Have you purchased or priced out a locally raised free range non-gmo/soy free turkey for Thanksgiving? Well, they can be a on the higher end of our budget. This year we decided we would raise our own Thanksgiving and Christmas Turkeys. We will also sell a few and have a couple left in the freezer for later use.
The turkeys have been a joy to raise and are quite good foragers. They still had to be fed quite a bit of non-gmo/soy free grower feed but overall we were very pleased with their growth process. We built a make-do turkey tractor out of pvc and chicken wire. It worked quite well until Gertie decided she wanted the eat the turkey feed. Bye bye turkey tractor! We were able to move the turkeys to an old chicken pen for the last few weeks before harvest.
Butchering turkeys is much like the chicken butchering process. Just on a much larger scale. Here you go:
How to Butcher Turkeys
First we caught several and tied them up by their legs. They are pretty big and heavy but very docile.
After hanging them up we chose to cut the main artery on either side of the neck. This ensures the bird bleeds out well for cleaner meat and is humane. The nervous system causes them to flop and flap a bit so stay clear until they stop so you don’t get flogged.
Next we scalded them in a drum filled with water over a fire. Scalding causes the feathers to loosen up so that they can be plucked.We regulated the temperature by adding cooler water or stoking the fire depending on what our goal was. Turkeys should be scalded at 145-150 degrees.
Now that they were scalded we hung them up again by the feet and began plucking. Once we had most of the feathers out we moved them to a table for further plucking and cleaning as well as removing the innards, head, and feet. After they were clean we placed them in a chill tank of cold water.
Once the turkeys were all plucked and clean we packaged them in poultry shrink bags. This is done by placing the bird into the bag and dipping it into 180 degree water. and then seal the bag with a twist tie. I don’t have any pictures of this part because I was quite involved in the process.
The turkeys ranged from 12lbs to 21 lbs with most of them being about 17lbs. Now we have beautiful, healthy turkeys ready to freeze, eat, and sell.
Here is the step by step video on how we process the turkeys: