I sent my meat birds into the butcher a couple of weeks ago.
Thank goodness.. That was a tough run, to be honest. Problems galore!!
It was so cold for so long. A hazard here in Wisconsin that sometimes you just have to roll with. Then add in quite a bit of rain, and I really had problems. I started with 60 birds and ended up taking in 34.
That’s hard, not gonna lie.
I felt bad losing so many. I don’t like animals in my care to die. They do, that is just a fact of life. But losing birds to my own mistakes is really hard.
It seems that the feed I used wasn’t very good. I lost several birds to broken legs. It seems like the feed didn’t have enough protein in it.
I have been having a discussion with a friend of mine who lives in TN. He and his family raise LOTS of meat birds- a much larger production than my few. They have dealt with it all- but add in extreme heat. He pointed out the problem with not enough protein. I hadn’t thought about that.
One of the things they do is make sure to use Non-GMO, organic feeds and their birds are on pasture. They have made that decision to go that route and have found feeds locally that go along with that decision.
Once you do that, the overall prices go up- as I am sure you are all familiar with. I am having a hard time going that route for that reason. I want people to be able to afford to eat good, healthy meats. I agree that using Non-GMO feeds is just plain better for the animals we are raising to eat, and for us in the long run. But I can’t justify the costs involved because I want people to just start by eating healthier foods, which I can accomplish just by raising meat birds, and I don’t want the costs to be a deterrent. So for me, my goal is to get people eating healthier foods at reasonable prices.
I priced it out yesterday. I went to 3 different feed places. There are a couple more in the area, but these are what I had time for yesterday.
Here is what I found:
- the cheapest bag of organic feed I found was 26.99 per 40lbs.
- the best brand, in our area, of feed I purchased for 15.89 per 50lbs
- for the meat rabbits- there are no organic feeds that I found.
- I did find a better brand of rabbit feed for 14.90 per 50lbs
- the feed mill mix of broiler feed was 11.80 per 50lbs
The feed I have been using is simply the cheapest and easiest to access. I had hoped to have them eat more pasture grasses and bugs which is what they are supposed to be eating. A well fed chicken is one who has access to dirt, grasses/plants, and meat items like bugs and small animals. (yes- chickens eat small animals like mice and snakes.) They are omnivores.
But the reality of it, is that there are limits to what they have access to, because I still have them in an enclosure. I want them, rabbits and chickens, to eat as much naturally as I can offer them. Which, I am doing by using the chicken tractors and on the ground enclosures.
I do need to feed them better feeds. If I want a better meat animal, more nutritious, I need to feed them better. Absolutely. Feeding them better feeds, even, still will only cost about 2.50lb. I feel like that is more expensive than Walmart, but still accessible for a person who wants to get a healthier meat.
If I go to totally organic, which is possible and more desired, my birds would then go up in price to about 4.50lb. Less accessible for some families who are just beginning to try more locally raised foods and maybe don’t have a lot of money.
My birds average about 5lbs so that would be 12.50 a bird for conventionally raised. 22.50 for organically raised.
Granted, I do not agree with how conventional farmers are being trained to grow crops. I think that they do need to diversify and try some other methods. Be less reliant on Monsanto, now Bayer, and the government.
But that’s my outsider opinion.
This discussion I had with my friend has really helped me figure out my purpose for what I am doing. I want people to come to me for a good, healthy alternative to grocery store, mass produced meats, eggs and eventually produce. I want people to be able to feed their families affordably. And I want to do it humanely, and as chemical free as I can possibly make it. Thanks, Chris, for that discussion so that I could get to this place of KNOWING why I am doing what I am doing.
I am doing what I can. Eventually, I hope to go totally organic. But for now, I am going to do the best I can with what I have.
In the end, that’s all we can do.