Center for Urban Agriculture hosts chicken processing workshop

Saturday, August 21, 2010 | 6:47 p.m. CDT
Attendees of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture's first "Yard to Skillet" workshop survey the chickens before beginning the workshop on the Center's property on Saturday. The chickens that were culled during the workshop had been raised by the Center's urban farmers.

COLUMBIA — They were killed to teach a lesson.

Fifteen chickens and about 20 of Columbia’s urban farmers gathered in the backyard of The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture on Saturday for the first “Yard to Skillet” workshop.

Yard to Skillet Workshop

Learn how to cull a chicken at a Yard to Skillet workshop through the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. Participants will learn every step to prepare an urban hen for consumption. Live chickens are provided. RSVP to to reserve a chicken. Participants must be 18 years old.

When: 9 a.m. Sept. 11

Where: 214 Saint Joseph St.


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Workshop participants learned to process chickens and had the opportunity to cull, or slaughter, their own.

The workshop was a part of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture’s efforts to teach people how to produce their own food at home and understand where food comes from before it gets to the grocery store.

“If you eat meat, it’s something you should witness,” Billy Polansky said. Polansky is on the board of directors at the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and is a full-time volunteer there. “It’s a way to bring yourself closer to your food.”

There was no shortage of gore, but Jordan Dawdy, who led the workshop, said that he tries to provide the quickest death and the best life possible until the very end. Dawdy instructed the participants to snap the neck to kill the bird quickly before hanging it upside down and cutting off the head to drain the blood.

When Lee Johnson stepped up to process the first bird, she looked nervous. Johnson had never processed a chicken before and, minutes earlier, Dawdy told the group his first time took two hours because the bird fought back.

Johnson snapped the chicken’s neck and hung it up on a line strung across the backyard of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. She was assured the chicken was dead despite its flapping wings; chickens flap their wings, blink and open their mouths even after the head is cut off.

The other participants applauded after Johnson successfully cut off the head. When she finished, she held up her cleaned chicken to show it off.

“I’m incredibly proud,” Johnson said.

Under the Columbia ordinance passed in February, homeowners are allowed to keep six hens at a time.

Polansky said it is not feasible for people in Columbia to raise urban hens with the sole purpose of using them for meat. Instead, most urban farmers have hens for the eggs. When egg production slows down or the hen is injured by a predator, it might be a good time to process it.

Mark and Hannah Sims of Columbia have four hens at home. They aren’t planning on eating one any time soon, but maybe some day.

“Lorraine is annoying. I could eat Lorraine,” Hannah Sims said of one of her hens.

“They are pets, but pets for food,” Mark Sims added.

Another Yard to Skillet workshop will be held at 9 a.m. on Sept. 11 at 214 Saint Joseph St. It is open to the public, but it is recommended to RSVP with in order to reserve a chicken.

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Ray Shapiro August 22, 2010 | 11:09 a.m.

When did the city's urban chicken ordinance go beyond the egg laying fowls to snapping necks and hanging the dead birds from a clothes line to drain the carcass of its blood?
("...slaughtering them as humanely as possible.")

(Report Comment)
Billy Polansky August 22, 2010 | 1:07 p.m.


The city's ordinance does not mention the final processing of hens. Although it is absolutely legal to bring home a deer, wild fowl, etc. and process them at your home, as long as it is for personal consumption; and the citizens of Columbia have been doing this for years without dispute.

As far as "...slaughtering them as humanely as possible". The first step in the process is snapping the birds neck. This instantly kills the animal relieving it of any pain. The rest of the process: bleeding, de-feathering, etc. is completed after the bird has died. Similar processes are used for chickens you would buy at the grocery store, KFC, or farmer's market. This isn't meant to gross anyone out, it is to educate the public about the reality of how every leg, wing, breast, and thigh comes to be.

There are still open spaces for the next workshop on September 11th, anyone interested in participating, please reserve your bird by contacting

The event is free to the public, and even if you aren't interested in participating, you are welcome to observe!

Billy Polansky
Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

(Report Comment)

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