Chef Chris Cosentino’s educational and inspirational tool for those who are interested in learning about and cooking with offal.

Proper Turkey Slaughter

heirloom turkey

In preparation for Thanksgiving this coming Thursday my friend Jonnatan Levia and I spent our Sunday morning up in Sebasatapol helping slaughter heirloom breed turkeys with the 4-h kids and my good friend Jim Reichardt of liberty ducks.

The process was very simple each bird was brought over by its owner so it stayed calm, it was placed upside down in a cone to hold it. Once the incision was made the turkey bleed out in a few minutes, then it was tumbled in hot water to make the feathers easy to remove. The birds were hung by there feet and everyone helped pull feathers then over to the eviscerating table. The liver, heart and giblets were separated, as well as the testicles and pre eggs. Then the bird had its crop and intestines discarded then it was rinsed and deep chilled. All a very quick and amazing process I was glad to be a part of this.

Each family that raised these birds were there helping with the processing of the birds, making sure they were handled with care and tagged for their buyers from the slow food auction. It was an amazing experience to be there with families most non food professionals each person with a specific task in getting these birds clean and chilled asap. These birds were beautiful in so many ways, they were massive birds each with different plumage and colored feet, all unique breads from around the country. When it was all said and done there was about 60 birds prepared for the holiday. I can say I will be very thankful for my thanksgiving turkey this year since I picked him, then took him to the table start to finish. Thanks Jim for having me there it was a great learning experience.

Leave a Comment (13)

  1. My ex-in-laws were farmers, and they raised free-range turkeys one year. I participated in the slaughter. One major hitch–the ax wasn’t too sharp. It took more than a few clumsy whacks on the neck. And even then some of the turkeys “escaped,” hanging from a single artery, which had to be caught and severed with a pocket knife.

    The live turkeys, being that they have brains of turkeys, rushed over and tried to mate with the freshly severed heads.

    It was gruesome and not the most humane way to slaughter animals. Yet I think I earned my right to carry my carnivore card that year. People need to see where their food comes from. Otherwise, their cowardly hypocrites.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    ZenKimchi | | Reply
  2. What a wonderful display of sociopathy. And how noble to be training children to grow up with no sense of morals, empathy or compassion. You’ve got to be kidding me.

    joe | | Reply
  3. We are raising turkeys for a 4H project this year. My question is; What the expected percentage yeild from a turkey?

    teri Linke | | Reply
  4. Thank you so much for the info on how to be a responsible and sensitive member of the food chain …I am out the door to take 3 of the turkeys I raised in my barnyard setting for T-day….

    Jeff | | Reply
  5. I appreciate that this blog discusses the humane, healthy, and more natural way to produce, process, and consume food. I do hope, though, that folks who read this don’t go away thinking that the packaged turkey they buy at the grocery store was treated this way. As an advocate of slow food, I believe it would be far better on many levels to eat far less meat to sustain raising stock in wholesome, humane, and healthy ways. Having meat nearly three times a day every day is not only killing ourselves, but prompting the factory farm methods that produce quantity but not quality. The difference is taste is amazing, the difference in value to the body is substantial, and the nourishment to the soul is invaluable.

    Eve | | Reply
  6. We just harvested 13 turkeys for the first time. My husband wrapped a jacket around them and covered their head with the hood and carried them over to a very large 6 foot tub where his friend was waiting with the axe. The problem was that they flapped so hard one could not hold on to them, resulting in bruising. It was a lot of work and very messy. We let our turkeys grow for 20 weeks. Our Toms weigh in the range of 25 – 40 pounds. Reminder to all – think ahead of how to bag them!

    Michelle | | Reply
  7. What a wonderful way to show children where there food comes from and best of all these people know that they are eating an animal free of steroids and other chemicals.
    As to the comment of “sociopathy” bet you were typing that as you were eating a turkey sandwich.

    Tish | | Reply
  8. How can this be sociopathy? Everyone who eats should have the experience of raising their food and consuming it, and that includes slaughter, if you are going to eat meat. Joe, I certainly hope you are a vegetarian. And if so, what are you doing HERE, other than looking for a fight? What can be more moral than a person caring for, feeding, tending their food, and then harvesting it, with respect, true thanks and appreciation for the life, beauty, and death of a creature? Shouldn’t it be immoral to go to the store and buy cheap warehouse raised turkeys without a thought as to how they were raised (crowded, in filth, with their beaks and toes chopped off so they don’t maim each other in their crowded quarters)? I don’t enjoy killing, but I prefer to do it over trucking my animals elsewhere to have someone else do the dirty work to my then stressed and frightened animals. With decades as a trauma and critical care nurse, I think I have a little experience watching death, and I think I would choose what I do to my lambs over how I see many of our species die, any day.

    Andrea Healy | | Reply
  9. This is my first experience with turkeys. I have raised chickens and slaughtered them and they were tough. How can I be sure that my turkeys will be tender? Is there a difference in the way of slaughtering? ( Cutting throats or cutting off heads.)

    Darrell | | Reply
  10. But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that portion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.
    ~Plutarch, C.A.D. 46-C

    “These birds were beautiful in so many ways, they were massive birds each with different plumage and colored feet”….How de-sensitized, how lacking in compassion and emotionally dead are those who are capable of taking the lives of these magnificent creatures, just to turn them into a slab of dead meat for the dinner table; just to satisfy the insatiable appetites of deluded, misguided, arrogant, self-anointed “slow food mavens”! When the process leading to the slaughter of a feeling, intelligent, sentient being is defined as “an amazing experience, humane, healthy, natural” it becomes necessary to question the moral/ethical foundations of such a view. To those who understand, ordering and/or participating in the execution of an innocent, fully sentient being, is an act of murder. Who and what gave YOU the right to determine that it is OK to kill another living being?

    Unfortunately, our Christian traditions, do not include compassion and mercy for all living creatures. For the 45 million victims of the Thanksgiving Day Massacre, the only hope for our species is a shift in moral/religious views, to one that values and cherishes the sanctity of ALL life. There can be no place in a modern society that values “liberty and justice for all” in archaic rituals, superstitions, traditions and beliefs that demand the sacrifice of the lives of “others”.

    “It is the essential characteristic of a wise person that he/she does not kill any living being. One should know that non-killing and equality of all living beings are the main principles of religion” Jain sutra

    ” Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.”
    ~ His Holiness The Dalai Lama

    “It is clear that we have reached a time in the “evolution” of our species, where there exists a great divide between those with conscience, clarity and compassion and those who continue to dwell in the dark, dank caves of inhumanity, ignorance, cruelty and indifference. How much longer can we wait???”

    There remains a group who are so persistently abused and marginalised that their suffering is ingrained in our everyday lives. If animals could talk, their chorus of cries would drown out every other noise in the world. We are all animals. We are all living, breathing beings who share the same Earth. We all feel pain and suffer when we are hurt or deprived of our lives, our families, our freedom; we all have the right to experience kindness, compassion and dignity.”

    Animalover | | Reply
  11. As I read some of these posts my stomach turned, my chest tightened with sorrow and I realized how completely disconnected from compassionate living our culture has become. To watch a living being with feelings, grow, mature, play, display empathy and community with humans, reproduce, then to be able kill it suggests to me that carnism creates a deadly separation between all living things. I have never been able to see animals as “food”. When I hear the comments, questions and justifications above I can only wonder why one would think they are doing the animals a great favor by killing them to satisfy their pallet when there is such an abundant supply of vegetables, grains and other healthy foods. The language I hear in these posts is violent and defensive. I am grateful to the animals for the joy they bring to my heart as they teach me how to live a more loving and compassionate existence.

    Barbara | | Reply
  12. I raise my own poultry purely for the use of my family and as much as other post-ers might not like it, we enjoy a varied diet consisting of both meat and vegetarian meals. I raise my birds well, enjoy the time we have with them and certainly prefer to slaughter them as humanely as possible with minimal stress. The resultant meat is a long way from any pre-packed ‘plastic’ offerings in the supermarket.

    I came across this site whilst looking to compare notes with others and am surprised to see those who take the supposed moral high ground – why are you even looking at this site? If I understand correctly, the countless beetles/slugs/snails consumed by these birds should also have the right to a judge and jury????

    Please let us all live the way we want to – we all enjoy different things and should never make others ‘comply’ with what we personally think is right and wrong (provided it is within the law).

    Merry Christmas, enjoy your festivites and meal – whatever you might be eating, and don’t forget those who are less fortunate than yourselves.

    Andy | | Reply