I have a good family friend who has a little farmstead where he has been raising organic chickens. He buys all organic feeds but supplements the feed with a huge grazing area for them to wander around in and dig all sorts of goodies out of the ground. They also gorge themselves on organic watermelon, squash, and pumpkin that they grow on the farm.
Overall these are some much loved birds.
Next season he is going to switch to all heritage breed turkeys which he'll raise from hatchlings. The birds that are raised from hatchlings on this farm are incredibly friendly and nice! They aren't skittish and will come right up to the fence to check out visitors!
These turkeys have clearly been meticulously cared for. I think you can taste that care in the meat.
The farmer had gotten so attached to his turkeys that he decided it would be nice to have a little ceremony to thank them and usher them on to their next path. He had a Monk friend from The Joyful Path Monastery in Blue Mounds come out and perform a silent blessing and let people say a few words.
It was a little hippy dippy and granola, but I think anyone who cares that much about their livestock and their food should be applauded. That level of care and compassion is what makes the happiest and best animals in the world. We should all be so lucky to get birds that taste this good!
OK final warning, it's about to get a little bloody in here...
The birds are hung on a tree by their feet and allowed to calm down a little. Then a meticulously sharped knife is quickly pulled through both of their carotid arteries and the turkey is lowered into a bucket with some mulch in the bottom and allowed to bleed out.
The turkey doesn't seem to feel much pain and doesn't really react to the knife cutting. However as the blood leaves the bird it autonomic system kicks into gear and it starts flapping its wings uncontrollably. Because we didn't have a collar big enough for the bird's wings, we had to lightly hug them to make sure they didn't break their own wings. But in a way, it's a sweet way to send them off into sleep.
Once they are dead, the birds are removed from the ropes and dipped into a water bath between 165-170 F for 10 seconds to help loosen the feathers.
Then we spent the next 10-15 minutes plucking all of the feathers off of the each bird.
Most of them come off easily with the quick dip in hot water, but the wing feathers and some of the small body feather take some time and effort.
The final step is cutting around the anus without rupturing the digestive tract. It takes some careful cutting with a very sharp knife. You can tie off the end and then remove the intestines and organs without too much of a mess. Finally the head is removed and the trachea is freed from the neck and pulled through the cavity out with the lungs.
The turkey gets a final rinse in clean water and you have yourself a dressed bird... and some bloody feet.
See my guide on how to pack twice as much stuffing into a bird here.