How To
Shrink-Bag Chicken Parts

Dateline: 26 June 2013

Yesterday morning we parted and packaged a dozen chickens. This essay will show you a great way to shrink-bag chicken parts.

We raised and processed our own meat birds for many years, but last year and this year we have purchased chickens from a friend. I hope next year to again raise a small batch of the Cornish-X chickens, but buying locally-raised birds from someone you know and trust is the next best thing.

We bought 12 chickens last week and 12 more this week. My friend processed the birds at his farm. I stopped by with a cooler and ice, brought the whole birds home, and let them age in the cooler until the next morning. Then we "parted" and froze them.

We used to freeze a lot of whole birds when we had three boys to feed, but they are grown, and Marlene is cooking more meals for just she and I. Having the chicken packaged and frozen in bags of legs, breasts, and wings is perfect for us.

You can see how I part chickens at Step 10 of my at my How To Butcher A Chicken web site.

As part of our Planet Whizbang home business, Marlene and I sell poultry shrink bags for whole birds. You can learn all about the bags at www.PoultryShrinkBags.com. And if you look over on the right sidebar of that web site, you will see a link for a tutorial explaining how to use the bags we sell to package chicken parts.

That tutorial shows how we use an inexpensive ($40) impulse sealer to  turn our big-chicken bags into bags for smaller parts. I was experimenting with oven-shrinking of the bagged parts when I put that essay together. Near the end, I mention the possibility of using a heat gun (instead of the oven) to shrink the bags. I also show how we used the bags and a heat gun to bag up some fresh-picked blueberries for the freezer. 

A lot of people use a FoodSaver vacuum sealer for shrink-bagging food that will go into the freezer. We have one of those. Been there, done that.  The problem with the FoodSaver is that the bags are very expensive, the machine is temperamental, and the packages often lose their seal over time. Shrink bagging is cheaper, easier, and better—and that's a fact!

Further experimentation with shrink-bagging of chicken parts has proven to me that using a heat gun to shrink the bags is absolutely the best way to get the job done, as the pictures that follow show.....


A chicken breast, bagged and ready to shrink with a heat gun.

In the picture above, you are looking at a chicken breast that is sealed in 1/2 of one of our standard 10" x 16" poultry shrink bags. The other half of the bag will also be used—we get two parts bags from one full-chicken bag. The bottom seal of the bag is the factory seal, and the top seal was made by Marlene with the impulse sealer.

Holding the bagged breast in one hand, I direct the heat gun onto it, around the edges first. I flip the bag over in my hand and shrink it all over, as evenly as possible, until it's into a bubble, like shown in this next picture...


The bag has been shrunk with the heat gun until it is like a bubble around the meat, then a vent hole is pierced with the tip of a knife.

I try to pierce the bag in a section where it will be fairly flat. The label that goes on to seal the hole will fit best on a flatter surface.


The breast is nicely shrink-packaged. Note the vent hole that was made in the previous photo (click to see an enlarged view). You can also see my old heat gun that I used to do the shrinking.

There is a little bit of a learning curve to using a heat gun to evenly shrink-seal the bag to the meat, but it's not hard to do. I have found that the heat gun needs to be on a hot setting. A hair dryer will not do the job.


Here's the flip-side of the breast shown above. The bag shrinks tight, air exits the vent hole, and the meat is well-protected from freezer burn.

Marlene bagged and sealed the chicken parts and I took care of the shrinking. The process is simple and fast.

This isn't the best of pictures but it shows the 25 packages of chicken from 12 birds, all bagged and ready for the freezer. Freezer-adhesive labels have been applied and they serve to seal the vent holes.

I did the math on those 12 chickens pictured above. Twelve birds at $15 each came to $180. We ended up with 12 packages of legs, 12 packages of breast meat, and one package of wings, which amounts to chicken for 25 meals, costing $7.20 a meal.

The total weight of the meat shown in the above picture is 39 pounds. What isn't shown is the chicken backs. They weighed 14 pounds and were made into seven jars of canned chicken stock, which equates to seven more meals from the birds, bringing the cost per meal to $5.63.

To read the essay-tutorial I wrote about making chicken stock from backs, Click Here.


Bagged & frozen chicken parts for 2013


4 comments:

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

Awesome info. We got our first chickens this year (layers) and next spring we will raise a batch of broilers. We could try and find a rolling processer to come in and do it but I would rather learn to do it myself.

LindaG said...

Great information. Thank you.

Jason said...

Herrick, I need some advice. I follow your How to Butcher a chicken example each time I butcher a chicken. It says to throw away the bird if yellow fluid comes out when dressing because it is sick. I just had that happen to me for the first time and now I'm concerned for my other (dual purpose) birds. Are they sick also? Nobody showed any signs and all are laying eggs just fine. What exactly is the yellow fluid and is there anything I should do?

Herrick Kimball said...

Jason,

Here is a link with some information on this topic:

Yellow Fluid in Butchered Chickens