01 June 2013
Valuing the Whole Animal
Permaculture Principle #6 - Produce No Waste
In the case of raising chickens as meat birds, this has meant peering into an incubator as the eggs gently rock from side to side indicating a chick moving within the egg. More peering and grinning, as the chick starts to hatch and the struggle begins into the outside world.
As fully feathered chickens, moving their tractor twice a day spreading their nutrient rich manure over the paddock. Picking weed treats on the walk into the paddock, and being greeted by clucking and curiosity.
As their last days drew near, I became very mindful about why we were raising these birds - as food. On their final day I assisted with every step, respecting the life they had given so that we could be nourished. And I decided to not waste this animal and utilise a part I had never considered cooking before...chicken feet.
And here starts my journey of snout to tail, beak to claw cooking - appreciating all parts of the animal. I only snapped before pics, the after pics were gnarled and scary.
Luckily, before I started popping feet into pots, someone was kind enough to give me the heads up they need skinning first. Seems obvious now…would you eat an unscaled fish? No! Well it's the same for chicken feet. Straight onto Google, I read lots of different methods, but settle for the 5 minute simmer and a hot peel. So there I am, bathing them two at time in the stove top jacuzzi and then peeling off the yellow skin.
Did you know chicken claws have removable covers? More learning.
With 20 feet peeled and pedicured, ten went into an asian inspired broth (soy, star anise, orange peel), and the rest into the stock pot with a carcass.
What were the like? Interesting! The flavour of the broth batch was good, the texture unusual, and the experience took me back to a bus trip in South America where I purchased what the locals were eating and ended up with a battered bone for brunch. Would I do it again? Maybe not with chicken feet as the hero, but definitely as stock. They're full of calcium, collagen and other goodies.
In an age where most people are disconnected from the animal providing the food to their supermarket, farmers market or plate, and are used to only seeing their protein neatly presented as a fillet, steak or chop it's easy to forget that an animal gave it's life so you can have an omnivore diet. Next time you're shopping consider being adventurous, and choose a cut you've never cooked with before and discover appreciating all parts of an animal.