Monday, February 22, 2016
A Word On Growing Your Own Meat
Several years ago, chickens were the only animal we kept. We'd just moved to our first little block out of town and suddenly we had the room to breed our own chickens.
We didn't just hatch a few clutches of chicks though, we jumped in the deep end and took up the offer of a friend (whom has years and years of chicken breeding experience) to fill her incubator with eggs. We ordered fertile eggs, the beginning of our Silkie and Australorp flocks, and filled up the remaining gaps with eggs from our beloved flock of crossbreds.
I can't remember how many we actually set but we hatched out somewhere around fifty or sixty chicks.
And you know what? We named them. Every single one.
This has been the only time we've used an incubator, and it was a wonderful experience and a great way to get our chicken numbers up quickly. These days I have two Silkie flocks who are used as surrogates and hatch and raise all of our chicks. It's easier to let the mama do it herself, and watching the hen lovingly care for her brood is so enjoyable.
As the chicks grew up it became clear who would be sold, kept for breeding and raised as meat. Out of all those chicks, twelve were raised as our first table birds.
This was our first time growing our own meat. Being this in touch with where real food came from. Our first step to no longer supporting factory farmed chicken.
I'd be lying if I told you it was easy. When the day came there were tears. But for the first time ever, there was also a deep and satisfying connection with the food that was on our plates a few days later. It was the first time in my life that I'd been able to eat chicken confident in the knowledge that it has been raised without chemicals, drugs and most importantly without inhumane treatment.
I know for many the idea of raising your own meat is too confronting. And that's ok.
The thing is now, that since that first day I haven't eaten any chicken from the supermarket. The only poultry that has graced my plate as been from our own land, raised and processed by us. I still don't enjoy butchering day, but it has gotten easier and there are no more tears. It doesn't mean that I don't raise these animals with love, that I don't treat them with kindness and that I don't care for them to the best of my ability while they are here. I am aware, however, from the day they hatch which chicks are destined for the table. And I make sure I get attached to our breeders, our bantams and our retired layers, rather than the birds in the grow-out pen.
I am so grateful that we have been given the opportunity to raise our own meat. In this day and age you're privileged to have this close a connection with your food. (And that's really sad).
With raising your own poultry comes a new way of approaching food too. You really are going to adopt seasonal eating. The time span for getting that bird onto the table is quite long, compared to the amount of food you end up with.
It takes three weeks for the eggs to incubate, then depending on the breed those birds won't be ready for the table for anywhere between six and twelve months. Doing this has given me a greater appreciation for poultry. It has become a treat, and suddenly we use the entire bird, rather than just eating thighs or wings. Even when we roast a chicken, the bones and scraps are then returned to the pot the next day and made into nourishing bone broth.
There have been time where we've had heaps of chicken to eat. And there have also been times (like now) where I haven't eaten chicken for months. Usually we try to keep a steady supply up but after having to wait for our new pullets to start laying, combined with some other things that prevented a lot of time being devoted to breeding chickens this spring, we've been chickenless for months. That's just the way it seems to roll when you decide to do things yourself.
Sometimes it's great, and sometimes it's annoying but mostly it's good.
I'd love to know your thoughts on raising your own meat.
Have you ever done it? Do you ever plan to?
Let me know!
PS Kate wrote an excellent post a few years ago: Chicken - A Vegetarian's Perspective
And Tricia wrote an excellent article: Understanding The True Cost of Cheap Food
PPS I've been questioning myself on writing a post like this for some time. And now it comes to publishing it, I just want to say that I understand some of you may not like the idea of either eating animals, or eating those that you have raised yourself. I value your feedback, thoughts and opinions but please don't leave any nasty comments or take offence at what others might have to say. I believe everyone is free to make their own choices and I hope you think so too. Feel free to comment anonymously if you prefer.
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