Appalachia Appalachian Food

Hog Meat and Chicken

“Hog meat and chicken were our meats. My mother would wring a chicken’s neck; it’s quicker and easier that way, but sometimes she would lay the head on a chop block and cut the head off with an ax. Mother would fry young chickens. Old chickens, she would stew them and make dumplings or gravy. Chickens were better to eat back when they ran out in the yard. They’re not good these days, I don’t eat ’em no more. I just got turned against ’em. This fast-growing feed they eat is just not good. People of today eat too much junk food to be healthy.

~Ruth Swanson Hunter, Young Harris, Georgia – “Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine”


Just last week I was talking with a co-worker about chickens. He harvests his for meat as well as uses them as an egg supply for himself and to share. He pretty much had the same views as Mrs. Hunter.


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  • Reply
    b Ruth
    September 10, 2018 at 12:53 am

    I agree with most of what your readers are commenting about chicken from the store…Yes, some are fed with antibiotics to keep them healthier…But nowadays if you look on any place that sells all species of chickens…you will have your chickens that are bred for certain things…There is even hybrid large breasted chickens…etc…chickens are very large as well…I heard a joke once about a man that was raising six legged chickens to sell to the restaurants that specialize in fried chicken drumsticks…also was working on chickens with extra wings for the chicken wing business….Who knows it could happen… you know this ain’t no double yolk…LOL

  • Reply
    September 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    I’d do all the chicken-raising if I could find someone local to do all the chicken-butchering – I know my limits.
    For years I bought organic chicken thighs on sale or on the “marked-down” day when the sell-by date was coming up, and put packages in the freezer. But one day I bought two of those marked down packages, put one in the freezer and decided to cook the other one right away because I was tired and hungry. It didn’t smell “off” but it just didn’t smell quite right either. I tried to convince myself I was imagining things, because I had just gotten home and was tired and wanted to cook supper and do the chores and go! to! bed! So I rinsed each piece of chicken and patted it dry and walked away for a minute, then came back with a “clear nose” and smelled it again. Just.Not.Right. I ended up freezing both packages, calling the store, and arranging to bring the meat back the next day for a refund. When I brought it back, I got the feeling the people at Customer Service didn’t believe me – certainly no one apologized!
    I’ll never again double-wrap a package of “fresh” meat and put it straight into the freezer without opening it up and smelling it first. Ugh.

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Higman
    September 3, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    I am from Arkansas and chickens are a BIG product in the state. I hardly ever eat chicken unless it comes from the backyard!! Chicken house chickens are full of antibiotics, harmones and who knows what else. Have you looked at the size of chicken breasts these days in the grocery stores. When I was young and first married we had 2 chicken houses, one held 20,000 birds and the older one held 10,000. When they were gathered to be processed they were around 7-8 weeks old and a fully matured chicken (broiler). If you bought a whole chicken in the grocery store it would weigh in at about 3-5 pounds. The size nowadays just amazes me! One half of the chicken breast is as long as the whole chicken was back then. So, no I don’t eat them either. Don’t know ’bout y’all, but I’m kindly scared to eat them now!!!! I wonder what makes them grow so big now!!!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 3, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    The only good meat I get anymore is at my sister’s house in the country, Her husband raises hogs,beef, sheep, and chickens, The coons and coyotes get most of the chickens, Recently coyotes killed one of their sheep and their son in law has already killed two of them.
    The first chicken I had to kill, as a boy, I must have stretched that poor chicken’s neck to a foot long. After that I learned how to ring their neck for a more humane kill.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 3, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    That yellowish Rooster has a nice cone. I remember, years ago, when me and Harold use to wring the necks of Dominicker Pullets. That was usually after Church on Sundays, quite often daddy would invite our Preacher and his wife over. We hoped no one saw the Pulley-bones, cause that was me and Harold’s favorite. …Ken

  • Reply
    September 3, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    We have are own chickens. Eggs are so much better and healthier. We to as a child, would kill a chicken and moma would fix it. Mmm , it was so good. They sure are different tasting today. Probably not good for us. Thanks Tipper!

  • Reply
    Betty Hopkins
    September 3, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Ruth Swanson Hunter’s quote from Joe Dabney’s delightful book, “Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine” caught my eye and brought back so many wonderful memories. I have an autographed copy of the book that sits on a prominent shelf in my kitchen. It’s more than a cookbook … it has stories, songs, recipes, advice, mountain facts and folklore that define the lifestyle and culture of Appalachia. It’s a delightful read and brings back so many wonderful memories of life in the Appalachian Mountains as it was when I was growing up. I treasure it!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I’ll bet you get lots of confirmation that homegrown anything is so much better that most of the “stuff” we get at the store. Food raised responsibly just tastes so much better!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Daddy took no joy in killing animals as others seemed to but he did it to feed his family. He never would wring a chicken’s neck if we were going to eat it because he wanted every drop of blood out of the meat. He only wrung their necks when they were diseased or already dying.
    They tested our flock one time and found some kind of disease. Although they appeared to be healthy, that whole flock had to be killed and buried. It was way up in January and the ground was froze so hard you couldn’t dig a hole big enough for all those dead birds. They had to get dynamite and blow a hole big enough to cover all them chickens at least a foot deep.
    I don’t remember exactly what the disease was but it was serious enough that a government inspector was there making sure every little thing was done right. Everybody who participated in the mass murder had to wear something like a hazmat suit that got buried too after everything was done. Daddy had to go back starting the next day and clean out the building ceiling to floor and spray it down with some kind of chemical that killed everything it touched. He had to wear a suit with a hood and respirator while he sprayed. He had to spray his boots with that wicked stuff whenever he came out. The building then sat empty for a year, I think, and had to be retested before a new flock of biddies could go back in it.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2018 at 9:30 am

    Chicken was not always severed for supper. We had fried chicken for breakfast many times. The meat mom fried doesn’t even taste like the meat we buy from the supermarket. I refuse to buy chicken breast that looks the size of a turkey breast and is about three times bigger than it should be.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 3, 2018 at 9:10 am

    We have seen it over and over. Commercial production becomes about quantity, appearance, shelf life and so on. I’m not sure if taste or other quality measures gets in the top 5 and maybe not in the top 10.

    I know there are good reasons to produce quantity. But I am glad there has been a viable movement back to farmer’s markets, artisan breads and other small-scale and local production.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 3, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Tipper–For all your readers with fairly serious food interests, you’ve drawn from a book that I personally think is the best of the scores of them focusing on the folkways of Appalachian foodways. “Smokehouse Ham, Spoonbread & Scuppernong Wine” was written by the late Joseph Dabney, and he did extensive research for the cookbook by talking to folks such as the woman, Ruth Swanson Hunter, quoted here.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    September 3, 2018 at 8:19 am

    My doctor said, “If it comes in a box, bag or can it has something added that should not go in your body.” We had tomatoes all summer from the garden. My wife bought some at the store last week and they have no taste.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2018 at 8:02 am

    I agree with Miss Cindy. I’m blessed to have a friend who gives me free range eggs and abundance from her garden. The only meat I eat nowadays is her meat chickens and rabbits which she supplements with non gmo feed. In exchange for help with processing which we do ourselves, my neighbor shares venison each year. The bone broth from those sources is wonderful. My grandkids are finally learning not to panic when they don’t see boxed mac and cheese or whatever in my pantry. They say my “from scratch” food is way better. (Smile)
    I love the book Smokehouse Ham. It inspired us to start making blackberry wine. Oh my…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 3, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Yes, as we get farther away from our food source it becomes less and less good as well as less and less nutritional. Food is no longer about feeding our bodies and more about a big manufacturer making money.
    I buy eggs from a lady whose chicken run loose in her yard. They are very good and very different from the eggs purchased in the supermarket.
    I don’t eat much meat any more, it’s just not very good. But they call this progress….I just don’t know about that.

  • Reply
    Sheryl A. Paul
    September 3, 2018 at 6:30 am

    I have
    To agree, eggs and chicken meat are much better from backyard farmers

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