our food!”  Nope.  I was wrong.  Not even close.  I have a HUGE emotional disconnect between a live chicken and a dinner chicken.  Looking at the before and after pictures side by side, it’s almost impossible to convince yourself that you’re looking at the same animal, even though you know you are.
  • When you order chicken in a restaurant, do you have any idea where it’s from?  Is it a male or female?  What breed is it?  There are hundreds of breeds. It’s strange that I’ve (a) can’t answer any of those questions or (b) never even thought to ask.  We order particular types fish (halibut, salmon, etc), but we always just order generic “chicken”.  
  • It’s interesting to think about how important a role shechita, ritual slaughter, played in Jewish heritage. This sort of experience would have been perfectly normal just a few generations ago.  Not just in rural areas but everywhere. This is very lost on current generations.
  • In case you were worried, we would never consider eating Rhonda.  She’s a loving pet and a member of the family!

Shlomo is a great name for a rooster. 

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