So growing our own fruit and veggies makes us really happy, but growing our own meat for the year makes us ecstatic.
So what does a family of 4-9 (depends on who visits for supper) raise for a year’s worth of meat? Well, first let’s talk freezers. It takes approximately four freezers to house all our fruits, veggies and meats, with the bulk of the freezers being meat.
I also preserve some of the meat by pressure canning which saves freezer space , is a great back up plan if freezers fail, and is convenient to grab and make meals.
But I don’t want to can everything. And let’s face it, you can’t can bacon. Freezers have their place.
I don’t usually keep breeding stock except for chickens , sheep and ducks. We buy in the spring and butcher in the fall. We have suppliers we trust for our livestock. It works for us, frees up some space on our homestead, and gives me a small break in January to March to focus on systems, content creation, and workshops.
So raising our meat really starts with lining up what we are going to need. It doesn’t vary too much year to year now.
60 Meat hens (5-6 lb birds dressed , pasture raised)
6 stew chickens (3-4 lbs dressed)
3 meat ducks (welsh harlequins)
6 turkeys (20-30lbs dressed )
1 lamb (50 lbs dressed)
1 1/2 pigs (each pig has a hanging weight of approximately 190 lbs. or 140 lbs of meat)
1 beef steer (approx 500lbs dressed or 325 lbs roughly of beef)
Dressed means once all the organs are taken out, and the head, hooves, and skin/feathers are removed.
You can usually count on animals dressing out to the following :
Poultry 75% of their live weight
Pigs 75% of their live weight
Sheep 50% of their live weight
Cows 65 % of their live weight
It will be from dressed weight carcasses, depending on your cuts, you will get your meat.
For example: if a cow weighs 1200lbs at slaughter, it’s dressed weight will be 780 lbs. of that you will get about 65% in meat or 507 lbs.
Usually in order to have some versatility, I have one whole turkey done in ground meat and five chickens ground as well. Pork is done into chops, sirloin, ribs, roasts, belly and rump and what’s left is ground up into one pound packages. Belly and rumps are smoked and cured and made into hams and bacon. Some ground is made into sausage.
Ducks are left whole. Beef is made into ground, steaks, stewing meat, ribs and roasts.
We get beef yearlings (steers or heifers that are a year old) and raise them another eight months to finish. We don’t want the expense of wintering them .
When you know the weight of the work, you try to use all the parts of the animals. So the bones and fat also give us products like bone broth and lard. Organs are used as well either by us or for the dogs. Everything else goes for compost.
We don’t always do lamb. We don’t eat it often so it can sometimes last us two years. I use our sheep for wool as well so they are there if we need to breed. Ducks we use for special occasions. I really want to do geese next year, so I’m working on what that might look like.
I don’t like raising animals like cows in singles so it’s helpful to team up for beef with my dad and brother. Then I raise pigs for them in exchange for help feeding sometimes.
The only meat I really buy from the store is sometimes cold cuts, and hotdogs for special treats. Occasionally if I am feeding a crowd, it’s much more economical for me to get chicken legs or thighs from the store rather than try to piece out whole birds. It’s a rare occasion so I don’t mind it.
Our meat is wrapped and packaged well or vacuum sealed so we can eat it for up to two years no problem.
I hope you found this useful. It is completely doable to raise all the meat you need for your family. It takes a plan and hard work. And four freezers.
Love Jenn xx
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