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Posted Monday, December 10, 2012
Siler City, NC - I note Laura Grab's post on December 5 Dec and her impression that reopening our chicken processing capacity would be a "step backward". I don't know Laura, so I apologize if I guess incorrectly and will appreciate it if she will correct me if I do so.
A little history, looking backward. We at one time each raised our own chickens to eat and lay eggs if we were lucky enough to have chickens. Harvesting one for Sunday dinner entailed catching it, chopping its head off with an axe or hatchet, using a block of wood for a chopping block, and doing this outdoors. Then the chicken had to be boiled to loosen the feathers which then had to be picked off the carcass. Usually the bird selected from the flock was an old hen who was no longer laying eggs well. The carcass was then boiled long enough to tenderize it, and it could then be cut into parts which might be fried and eaten. This was a special treat.
Move ahead to mid 20th century and chicken came to be grown on feed to make a bird young enough to be tender enough to broil hence the term "broiler". This took about 14 weeks in the mid 1960's. Right here in Siler City, Clyde Fore, an employee of Bill Wrenn at Siler City Mill, began the practice of "fronting" the feed for chicken growers to raise their birds and then paid the grower for the finished bird and processed it at a local processing plant, and the name of the two brothers who ran the plant almost came to me on rereading, nice guys; and I sewed up the cuts occassionally endured by the folks processing the chickens.
From this beginning grew the entire vertical integration of the chicken business that now produces our Chick fil E sandwich and all the other chicken products we enjoy. Many farmers in Chatham County and across the world invested in chicken houses and tended the flocks from baby chicks to harvest and paid their mortgages and made an honest living and fed us. Improved breeding and management enabled them to cut the time required for an eatable chicken to 7 weeks, simultaneously keeping the price we pay for chicken remarkably low enough that we take frequent chicken meals for granted.
I wish we could all visit a modern processing plant. It has been a while for me, but harvesting was quick and essentially painless and the feathers were scalded and removed mechanically and the carcasses moved along the processing line and parts removed and a clean product boxed at the end ready to cook, depending on the end customer.
The ripple effect of NOT having a processing plant means idle rusting chicken houses, mounting debt, no chicken manuer for pastures so higher cost beef production, and chicken that has to come from somewhere else.
The processing plants DO use a lot of water in clean up so that the chicken we eat is clean. Care must be taken so that fat and feathers don't pollute the runoff water. I hope you and all chatlisters can visit a processing plant one day and appreciate the great improvement from individual harvesting.. I am a beef producer, but I like chicken too. And many of my friends made their living growing and processing chickens. Have no fear, a new processing plant would be a step forward and provide a product most of us enjoy and jobs for many.
And my farm borders the Rocky River and taking care of it is a priority
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