Iacono Slaughter

EEE4 Winter 2005

Farming isn’t always pretty. That’s why we’re often glad to be kept in the dark about our food’s genesis. Consider the ground beef or chicken wings sitting on a Styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic, and bathed in the fluorescent light of a supermarket meat case.

In the case of this photo essay, Anthony Iacono administers the final rites at Iacono Farms on Long Lane in East Hampton, an institution for South Forkers looking for fresh chicken and eggs. With his parents Salvadore and Eileen watching the front of the house, Mr. Iacono might butcher 50 or 60 yardbirds and a handful of ducks each day. Using minimal automation, he works quietly and efficiently with skillful hands, carrying the birds through the four main stations of the slaughter room—the killing cones, where the birds’ throats are slit and bled; the scalder, which loosens the feathers; the poultry picker, which removes the feathers; and the chilling tank. In theory, the act of killing is the same as that at a more automated, anonymous industrial slaughterhouse. But here, in death, the carcasses seem less likely to be forsaken or abused, because Mr. Iacono has also been intimately involved in every stage of the birds’ lives.