To Shackle or Not To Shackle
One of my concerns that could lead to the demise of the pasture poultry business would come from the lack of cleanliness of the birds that we process on farm. One of the reasons that we produce our own birds is to ensure that we are not getting some fecal contaminated harmful bacteria enriched product.
Over the years I've visited a large number of on-farm processing facilities. Many of them I would not consider to be clean. Any time you have a bird that has been de-feathered sitting on a table that other birds have been processed on opens the bird up to contamination. A bird that is on the table is open to any bacteria or contamination that can be washed toward it from another operator or even from the handling of the product.
Many states are beginning to require that birds, at the very least, be processed on a screen that is above the table which will allow contaminants to flow through the screen onto the table below and eventually to the drain.
Another way to do it is to use shackles. Shackles were initially designed to be used on motorized conveyor systems that allow a production line type operation to be utilized in processing poultry. However on a small-scale processing system, shackles can be very helpful to eliminate contamination between birds.
A chicken is hung on a shackle by its legs keeping the bird off the table and therefore eliminating much of the chance for contamination. Learning to process birds on a shackle is no more difficult than learning to process birds on a table. The initial learning curve may be steep but no more steep than learning how to process a bird the first time. You also don't necessarily need a table under the bird as you can drop the offal into a bucket that is on the ground.
We have a number of different type shackles available on our website and are more than happy to talk with you at length to see if your system can be modified to use shackles in order to ensure a cleaner product.
For more information on shackles visit our website at http://www.cornerstone-farm.com/shackles
Have a great day and keep looking up!