Chickens in the Field

In April I took the opportunity to visit Marin Sun Farms. We saw lots of pasture, goats, cattle and sheep, but the interesting part for me, was the chicken operation. This time of year, they have both broilers and laying hens.broilers_beef_sea.jpgThese are the broilers, which run about 4 pounds. The pens are on wheels and are moved every day. The cylinders are for organic grain, the grass is the grass. You can see behind the pens, where the grass has been eaten, clawed and shat in. It takes about 8 days for the grass to get back to normal. We’ve eaten two of these guys. Oh my, they’re good. It was sunny, but we enjoyed a constant 30mph wind and temps in the low 50’s, that’s why everyone is bundled up. The farm is in the Point Reyes Preserve, owned by the National Park Service and leased to farmers as pastureland. You can see the Pacific Ocean in the background.
hens_eat_grass.jpgHere we have the laying hens. They don’t have pens, as the roosters and dogs protect them during the day and they go in their “house” at night. The “houses” are also moved often. The eggs from these hens cost about twice as much as “regular” eggs, but they are so fresh and rich, I find I eat fewer. Recently, I ran out of eggs and bought organic eggs from the supermarket. It seemed they had no taste!chicken_processing.jpgThis is the outdoor processing station. They kill on Friday and sell in San Francisco on Saturday and Marin on Sunday. Dave, the farmer in the shades has his hand on a cone. They take a chicken by its feet, pull the head out of the bottom and slit its throat. It bleeds into the trough below. The chickens are sold with head and feet on. Behind Dave is a hot water tank, kept at 140 degrees (?) where the chickens are dipped and then taken to the plucker, on the right.chicken_plucker.jpgHere’s the plucker, it spins and the chickens are totally de-feathered. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but the chickens I get at market are clean as a baby’s butt.Marin Sun Farm conducts these tours about every two months. You can sign up at their website. You’ll be glad you did.

One thought on “Chickens in the Field

  1. This is how WE grow our chicken dinners and our eggs! We get our chicks through the mail from Murray McMurray Hatcheries in Iowa and we split a minimum order of 25 chicks with our neighbors, raising them separately but processing them together. We WISH we had the set-up you picture at Marin Sun Farms — we scald and pluck by hand — but I’m sure they’re processing a few more than 25 chickens a year…

    140deg F water is the correct temp used for scalding the chickens; if it gets hotter than that, you risk cooking the skin instead of just loosening the feathers, then the skin rips off the meat along with the feathers. If it’s much cooler than 140deg F, then you make chicken soup before the feathers loosen.

    I agree completely about the flavor of the chicken and eggs being SO much better than birds that are more contained and have a less variable diet.

    Like

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