GFP058: What type of chickens should you raise for meat?

The are SO many farming operations to choose from when starting a farm. The one I chose to start with, and that has become the cornerstone of my farming operation is pastured poultry. That specifically means in this instance raising chickens on pasture with the intention of selling them for meat. When raising meat chickens there are a number of factors that you have to take into account when you are choosing a breed. Any option can be a good option as long as it works for you.

There are three options in my eyes for which direction you can go. At least in the United States there is. There's the Cornish Cross which is the production breed used in most larger scale poultry operations. There are Freedom Rangers which are quickly becoming a favorite with small-scale farmers. Then there are dual purpose egg laying/meat birds. Each breed has its' positives and negatives. To determine which breed is going to be best for you and your farm start by asking a few of these questions:

  • Is pastured poultry going to be a main focus of your farm?
  • Do profits matter to you?
  • What kind of production system do you think your land can support? (Can you test it small first?)
  • What type of chickens are readily available in your area?
  • Can you handle the physical labor of the different types of production systems?

Thoroughly answering these questions will help you get started in choosing a breed. The other thing to try is, well, to try it. Start with 25-50 birds of any given kind. Raise them, take notes, and then try another breed. You will find what works for you and what you think you will be able to scale up and sell. It is not like a cow that can take 2 years to see a result. You will have a case-study in two months time.

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In this farm podcast you will learn:

  • What the main differences in the different types of broiler chickens are
  • Typical systems for raising meat chickens on pasture
  • Farm business advice on how to get started in agriculture

Interview with Joel Slezak of Free Union Grass Farm

Joel was born and raised on the farm in Free Union. When he was young, his father David milked Jersey dairy cows and “gave away” raw milk to all the neighbors, and also kept a flock of laying hens for eggs. He home-schooled Joel and his siblings, which gave them plenty of time to help out on the farm. Joel took an early interest in the animals and would often help with milking and chicken chores, which laid a foundation for his future as a farmer. He attended high school at Tandem Friends School and received a political science degree at Guilford College in North Carolina. Various adventures on sailboats and yachts followed, but Joel returned home to Free Union and spent a couple years working as a cheesemonger at Feast! in Charlottesville. Selling artisan cheeses and finely cured meats to the masses gave rise to an obsession with quality food and reawakened his life-long love for farming.

While working on an organic farm in Scottsville, Joel came across the now  ubiquitous “Pastured Poultry Profits” by Joel Salatin. He kicked off his career as a farmer by raising and processing several hundred chickens of his own.

Photo Credit: Modern Farmer

Items Mentioned in this farm podcast include:

Take aways:

If you're thinking about adding poultry into your operation, what breed do you think would best suit you?

How can the mentality of "whatever works for my situation" be applied to your farm in the choices that you've made? Explain in the comments below.

Farm quote of the episode:

"The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing."

- Seth Godin

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