Warning – Images in this post may offend.
How to harvest quail is about processing for the purpose of meat. Some folks shop for meat at the grocery store where others raise or hunt their own.
We do all three in our home and growing up it was very similar. My dad was a fisherman and hunter so it was normal to walk in the shed and see him processing fish, crab, ducks, and so on.
The smell was always less than desirable but it never offended because it was natural and he did an amazing job processing protein for my mom to turn into a healthy meal.
Last week I was contacted by a reader asking how to mentally get ready to process quail. This was a fantastic question because I will say if you have a heart it can be difficult.
Here’s the thing, I do have a big heart and this task isn’t easy. Over the years I’ve discovered it’s much easier to cull something you didn’t raise.
From the beginning of raising our quail I decided to be the processor, knowing this ahead of time really helps. We have a theme on our farm; all animals have a fantastic life and one bad day. I guess the bad day is either when they’re sold to leave or harvesting arrives.
So how do I do it?
My best advice is simple; I shut off my heart, basically go cold and get the job done.
I almost put my brain on auto pilot with this thought, “If I needed this meat to survive there would be no hesitation.”
The other thing to remember is these birds have a short life span and in reality if ordering quail in a restaurant isn’t difficult than what’s the problem with harvesting your own?
The quail I’m processing in this post are coturnix, they cannot be released so raising for meat is common sense and knowing where your food comes from just makes sense.
So let’s get started – this post is for you quail readers and anyone who loves to learn new things.
Begin with These Supplies
- Sharp pair of sheers
- Gathering cage
- Two bowls, one for remains the other for processed birds
- Plastic garbage bag or tarp for a clean work space
Prior to gathering quail make sure they have water available and remove all feed the night before. After you gather the birds the following day place a cloth over the cage to help them stay calm. Processing goes fast and these birds move quick so pay attention and make sure you have a strong hand.
The First Cull
The first cull is always the hardest so just get it done. Hold the quail in one hand and snip the head off into the bowl, it will bleed and spasm, this is their nervous system shutting down. DO NOT let go, let it bleed out peacefully before moving on.
The bird is dead once that head is removed; this is why you want sharp snipers so there’s no hesitation. I place snipers in the freezer an hour before beginning because it goes even faster. This was the hardest part of the process now let’s break the rest into simple steps.
Removing Unnecessary Layers with Snipers
- Clip off wings
- Clip off legs at the joint, just below the feathers
- Peel off feathers
Peeling the feather coat is easy, cut a slit opening at the neck and just peel it off. Notice there’s no fat on the bird, its all meat which is fantastic and a great protein boost. The next part is kind of like biology class so buckle up!
Remove the Internal organs
This part is a little tricky if you have large hands. First cut open the bottom area and clean out the interior by pulling. I use two fingers, give it a tug and it pulls right out.
Remove additional feathers, because there will always be a few left behind and wash out the bird with fresh water.
Repeat the process until the entire project is complete and you’re done. Clean up should be a breeze; remains can go into the garden compost. Make sure to clean your snipers so they’re ready to go next time.
When you finish, cover the quail in a dish and chill in the fridge overnight prior to cooking; this will tenderize the meat. Skip this step if your quail are 12 weeks or younger.
Wasn’t that easy?
Processing quail is a breeze compared to say chicken where plucking is involved. It’s my hope you found this post helpful, it was never my intention to offend anyone with this information, simply here to help and inform so that you can have a positive quail experience.