We meat again


You would have read a few weeks back about my maiden journey into raising meat poultry this year.

It was a journey that lasted eight weeks to raise Cornish Cross breed chickens from tiny little yellow fluffballs into large, plump meat chickens. I must have done a fairly decent job of growing these birds, as the poultry processor commented on their quality and some birds weighed in at a finished weight of 8.5 pounds or more (more the size of a small turkey than a chicken).

I learned so much from raising those birds and had such a great experience doing so that I decided shortly before the first flock of meat chickens were processed to contact the hatchery and get another group of Cornish Cross chicks ordered. These birds would be delivered the first week of August to be ready for freezer camp at the end of September.

No surprise, but us farming folk like to talk to one another. We check in with one another at the farmers market, asking how each other’s crops are going, how our livestock is doing, problems with produce growing, etc.

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It was at one of the recent farmers markets that I was approached by Liz Brownlee from Nightfall Farm on the possibility of purchasing a few of their meat chickens that were not growing as fast as the other birds on their farm, which they would be taking to market in just a few short days.

Knowing I would not need to go through the full show of putting the birds under a heat lamp, weaning them off and purchasing a lot of food to finish them (as I will need to do with the second round of chicks that I have ordered), I of course agreed to her offer.

Liz and I set a time to meet, a price for each of the birds and I went to retrieve the four almost grown “meat seeds” from their farm located in eastern Jackson County shortly thereafter. The birds settled right in on my farm with plenty of space in the chicken tractor, which usually holds 20 or more birds at a time.

These new meat birds will get to live another week or two, pecking at bugs and grass and being fed as much food as their crops can hold. When it comes time for processing, they will not be making a journey to the commercial processor but rather will be processed on the farm to then go straight into freezer camp. It’s really not a bad life for them at all. Only one bad day and they won’t remember it.

I’ve offered to have my father help me with processing these birds this time, and he has graciously agreed. He likes to remember the times he helped his grandfather with poultry on the farm that belonged to our family in southern Illinois.

We’ve also set a challenge.

My father has claimed the best way of processing, and I’ve claimed the best way of processing poultry. You’ll have to stay tuned in the coming weeks to see what those methods are and who wins the challenge.

I like to think that the more modern ways of handling meat birds are better, but there is a lot to be said for experience and past methods, as well. May the best poultry processor win. Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected].

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