hesitant to post about the nitty-gritty of our meat-bird experiments
here because I know some of you consider chickens to be pets and are
grossed out by the information. However, others do
seem to be interested in hearing about what we’ve thought of Cornish
Cross, so please consider this your warning — skip this post if your
chickens have names!
Okay, back to the point. One of our commenters
mentioned that she likes to raise a batch of Cornish Cross every year
and that she has very low mortality rates since she keeps the birds in
the brooder house for their whole life. That got me wondering —
if you’re not adding value to your chicken meat by putting the birds on
pasture, are you better off raising your own chickens or purchasing meat
at the grocery store?
answer this question, I sent Mark to the grocery store to discover how
much whole chickens cost per pound ($1.08), then I did some math to
determine the best-case-scenario price tag for homegrown chickens.
In my calculations, I assumed that, like us, you aren’t raising enough
birds to get bulk prices on chicks and on feed, that none of your chicks
die, and that you get the industry standard feed-to-meat ratio of
2:1. I also assume that you slaughter your birds at 6 pounds and
that you’re paying 40 cents per pound for feed (which is what our feed
store is currently charging for chick starter ration). In that
scenario, you’ll be paying $2.93 per chick and $4.80 for feed per bird,
which comes out to $1.29 per pound for the finished product — more than you’d be paying for the same meat at the grocery store!
Granted, when you raise
and butcher your own birds at home, you know that there are no additives
beyond what comes in your purchased feed. And if you stay on top
of keeping the bedding clean and are careful on butchering day, you’re
much less likely to end up with salmonella in your meat than you would
when buying supermarket birds. So there are some reasons, beyond
price, to raise your own meat chickens even if you do so in confinement.
But you should be aware that there are
big financial savings to be had as well…as long as you pasture your
birds. You’ll actually be paying more per pound in this scenario
since pastured chickens run around and eat more feed, resulting in a
best-case-scenario price tag of $1.89 per pound for the dressed
bird. However, since our local pastured farmers are charging
$3.50 per pound for whole, pastured chickens (or $3.25 per pound if you
order three or more birds), you’re still coming out way ahead by
raising your own Cornish Cross on pasture.
As a side note, I estimate that we spend about $2 per pound on the meat from our Australorp broilers,
a figure that includes the savings we get by hatching our own
eggs. However, it’s very much worth paying the extra 11 cents in
this case since Australorp broilers forage much more, producing meat
that’s tastier and (I suspect) much more nutritious.
That’s the direction we’ll be returning to in later years for our
broilers — we’ve enjoyed experimenting with Cornish Cross, but don’t
plan to do it again soon.
If you want to learn more about how to save money when raising your own chickens for eggs and meat, check out my 99 cent ebook Thrifty Chicken Breeds.
Or leave a comment with your own experiences. I’d love to hear
how others have done with less-mainstream meat breeds like Freedom