J and I attended a knife skills class at Crate a few months ago, and one of the things we learned was how to break down a chicken. This part of the instruction was not hands-on, so I was nervous that it would be more difficult than the chef made it seem. I finally had the chance to put what I learned to use this weekend, and it was so easy!
I ordered 4 freshly butchered Freedom Ranger chickens from Freedom Farms and picked them up on Friday at the farmer's market. The chickens were $15 each and weighed probably 4-5 lbs each. On Saturday morning, J sharpened our knives and I went to town on the chickens.
First, I removed the legs and thighs from the body. Then I removed the breasts and finally the wings. I separated the legs and thighs and de-boned the thighs. I also removed the skin from the breasts. I saved the carcasses and thigh bones for broth. I vacuum-sealed all the pieces into the portion sizes we use the most: 1-2 breasts per package, 4 thighs per package, 4 legs per package and all 8 wings in one package. Our freezer is full! We really haven't been eating much chicken lately, so this stockpile should last for several months. We also still have a whole chicken in the freezer that I bought from another farmer's market vendor a few weeks ago.
It took me probably 30-40 minutes to break down the chickens and then another few minutes to vacuum-seal all the bags. I feel somewhat guilty using so much plastic, but if I want to eat pastured chicken, I have to have a way to store it. It's really a catch-22. For humanely-raised and butchered meat to be affordable, it really needs to be bought in bulk and in season and then used up over time. Vacuum-sealing and freezing is the only good way to do this. I could buy meat as we need it from the grocery store and have the butcher just wrap it in paper, but then we are supporting factory farming. I figure, we are trying to reduce our use of plastics in other areas, so freezing meat in plastic is an okay compromise in order to have healthy meat to eat throughout the year.