Dispatching Turkeys (a fancy word for “killing”)

Oh, gosh, I’m sorry for the hiatus.   My fingers have been recovering from their bloody state.  Do you know what happens when you run over your iPhone?  The screen shatters.  It shatters, but it stays on your phone.  And if your phone still works, and you’re able to use it until you get a replacement, your fingers will be riddled with tiny shards of glass.  Or whatever those screens are made of.  Sparkly, sharp, painful shards of….glass?  God was punishing me for my ridiculous texting ways and was teaching me a lesson.  Was it pavlov’s dog who learned how to do something through repeated rewards?  Well I should have learned to stop texting when I got injured every single time.  But I didn’t.  I soldiered on.

Okay, enough about my stupid phone breaking.  I have a new one now (yipee!).  And my fingers are feeling okay.  So it’s time to blog.


Have you ever heard the word “dispatch” used as a synonym for “slaughter?”  Me either.  Until last month when my amazing friend Liz sent me a text saying that she and her husband Paul were going to dispatch their turkeys and we were more than welcome to come up and do ours at the same time.

Liz is awesome.  Let me just give you a very brief description of my friends Liz and Paul.

They have 6 children with 1 on the way.

They are always happy and smiling.

They live on an amazing piece of property.  In town, but in the country.  They have a huge pasture with a big chicken barn and a pool and a huge garden and an orchard.  If I sound a little jealous it’s because I am.

They are the nicest people you will meet in your whole life.

They are smart and fun and laugh a lot.  And they have Matthew who is kind of my favorite ever.

Okay, so anyway, we started our adventure off getting our turkeys from their pen behind Cenone and Andy’s house.  They had an empty coop and we asked if we could house some birds in it.  These turkeys were HUGE.

(he may or may not be a little afraid of catching fowl)

(he may or may not be a little afraid of catching fowl)

(he got brave)

(he got brave)

(the turkeys hung out in the coop with our 3 young hens)

(the turkeys hung out in the coop with our 3 young hens)

(the female -- "apetit"

(the female — “apetit”)

Dan put them in my dad’s covered truck bed and drove them about 15 minutes up to their house.

(Paul helped unload the birds)

(Paul helped unload the birds)

We naturally put them in the pasture with the other turkeys.  But the males were not happy about it.

(oops....they fought)

(oops….they fought)

Okay.  So when it comes to stuff like this I do not get emotional at all.  AT ALL.  We purchased these birds for a reason.  We knew we were going to end up eating them.  Their life was awesome.  They had a huge pen.  They ate and ate.  They ate feed and bugs and grass clippings and sometimes fruit/corn.  They were raised humanely and when it was time to kill them, we did it as humanely as possible.  They didn’t even see it coming and when it did happen, it happened really fast.


(Boy Scouts teaches things like how to tie knots strong enough to hold and suspend a giant turkey from a tree limb)

(Boy Scouts teaches things like how to tie knots strong enough to hold and suspend a giant turkey from a tree limb)

So when you cut off the bird’s head, they continue to flap and flap their wings.  It’s a little unsettling, no doubt.

(they flap and flap and flap --- well after they have lost their head)

(they flap and flap and flap — well after they have lost their head)

Oh, these guys.

(Proud dispatchers)

(Proud dispatchers)

Obviously, after a job like that, a beer is in order.


When they were hung up, we plucked off as many feathers as we could before dipping them in the hot water.  It was easy at first to grab little handfuls and pull them out.  But towards the end it was hard.  Liz was a champ, let me tell you.

(In the scalding bath they go)

(In the scalding bath they go)

Then after they are dipped in the hot water for about a minute, their feathers that are left come off pretty easily.

(Liz killed it on the feather plucking assignment)

(Liz killed it on the feather plucking assignment)

Back when we thought we were going to live on a farm, we bought lots of how-to books.  One of them being the how-to on the butchering of farm animals.  Who knew it would come in handy while we lived on a boulevard?



Taking out the organs was really interesting.  If you’ve ever taken anatomy/physiology in college (or maybe even highschool) you know what to expect.  But Paul explained everything he was cutting out and sometimes what it did and what it connects to, etc.  It was pretty cool — seeing things in person is so much more interesting than reading it.  I’m weird and LOVE learning about stuff like this.

Here’s the turkey’s heart.  Look at how perfect it is.  I think it’s awesome.


Now this is the really interesting part.  I think this is their female.  Inside was a huge pocket of eggs:


Exactly like the yolks in eggs you’d buy in a store.  Just without the egg whites and shell.  It was pretty cool to see what it’s like inside the bird before they are dropped and developed further.

And Paul’s so happy because now he doesn’t have to go Christmas shopping at ALL.  Don’t be surprised if you get a turkey foot back scratcher in your stocking this year….


After we got as many feathers off as we possibly could, we washed it off and put it on ice in (Liz and Paul’s) coolers.  The book said to cool them down for 20-24 hours before putting them in your freezer.


So after I picked the kids up from school, I unpacked both our turkeys and put them in plastic storage bins (yep, the kind I store my kids’ clothes in).  One of them we gave to Andy and Cenone and the other we are keeping.  I put gloves on (duh, because raw meat makes me gag) and cleaned it off under running water, plucked some stray feathers, then triple/quadruple bagged it (because bleeding raw meet makes me puke) and put it in my freezer.  Then I bleached the hell out of the storage bins and coolers because no one likes meaty plastic.  Am I right?  I am.  I’m always right, you guys.  Remember that.

Okay, the point of all of this:  we know and appreciate this turkey 10x more than we would a turkey we purchased at Albertson’s.  We took care of this turkey, fed it, raised it from a chick, and knew exactly what it ate, where it lived, how it lived and made sure it was always fed and happy.  Yes, this is a much more expensive turkey dinner than one we could buy but I feel a whole lot better about it.  And I’m being totally serious.  I’m not an animal person (okay, that makes me sound so horrible, but I’m not I promise) but I do think it’s important to know about your food.  It’s irresponsible to purchase food simply based on price.  I think it’s important to take care of our world, and that includes the animals in it.  Even if we’re going to eat them.

There, I did it.  I got super hippie and soft hearted on you.  It’s over now.

So, Liz and Paul:  Thank you for taking us under your wing.  (I’m so hysterical too.  Get it?  Wing?  Turkeys have wings??)  Thanks for inviting ALL 7 OF US up to your house.  Thanks for not hating me when I scared Matthew with my super creepy deep voice that came out of nowhere but that I really regret now. Thanks for feeding my kids snacks and not getting frazzled when Charlotte spilled water allllll over your table.  Thanks for letting them completely trash your house and then being really sweet and telling me it was like that before we came.  Because it totally wasn’t.  Your kids are the best and I’m not sure my kids have ever had more fun in their life.  You guys really are rad.

And now Dan and I can dispatch turkeys like a couple of farmhands.


4 thoughts on “Dispatching Turkeys (a fancy word for “killing”)

  1. Blake

    so would you do it again? Looks like a ton of work, but I love the concept of knowing where your food comes from….i wish they way things are now were different. sooo much processing and who knows what else!

    1. ruthie1985 Post author

      Blake — TOTALLY. I’d always thought it was a nice idea to raise and grown and kill/harvest your own food, but never acted on it. After actually doing it, I appreciate it so much more. Even though I don’t really stay away from processed foods, fast food, stuff like that (I wish I had willpower), it really does make me nervous with all the crap they put in it. It’s nice to know this is real food.

  2. Liz

    Oh, Ruthie, If only half the nice things you said about us were true!! You guys were also totally fun, smart, funny and amazingly not-squeamish! Plus, we really loved having you there because if we had to do it alone we probably would have ended up yelling at each other before the day was over. Well, maybe not, but it’s possible! Thanks for a fun day!


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