Processing Turkeys

We finished butchering the first batch of turkeys this last week.  The whole process is very similar to chickens, the only differences being that we kill just 3 turkeys at a time, (verses 6-8 chickens) and it takes longer all the way around because they are HUGE.  Here are a few pictures of the day’s work:

Kill Station




Ben gutting


Heidi on QC

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About Erin Phelan

Born and raised in western Michigan, Erin came to Polyface first as an intern in the summer of 2009. While here she met and got to know Grady Phelan, an apprentice at the time. The next spring they were married and after a couple years in Oklahoma they are back, working as sub-contractors for Polyface. Erin keeps herself busy with the jobs of a wife and mother, as well as helping with the animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting and reading.

5 Responses to Processing Turkeys

  1. Marlo Meyer says:

    Hi there Erin,
    Thanks for posting this. My family & I moved from Charlottesville Va, where we visited Polyface regularly as customers, to Northern California Sierrea Nevadas. We are a part of a homesteading community, and we are getting ready to harvest our first batch of chickens (25). We just got a plucker like yours. And I have a couple questions. Do we have to hold their feet up? or are you doing that b/c the turkeys are so big? Also, do you put your birds in an ice bath directly after cleaning? or do you bag/freeze them right away? Thanks for any advice you can offer. We love Polyface!
    Marlo & Matthew Meyer (and Gracie & Mattie too!)

    • Leilani says:


      With chickens the plucker should handle them without you needing to hold them. Conventional wisdom is to chill the birds in an ice bath before you bag and freeze them.

    • Erin Phelan says:

      The picture of the plucker is an action shot, we don’t actually hold the feet while plucking. For turkeys they get cut off before being placed in the plucker.
      We place the birds in tubs of water and start icing them down when there are at least 5 in the tub, depends on how quickly you want them to chill. But yes, we do chill in ice water before packaging and freezing. It is best if the inside temp of the bird gets down to 45 degrees.
      Hope that helps!

  2. Laura says:

    Looks like they have their own huge kill cones, but do you use the same plucker?
    Just saw Joel on dr mercolas site! That will be some great exposure for you guys!

    • Erin Phelan says:

      Yes, the turkeys need bigger cones 🙂 This is a different plucker than we normally use for chickens, but it works for either.