Numbers Don’t Lie: The Cost of Raising Livestock

What did you think last time you went to the farmer’s market to buy a chicken (or beef, or pork…)? Did you think “Hey, that’s an excellent price!” Not likely. It was probably more like “Wowza! What did they feed that thing? crushed diamonds??”

I often hear people say that they’re discourgaed from buying directly from producers because the product often costs twice as much as the same product purchased from a grocery store. But what consumers often over look when purchasing directly from small-scale farmers is the costs associated with raising these animals. If knowing your meat (or eggs!) came from a place where they were treated with respect, instead of being treated like a commodity, is important to you, this will give you an idea of what goes in to raising livestock. (Even if you only plan to raise meat for your family, this will still be useful as the base costs will be roughly the same)

Example based on a heritage breed Turkey

Pros- Much hardier than commercial counterparts, slower growing thereby reducing losses due to weak legs and heart attacks, capable of reproducing naturally (Did you know commercial Broad Breasted turkey’s have to be artificially inseminated because the Toms are so large they either crush the hen, or shred her back with their claws?)

Cons- Slower growing so they require feeding for an extra 10 weeks (Commercial varieties mature between 12-18 weeks, while heritage varieties take roughly 28 weeks!)

A heritage poult costs about $12 to purchase.

A turkey will eat roughly 5 lbs of feed per week. a 55lb bag of feed costs $15. So over 28 weeks thats about $38 in feed for ONE turkey. This is obviously an approximation as different factors will affect the amount of feed consumed.

Then for butchering (in ontario animals must be butchered in a government approved facility if they are to be sold publicly) you’re looking at roughly $1.20/Kg.

The average turkey is about 10 Kg, so thats $12 for butchering.

Let’s add all this up: 12+38+12= 62, and that’s with out the farmer making any profit! Other factors include mortality; If a bird dies at 18 weeks, the farmer is out the cost of the bird and the food it ate to get to 18 weeks.

If you raise a non-heritage breed (or hatch your own) this can decrease the price by about $20, bringing costs down to $42 base price.

The truth is that this is reality, and it’s sad that our current food system has driven down the price of commercially raised livestock so much that it’s impossible for a farmer to make a profit. That’s why it’s so important to support local producers and farmers. If money is a problem (and really, for most of us it is!) Look in to buying groups and CSA‘s for the best prices on sustainably raised produce, or offer to help out around the farm for a discount on goods. There’s always something to do!

Keep this information in mind next time you look at the price of local produce, and remember that most of us do this because we are passionate about keeping our food sources and our Earth healthy and happy. Obviously we don’t do it for the money!

So what makes it worth the money? Well, peace of mind is a starter, but the the taste is what really does it for me. When was the last time you ate a good pork chop? No, not the tasteless excuse of a chop you get from the grocery store, but the tender, juicy, mouth watering chop that can only come from a pig raised as pigs should be raised-outside with all the freedom to exercise it’s piggy nature. Once you’ve tried a well raised, free range chicken breast; firm, tender and juicy; you’ll find it hard to eat the mushy bland breast from the store. The same goes for beef, turkey, ect. I may eat less meat to fit in into my budget, but the meat  do eat is worth every penny!

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4 thoughts on “Numbers Don’t Lie: The Cost of Raising Livestock

  1. I loved raising turkeys when we had our farm. We just raised enough for family and friends to purchase but everyone agreed that they were the best they ever tasted. Very rewarding actually. Geese I could live without! Have a Merry Christmas Sherri

    • I like turkeys too, they’re soo friendly! But they wandered so far! They made it on to the road a couple times! We just had one off our for dinner onSaturday and it was the best tasting turkey I have ever had! I have mixed feeling about geese too lol. They’re lovely but very messy! Merry Christmas Sherri! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. We have our own chickens for eggs, but not the meat yet. We do purchase a hog from farmers that attend church with us. It’s expensive but we cure our own hams and make our own bacon. We know what the animals were fed-they grown their own feed- and that everything has been handled cleanly and with care. The meat is fantastic. I think local, well produced meat is worth every penny. You just never know what you are getting elsewhere.

    • I couldn’t agree more Kathy! It sounds like you have found a great way to reduce costs a little bit too! I know at our butcher it costs quite a bit to have the meat smoked/cured. Another way I hope to reduce costs in our operation is to produce our own feed…although our local feed store is fantastic and the food they provide has no additives, we could save a bit by cutting out the middle man. Thank you so much for supporting your local farmers! 🙂

I love hearing from you and read (and try to respond to) every comment. Thank-you for taking the time to write one! "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." Ephesians. 4:29

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