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On Chicken Butchery

Marissa Guggiana / August 16th, 2012

Learning is good for your soul. I taught a chicken butchery class recently that included an 80 year old student named Rudy. I almost tipped over when he proudly revealed his age because he had the kind of curiosity and enthusiasm many of us lose long before then. My business partner and I formed The Butcher’s Guild to foster that spirit within our industry and our customers. Education is our most urgent mandate, and we believe it is the engine of success, both business and personal.

Our most visceral educational opportunity is the Butcher’s Guild Retreat. We are planning our inaugural gathering for this September and will offer our attending members classes in hands-on butchery skills, as well as business and marketing. We are encouraging the regrowth of an industry hampered by a centralized food system. This is a big vision that we often approach with a long-term goal in mind.

Rudy reminded me that sometimes I need to just engage in the pleasure of learning something simple, with immediate results. Cutting a chicken may be an old hat to many of you, but doing it with the ease and confidence of our member and butcher, Dave Budworth, is another thing. When you can make something look as easy as Dave makes this look, you have attained a certain kind of mastery. Take a few minutes to watch the video and see if there are moves that would hone your technique. Removal of the breast is especially important in lowering food costs and improving plate appearance.

If you are buying chicken parts, you can use this video to teach your staff to break down chickens themselves. If they can mimic the speed and precision of Dave’s technique, you can save money and enrich your stockpot by buying whole birds.

I seek grace in the simple tasks. Butchering a chicken is the very first meat-cutting mile marker, but it opens up a space of curiosity and joy to remember that even this could be done a little better. Or that your prep cook could be doing it a little better!

~Marissa Guggiana

David Budworth, “Dave the Butcher,” started his career in 1989 at the Ashbury Market in San Francisco. With the two words on a poultry box “Edible Feet," he was hooked. He landed in the jungle outback of northern Australia, where he worked on a farm for some bikers learning to slaughter and process wild pigs. Dave now manages Marina Meats and is the butcher for Fatted Calf’s Pork Happy Hour every Wednesday. Dave is a bartender of a butcher—full of facts, recipes, and butcher lore. He is a charter member of The Butcher’s Guild.