Learning how to raise a year’s worth of meat is pivotal in building resiliency. The good news is, that there are many ways to go about this. Read through this post to learn how much meat your family needs for a year, including tips for raising that meat.
Always keep in mind that when we’re talking about raising a year’s worth of meat that generally means much more than the average family.
We have Carolyn and me, our 10 children, one intern, a family friend, and Carolyn’s parents that we’re feeding each day.
How Much Meat We Raise
- Meat Chickens – We raise anywhere from 150-200 meat chickens each year. This year we’re raising 150 for our family, plus 50 more that our son will be selling. 150 chickens equate to approximately 750-900 pounds of chicken. We then save the bones and feet to turn into homemade bone broth.
- Turkeys – We always raise a few turkeys each year. One for Thanksgiving day, then a couple of others to either roast and eat whole or can for the pantry. Our son also raises extra turkeys to sell in the fall.
- Geese – We have a free-ranging pair of geese on our homestead that generally breed each year. So we’ll usually butcher a few geese throughout the year.
- Pigs – This year we finally have a pair of breeding Kune Kune pigs. Right now we’re just waiting for them to breed! We chose this heritage breed because they’re known for their lard. Since we cook a lot with our home-rendered lard, this is great for us.
- Sheep – We raise two to four sheep every year. This year we’re down to two because we started a new flock.
- Beef Cattle – We harvest one beef cow each year which gives us about 400-500 pounds of beef.
- Salmon – Carolyn has found some family-owned companies that actually travel up to Alaska each year, fish for salmon, flash-freeze the meat and then bring it back down to our area to sell.
- Hunting & Fishing – We then fill in the gaps with hunting and some fishing throughout the seasons.
All in all, this adds up to about 2,000 pounds of meat each year for our family!
The good news is, you probably don’t need to raise this much meat for your own family!
How Do You Know How Much Meat to Raise?
To know how much meat your family needs for a year you simply need to figure out, on average, how much meat each person in your family eats per day.
For our family, we generally eat about 1/4-1/2 pounds of meat per person each day. Now multiply that by 12-16 people and we’re upwards of six to eight pounds of meat per day.
Knowing this, the number of animals we’re raising as listed above may make more sense!
But for an average family of four, where each person eats roughly 1/4 pound of meat per day, you’re looking at 1 pound of meat for your family each day, or 365 pounds of meat each year.
In our culture, we’re very used to eating a diverse diet. There have been years in the past when all we could raise in a year were chickens and we were having to do without much beef or other kinds of meat.
This is completely doable, but it does tend to get a little monotonous. So be sure you’re taking into consideration the kinds of meat your family enjoys eating and be sure to layer in some diversity in what you’re raising.
What Kinds of Meat Can Be Raised?
First on our list of meat to raise at home are chickens.
They’re considered the “gateway” animal because they’re fairly easy to raise, they take up very little space, and they can be raised in about 8-12 weeks.
Raising 60-70 chickens will give you approximately 400 pounds of chicken meat. You can raise this many chickens in about two chicken tractors. Learn more about raising backyard meat chickens here.
Keep in mind that if you’re having someone else butcher and process your chickens for you, this is an added expense and can be quite costly.
There are some areas where you can rent chicken butchering equipment for a weekend (if you don’t own this equipment).
Our recommendation is to ask around to friends or family to see if you can have a chicken butchering day where you all pitch in, and perhaps you send your volunteers home with a few chickens for their efforts.
If you’re looking to invest in chicken butchering equipment, this will add up to another couple thousand dollars. It will eventually pay for itself, but it’s an upfront investment that often goes overlooked.
If space is a major concern for raising meat, then meat rabbits might be best for you. Rabbits reproduce very quickly so you will have a constant supply of meat that doesn’t all need to be butchered at once.
If you want more information on raising meat rabbits, we highly recommend checking out Daniel Salatin’s knowledge on this topic.
From chickens or rabbits, the next best step in raising backyard meat is pigs. You can pasture pigs, but you don’t have to, so if you’re limited in space they’re still an option.
They’re very easy to raise and you get a good variety of meat and lard from one animal. The lard allows you to start replacing oils and butter in your cooking so it’s a great dual-purpose animal.
Pork can also be cured very easily (learn how to cure bacon here) and therefore can be stored long-term without the need for refrigeration or additional preservation supplies.
Pigs can also be fed a wide variety of foods like kitchen scraps, excess milk from the dairy cow or whey leftover from cheese-making, etc.
Sheep & Goats
If you’ve had lamb or goat meat in the past and you have the opinion that you don’t like them, try some home-raised lamb and goat before writing them off as a possible meat animal to raise.
Sheep are easy to handle and don’t require too much space for shelter, but you will want to have some pasture for them to graze.
A word of caution on both sheep and goats. Sheep will get themselves stuck in anything and everything they can. They’re very curious animals and that often leads to stuck situations.
Goats, on the other hand, will try to climb anything and everything they can. They have a natural tendency to want to climb, so be sure to anticipate that and even give them places to climb to keep them happier.
Goats can survive on pasture, but they’re actually browsers and do well in areas where they can browse.
Goats can be a great dual-purpose animal if you’re looking for both milk and meat. Check out this podcast we did with Anne of All Trades about raising goats for milk.
Just because the animal is bigger doesn’t mean it’s harder! Sometimes cattle can be easier to keep contained and fed than many of these other animals, but they do require adequate space to graze.
Angus steer are generally more high-strung than many other breeds of cattle, so we no longer raise this breed and now stick with Herefords.
Hunting & Fishing
Depending on where you live, hunting and fishing can become very much a recreational sport that includes the added costs of travel, time off work, equipment, etc.
If you live in an area where hunting and fishing are readily available then this becomes a very feasible way to fill your freezers.
One tip when hunting is not always to look for that trophy buck with the giant rack, but to choose the younger bucks, or if your state allows doe hunting, a nice sized doe will be some of the best meat from wild game.
Tips for Raising Meat Animals
Raise More Than One
When buying animals to raise, many animals are herd animals and prefer to have a “buddy” or a companion. If you’re going to raise a goat, get two goats, if you’re going to raise a pig, or sheep, etc., get at least two! The animals will be happier and healthier.
If you don’t have the need for that much meat, see if you can go in on the animals with a neighbor, family, or a friend. It’s better for the animal and you’ll find it easier on yourself if your animals aren’t lonely.
Smaller Isn’t Always Easier
When thinking about raising dairy animals, many people think goats will be easier because they’re smaller, give less milk than a cow, and take up less space.
But the truth is that a cow will stay contained very simply with a small line of electric wire whereas the goats, as mentioned above, will try to climb and browse everywhere they can!
It’s good to be aware of this ahead of time so you can make the right choice for your family.
Understand Butchering Costs
When raising your own meat, it’s always most cost-effective if you can butcher and process the meat yourself.
Taking a few courses on butchering meat can go a long way in building your confidence as it’s not as complicated as it seems.
But if you’re going to use a butcher, we recommend getting on their list well in advance as we’ve heard of butchers being booked out as far as two years! Be sure to check out this post on what you need to know before butchering day so you’re fully prepared.
A good friend of ours is actually on a biennial list with her butcher. She doesn’t need to remember to call, the butcher just knows she’ll be ready for her cattle to be butchered a specific week of a specific month.
Options if You Can’t Raise Meat
Not all of us are at a place where we can raise our own meat. If this is you we encourage you to source your meat from a local farmer. Do your research to make sure they’re following farming and feeding practices that you agree with.
This can be a great way to help support local businesses and build your local economy as well as to fill your freezers with good high-quality meat.
When more local farmers know there are families wanting to buy a quarter, half, or whole animal, then those farmers can increase the number of animals they raise each year and this helps build up sufficiency within communities.
One way or another, start coming up with a plan for how to get a year’s worth of meat. Grocery store prices are only going up, so figuring out where you can start now is best!
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Josh: Hey guys, this is Josh.
Carolyn: And Carolyn.
Josh: With Homesteading Family. And welcome to this week's episode of The Pantry Chat: Food For Thought.
Carolyn: This week, we're talking about how we raise all of our own meat or most of our own meat and how you can too.
Josh: A year's worth.
Carolyn: And year's worth of meat, yeah. With prices raising at the grocery store on meat, it's getting expensive.
Josh: It is getting expensive. And honestly, we've been raising our own meat for so long, I'm not extremely in touch with what meat prices are and where they've gone. But I know in talking to a lot of people, things are getting rough and there's actually a lot you can do in a small space. We're going to talk about everything we do here and then give you guys a little bit of strategy on how to approach it. If you're new to this, or you're struggling, some just tips and tricks, that'll help you depending on where you're at and your scale.
Carolyn: But first, the chit chat. Can't miss the chit chat.
Josh: We haven't been able to get to chit chat a whole lot this I know summer. I'm missing you.
Carolyn: Yeah, you too.
Josh: But having some fun conversations too with other folks.
Carolyn: Yeah. That's been fun. You've been out and traveling and working with some other people. So I guess that kicks off the what have you been doing? But first, if you're new to the Pantry Chat, we do chit chat for a few minutes to get started. If you want to skip the chit chat and go right to the main topic that is timestamped for you.
Carolyn: Good. So where have you been and what have you been doing?
Josh: Wow. Well, most of you, or a lot of you probably saw. If you didn't, go check it out after you watch this, but I was with Paul Gautschi all last week in Washington. If you're not familiar with him, that is Back to Eden garden. Most people, if you're in the home steading life or gardening, you know about Back to Eden method and that comes from Paul Gautschi.
And we're actually filming a class with him where he's teaching his method. I don't think he's ever quite done it this way before. It's really exciting where we're actually laying it out and getting into the details. And this is going to be a class for the school of traditional skills.
Josh: Keep your ears open for that, for the announcement on that. August 1st, right, I think is when we're going to-
Carolyn: There's a big announcement coming.
Josh: ... big announcement.
Carolyn: August 1st.
Josh: We'll keep giving you a little inside here, but that's really exciting to get to hang out with him for a week. Super, super neat guy.
Josh: Just an amazing guy, loves the Lord, and just fascinating his view on things. A lot of things that I've studied and then I know a lot of people in my circles have studied and researched, he's come too through really just honest observation and talking to God and tried it in his garden.
Carolyn: It's amazing garden.
Josh: And it's really, really neat. So, yeah. And if you missed that Pantry Chat, that was a good interview. And man, the week before that, I was in Oklahoma with Brandon Sheard. If you guys are familiar with him, the Farmstead Meatsmith, of course, you know I love my ball caps.
Carolyn: And yes, he does still have hair under there.
Josh: I do. It's here. I've heard it's disappearing in the back, so I'll just keep my hat on.
Carolyn: That's such an easy solution for a guy. That would not be the answer for a female.
Josh: We don't see a lot of your girls going bald.
Carolyn: Thankfully, thankfully.
Josh: Yeah, I agree. We'll take it. You keep your hair.
Carolyn: Okay. Sounds good.
Josh: So anyways. Yeah. And I think that Pantry Chat's out as well, where I got to interview Brandon. And yeah, we were curing pork, salt curing pork the traditional way. And we've done a bit of that and we've gotten busy and gotten away from it. And I was reinspired to come back and look at curing whole pieces of the animal, curing your own. It's so easy, you guys. It is so, so simple and it's scary because it's like, can I really do this? And I remember when we first did it some seven years ago or so and we just looked at it hanging up there in the pantry. And I was like, "Can we eat? That is that, is that really that easy?"
Carolyn: Is that safe?
Josh: And it is and it's safe. And Brandon took us all through that and much, much more and very, very cool. So that's been my last two weeks and-
Carolyn: That's Really exciting.
Josh: And then back here, just working on the homestead and trying to keep projects going here.
Carolyn: So for those of you guys who don't know, Josh kind of talked about the school of traditional skills. That is a new project that we're working on. It is-
Josh: New platform.
Carolyn: ... a brand new platform that will be coming out. Again, you'll get the announcements on that on August 1st. So you guys are kind of getting the insight because you're here with this as it's happening, but it's really, really exciting. I'm so excited about it. And I love you're talking about Brandon Sheard, Farmstead Meatsmith, and how simple some of these old traditional skills really are. He says that the hardest part of curing pork is believing that it's actually that simple.
Carolyn: And I think that's so true because we're like, "Oh, it's got to be more complicated than this." And so many of these old skills really aren't. They're not that complicated. We want to complicate them in our modern, like it's got to have more steps. It's got to have more this or more that. And it's not that complicated.
Josh: Well, it's not even that we want to. We've been taught that it's complicated because some professional has got to do it in a factory somewhere. And you know what? For mass delivery and mass maintenance of all that, yeah, there was a lot of safety issues. And so things have to get done, but this is not the way the world's worked for six, eight, 10,000 years.
People have dealt with all this, fed themselves. And so this is definitely what our life is about and the school traditional skills is learning how to do the things still in the modern life because we still got to live our modern life. But so much of this and just being with Paul and Brandon, that was the theme in both of them. It's like this is really simple. It's believing that you can do it.
Josh: And getting your head out of all the fear and all the things that say we need to be dependent on the professionals in the grocery stores to do some of these things when we don't. And the reality is like prosciutto and ham in the store is not prosciutto and ham. It's something else. Yeah.
Carolyn: Some industrial product.
Josh: So anyways, it's really cool because a lot of it is simple. It's just learning the key steps. So there is learning to do, which is what school of traditional skills is all about is the journey of just learning. Getting you right in there and showing you how to do it and get you engaged because it's just basic things that you need to do. And then just having the confidence to do it and trust that this works and our forefathers and grandmothers before us did it generation after generation, a lot of these things.
Carolyn: It's pretty exciting.
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. So anyways, I've been out, not here a lot and you've been here holding down the the fort.
Carolyn: Yes. Yes.
Josh: And so what about you? What is going on with you?
Carolyn: Well, I don't know how it is in your households, but the moment Josh walks out the door, we kind of have this history of things falling apart. And this, we did pretty well for a while there.
Josh: We had a couple years where... Yeah.
Carolyn: But you've been taking a child with you on each of these filming trips.
Josh: Yeah. Some of the older kids.
Carolyn: Which is really exciting.
Carolyn: And I did not know how much I have come to depend on our oldest son when you were gone. And so there was a moment where you and Tristan both left.
Carolyn: And they weren't even to the airport and I was making emergency vet calls. The oven broke, the septic's backing up. It was one of those moments where I was like, oh my goodness, how can I handle all of this? And we're okay. We're still surviving.
Josh: You survived. You did well.
Carolyn: The oven hasn't been replaced yet. It is broke, broke, broken.
Josh: And we actually try to fix those things.
Josh: And this one's actually-
Carolyn: Yeah. We've replaced parts.
Josh: ... old enough. Yeah.
Carolyn: Run into the parts we can't replace now and so anyways, we-
Josh: Going to bite that bullet.
Carolyn: We are getting through. We're surviving that, but yeah. Because it's been such a late spring here, now that it's warmed up and we feel like we are truly past the freezes and the frosts, now it's like go. It's fast all of a sudden, so I've been trying to manage fast all of a sudden. So that's me, that's what I've been doing. We're getting eight gallons of milk a day in from the milk cow, which means we have to make a huge batch of cheese almost every day or we should be if we were using it all.
Josh: Trying to be, yeah, good steward.
Carolyn: So at this point, we have a lot of neighbors who are getting really good milk because I can't make a whole batch of cheese every single day right now.
Josh: And you've got an intern here helping. And her and Rachel are actually working the cheese program.
Carolyn: Yep. So we've got Parmesan happening right now and cheddar yesterday. And so we're really building up our cheese cave for the year right now, which is exciting. It dwindled down. I'm looking at it right over here. There are three cheeses left from last year. And so that'll be about perfect to get these cheeses aged enough to be able to eat. So, that's exciting, always. Eggs are coming in at an alarming rate. I'm trying to keep the freeze dryer running and buckets of limed eggs and freezers getting filled up. And that's great. But also the garden had to go in.
Josh: Well, I was going to say, I got home on a Friday and we had a major group effort. We had our main crop planting. Now, we're always trying to stage out our planting, I think this year, it's not as much. We're not doing as much succession planting as we often do with everything going on, but we hit our main crop and all pitched in together. And that was actually a really cool day. We got that done and it wasn't even a full day and got the garden in.
Carolyn: That's very good. Yeah. I've got to say we have been doing succession planting for the greens. It's just that the geese found the green bed. And so you can't tell we've been doing succession planting because it's all kind of the same.
Josh: They mowed the Chinese cabbage, didn't they?
Carolyn: They did.
Carolyn: They took out my kimchi cabbage.
Josh: Yeah, now.
Carolyn: I'm not happy.
Josh: Which fencing just went in. And that's the other thing, which we've had some help with the fencing, but we've been getting that in so that we can actually keep some pastured chickens and geese and smaller animals away from the terraces and kitchen gardens and everything else. So not quite fast enough on that fence.
Carolyn: Right. Hey, before we jump into the question of the day, I've got to show you guys the brand new issue of the In The Homestead Kitchen magazine is just out.
Carolyn: This month, it's on strawberries. Make sure you follow the link and go get your subscription because we have one coming out every single month. Now, I want to be really clear. This is the only physical copy in existence. You will not get a physical copy. It is a digital magazine.
Carolyn: I know. One day I dream of being able to actually turn this into a physical magazine that you guys get in the mail, but for the moment it's digital and this month it's on strawberries. We talk about how to grow strawberries, how to harvest them. We have a lot of great recipes. You guys are always asking me for more of my recipes. And so this is where we're putting them is into here.
Josh: In this. In the magazine, right?
Carolyn: Into the magazine.
Carolyn: Strawberry mousse. And this is like homemade, delicious stuff. This is solid ingredients, easy ingredients that you can source anywhere. Good, homemade, family friendly. These are not fancy recipes that you're only going to find ingredients for by ordering things.
Josh: And I can attest to it. I'm the resident taste tester. Sometimes I call it the guinea pig.
Carolyn: We also got to work with Heidi Horth and she gave us one of her kid recipes on strawberries.
Josh: Wow, look at that.
Carolyn: So that's really exciting because it's a visual recipe, so you can help your young children even start to cook. But we talk all about preserving strawberries, how to freeze them, how to freeze dry them, how to turn them into great jams and fruit leathers. So make sure you jump over and grab your copy while it's still available. It's only available this month. You got to get it and then you can download it and then it's yours. And then after that, it goes away to make room for the next issue.
Josh: So it's printable, right? Downloadable, printable. So you can make your own physical copy and take into the kitchen and work with whatever.
Carolyn: Yeah and it's beautifully viewable on a tablet or a phone or something like that too, if you want to just keep it there because it is a lot of color.
Carolyn: So for printing, it might be a little hard, but yeah. So jump over and grab that. But today we have a question of the day.
Josh: I think I got this one. It's for you.
Josh: Little Cougar on the brownie mix video. On your dry mixes, do you vacuum seal the jars or just screw on the lids and put it on the shelf as is?
Carolyn: Personally, I just screw on the lids and put it on the shelf as is. We go through those pretty quickly. We'll go through them within about three months. If you wanted them to sit for a really long time on your pantry shelf, vacuum sealing is never a bad idea. It just helps to decrease any flavor loss, really is what you're dealing with in something like a brownie mix. You don't want that cocoa to not taste so coco-ish anymore. That's really what you're dealing with.
None of the ingredients in there is technically going to go bad. So you do extend your shelf life though. But if you guys haven't tried that, they are phenomenal. They are so incredibly good.
Josh: Oh yeah.
Carolyn: One thing I did learn though after putting that particular video out is that because we've had our convection oven, my times and my recipes are often off.
Carolyn: Because convection ovens cook a lot faster. So a lot of people were telling me, while I said about 25 to 30 minutes, theirs was taking closer to 45 minutes to bake. So something to be aware of. Something for me to be aware of, but also you guys, if you go to try it, you might expect it to take a little longer than I said in the recipe.
Josh: Good to know.
Carolyn: Yeah. There you go.
Josh: Right on.
Josh: So jumping into topic, how we raise, but we're going to also share with you how you can raise a year's worth of meat.
Josh: In our household, that is a lot of meat.
Carolyn: So always keep in mind when we're talking about quantities of food that we have a large family and we tend to have a lot of guests around. So we've got 10 children. We have at the moment, one intern and a family friend staying with us for a while.
Josh: 14 in house eating every day.
Carolyn: Yeah. And then obviously you and I. And then grandma and grandpa are here on the property, so they're stopping in for meals regularly. And then we'll have like my brother and his daughter are going to come and stay for about three weeks, so they'll be around. So we have a lot of people we're feeding. I say that to you so you don't start hyperventilating when you hear the number of animals we raise for meat. You don't have to do that.
Josh: So we'll get to some strategy how you can figure out what you need for a year's worth of meet in a minute. After we just talk about what we're doing, what that looks like here on a large family homestead. But we will break it down because it's a little crazy, sounds like. So, I mean let's just dive in. We're raising anywhere from 150 to 200 meat chickens every year.
Carolyn: Yes. This year we are raising 200, but 50 of them are for our son is selling them.
Josh: Right, yep.
Carolyn: So 150 for our family.
Josh: Right. That is 750 to 900 pounds right there of meat. And for us, we're just getting started.
Carolyn: That's a lot of meat right there, right there alone.
Josh: Yeah. Yeah, it is. Yeah.
Carolyn: We also are raising a couple turkeys for us. As we're talking about poultry-
Josh: Yeah, few turkeys.
Carolyn: ... we usually do about three turkeys that we keep for the household. We raise more and sell them.
Josh: Well, I'll get into this to a minute because we didn't even really talk about it beforehand, but turkeys because they get so large, every think's chickens, but turkeys can be a good way to raise quite a bit of meat in one animal. And so there's some benefits to that if you don't mind canning it, breaking it down a little bit and not just putting it up whole. So we do a few turkeys. We also do a few geese. We have a free ranging pair on the farm.
Josh: And so we get a few geese in and then we raise pigs. Usually two pigs.
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. And we've gone to more of a lard-type pig.
Carolyn: Yeah. So this year we're raising Kunekune. Some of you guys have followed us on the journey that we have now, our breeding pair of Kunekunes and we're waiting for them to breed because apparently-
Josh: They're a little fat and lazy, just to be honest and candid. And that's probably my fault. They came in. They came from a friend's in California in warmer weather and they came in the fall. So I was worried about I'm going into winter. It's more humid here, colder. And so I wanted to make sure they were beefed up. Now, these heritage breeds-
Carolyn: Beefed up is a understatement.
Josh: These heritage breeds and especially the Kunes is a fat pigs. They fatten real easily.
Carolyn: Well, okay. Let's differentiate that, they are fat pigs. They're very fat right now.
Josh: Okay. So they're a lard pig.
Carolyn: But they're a lard pig, which means-
Josh: For producing more lard.
Carolyn: ... they're going to naturally put on more fat so that you can produce more lard once they get to your kitchen.
Josh: Right. Which is what we want. That's a goal for our us, not just the meat, but the lard. And that's a whole nother discussion about lard and butter and cooking fats. And it's a little easier to get some of that from pigs.
Josh: Anyways, I wanted them to do well through the winter and so we fed them pretty well. I guess, better than I thought. Cause it wasn't that excessive of feeding. Anyways, they got fat, they stayed warm, but now they're not breeding because they're a little fat and lazy. Thankfully, Kunes graze. They're good grazers, so we've now gotten them out to pasture and we're having to shoo them along a little bit and then push them.
Carolyn: They have an exercise program.
Josh: Right. So they've got an exercise program and they're eating more greens and grains, which is great. They actually will fatten very well on grass.
Carolyn: Well, and I've got to say it is testament to the fact that you can raise pigs well off of kitchen scraps, just like they used to do.
Josh: Oh yeah.
Carolyn: We're having to not give them our kitchen scraps now, not as much of them because they were over fattening on kitchen scraps.
Josh: We actually pulled all the grain by March, late March.
Josh: And just kitchen scraps. And then they still weren't losing weight on just kitchen scraps. So I was finally like, "Okay, grass is getting up. Let's get them out." And we're now pulling the kitchen scraps back.
Carolyn: So you want to talk about economical meat raising, that's a good way to go. Okay. So we have a couple pigs.
Josh: So we got a couple pigs and then a couple sheep. We raise two to four sheep every year, depending on the year. And we restarted a flock because we switched breeds and so we're probably just going to have two this year, which is kind of our standard. Yep. And usually a beef.
Josh: A full beef. Yep. Which is going to yield us four to 500 pounds of meat. And then usually, we fill in the gaps with a bit of hunting, some venison and a little bit of fishing for us up here. We don't get a chance to fish real seriously, but we also do supplement with some, you have found some great kind of like family-based fisheries.
Josh: Commercial fisheries, but that are selling prepackaged some salmon and things that we enjoy.
Josh: And so that's rounding out the diet as well.
Carolyn: Yeah. So we actually just found a new company that it's a local couple who goes up and they fish on salmon season up in Alaska and they flash freeze everything right there on the boat and then they bring it down and you can buy it right here. So it's actually a local couple, even though we don't have awesome salmon fishing right here.
Carolyn: But that's a nice addition to the diet to kind of mix it up a little bit. So you can see that is a lot of meat for one family.
Josh: We're approaching 2000 pounds of cut, in the freezer meat for us. And I'll work in numbers with you in a second. We'll work in numbers and figure it out. Actually, I haven't done our numbers exactly in a while. We just kind of know what we need and we're in a range and we're generally doing it, but there's a method. And so that's definitely a lot to get off the hoof and end of the freezer.
Carolyn: The good news is you probably don't need to raise that much meat.
Josh: Definitely not. We're fairly heavy meat eaters. We're pretty solid and so every family's going to be different. So let's just dive into how do you figure out how much you need for a year and it's actually pretty simple. You kind of just got to figure out what's your average consumption per person per day.
Josh: And for us, we figure about a half pound per person, which is, I would say on the heavy side.
Josh: But that kind of covers our guests, our coming and going. I think a quarter to a third is probably more realistic, but it's going to depend on your eating style, your diet might. Be less for some, it might be more for others.
Josh: But that's the first thing and if you're buying meat from the store, just look at what you're buying and how you're consuming it. And if you haven't really thought about it that way and just look for a number. And you got to just start out estimating, but if you're you're buying food or you're cooking meals regularly with whole foods, you should be able to come up with a number and say, "Okay, our family eats a quarter pound per person a day." And we'll go with four people, so that's a pound a day for the family times 365. That's 365 pounds for the year that you would need. So, that math is really easy to get yourself a target in how much meat do you need to raise or bring in.
Carolyn: Yeah. And I think that's so good to have an actual quantifiable number like that.
Josh: Oh, very helpful.
Carolyn: It's really, really helpful. Not only does it help you understand what you're spending on meat say at the grocery store, it helps to give you those targets. Now, one of the things that here in the modern world, we are really used to, I know this has been a real struggle for me different years as we've been trying to figure out our meat problem or project and growing our meat is diversity.
If you need 365 pounds of meat, you can go get one beef from a local rancher, have it butchered, and you can have beef every single day of the year for your entire allotment. That's not how we're used to eating in our culture. And so for me, we've had years where all we could do was raise chickens or all we could do was raise sheep as we've gotten started for different reasons. And that's been a real challenge, so make sure as you're thinking about this, that you adding the diversity factor to it too. You don't just want 400 pounds of beef and that's your meat for the year, if you have a choice. Now, if you get into a situation where that's all you can do, then that's all you can do and you live with it and you figure it out. Right?
Josh: Sure. And it is doable. And I'll talk about that in chickens in a minute because that's one of the easiest places to start with a small space and low commitment over time. But you do want to add, like you said, 400 because 365, but you're probably going to have guests.
Josh: You're also going to have bone in. So really when we're talking about that quarter pound or say third pound, which is probably a closer daily average, that's without the bone. So, so you do need to round up a certain percentage. Like the 365, I just take it to 400. That's about 10% increase.
But you got to figure that if you do a lot of hospitality, if you feed a lot of people, then you need to increase that even more. And really, after you do that for a year or two using that method, you'll just start to get a feel and you'll start to know.
Josh: Okay. We need to get an extra feeder lamb this year.
Josh: Or we need to buy a larger beef if we're buying in or supplement because our beef is smaller or something like that. You start to figure that, work it out.
Josh: But those numbers really help you get going.
Carolyn: Yeah. Okay. So let's dive into the different types of meat that we can raise or that can be raised and kind of make some notes on that. First on our list is chickens.
Josh: They're really the gateway because they're easy to raise in a small space. Preferentially, you have some grass, but that's not required. You definitely need some space, but not a ton of space and the commitment's eight to 12 weeks.
Josh: I mean you can easily raise say 400 pounds. That's 60 to 70 birds and you can do that in one to two chicken tractors, depending on the size.
Josh: And not a lot of space.
Carolyn: So it's a very doable project for a lot of people. I love that time commitment is so much shorter because it's not like you're getting into, oh, I'm going to have a cow out in the barn for the next year and a half sort of a thing where you feel like you're really committed to this. It's a short period of time where you're committed and you can fill up your freezers that way. One thing to really note about chicken though, is that your average chicken that you're going to raise is five to six pounds probably.
Josh: A lot of times, yeah.
Carolyn: But five to six pounds is the whole bird, which means the bones.
Josh: Well, the bones, yeah.
Carolyn: It's got the bones in there. So if you're used to going to the grocery store and buying boneless, skinless chicken breasts and you're replacing that with a whole chicken, you do need to kind of finagle the math a little bit because that is a difference if you're depending on that for your family meat supply.
Josh: Definitely is. The other side of that discussion is, and you should be doing this whether you got store bought or not is making use of those bones and the skin and things that sometimes you may not eat. Hopefully you eat the skin. It's really good and it's good for you, but you can then make good broths that turn into soups and lots of other stuff.
Carolyn: So the other part of raising chickens is that it is actually a little challenging and fairly expensive to have somebody else butcher your chickens for you. It doesn't end up always working out great math wise on the dollars. It's definitely going to save you a lot of money if you're set up to butcher yourself, so that is something that you do want to be aware of. It could be almost impossible to find somebody else to even pay to do your chickens. So you do need to be aware of that when you go into a chicken raising project.
Josh: Yeah. You definitely do. And there's a little investment in equipment.
Josh: But that does pay for itself over time. You just want to get the equipment that's appropriate for the scale that you're at. Like we just may do. I mean we had some old barrel for a lot of years and we begged, borrowed, rented a chicken plucker and we just dunked by hand. And we got by for a long time until we got up to well over a hundred consistently every year. And we're like, "Okay, now it's time to go ahead and invest in a little more near professional-style equipment."
Josh: And other people come and help out. And that's another thing to do is to make sure bring people in and do it together. And you can pay people in chickens and that helps get it done, but chickens are great because you can easily raise a year's worth of meat on a small space.
And I was reading a number not too long ago because we're Justin Rhode is kind of the guy that's really dove into all the details of this and we're going to be doing a class with him, which is really cool. But I thought I saw a number of about like 3700 square feet. I'm not sure that I have that exactly right. For a hundred chickens. That's not very much land to grow. I mean a hundred chickens, that's 500 pounds of meat. So it's a pretty small space, so it's really easy to get into. It's easy to learn to butcher, to get familiar with and get everybody involved with. So that's a great gateway and once you get the equipment great economical way to raise a really quality meat in a small space.
Carolyn: Now, if space is your number one challenge that you have, the way to go to start with raising your own meat is actually not chickens. It's rabbits. Rabbits are another great place to start with raising meat. And the number one benefit behind the rabbits is that they're reproducing and they're reproducing, giving you meat regularly.
Carolyn: So instead of one big flush all at the same time of meat, you kind of have this trickle in of meat that's going to go to your freezer.
Josh: Yep. And you can learn how to manage them similar in tractors out on the grass and there's a bit more to it. There is some more to managing rabbits. We're not experts than that at all. We've done thousands of chickens, but not rabbits. Daniel Saliton's really the guy to check out on that, yeah. But that's a great small space that you can do.
Josh: And even smaller than chickens really. But I don't know the poundages and some of that, so you'd have to do your research, but it is a good entry way.
Josh: Yeah. They actually start going up in size and I really think a pig is the next best. Moving up to a larger animal, that's the next best step because pigs are pretty easy to raise. It's great if you can pass them but you don't have to. You just need to have adequate space for them to move around in and good housing and all those things.
Carolyn: Yeah. If you eat pork, raising pigs is so helpful because not only do you get the meat, but like we kind of touched on a few minutes ago, you get the lard from it. And that starts replacing then not only your meat, but also the fat that you need. You can replace butter. You can replace oils. You can replace a lot of those things. So it starts filling multiple purposes, I guess, in the food world on your homestead.
Carolyn: And so that can be really, really beneficial. Another thing is the curing.
Carolyn: It's very curable. So pork is very storable as a meat.
Josh: It's very storable. It's pretty easy to harvest and handle if you're getting into entry butchering. A larger animal than a chicken, than a bird or rabbit. It's a good step in there. It's pretty easy to do. And yeah, you can preserve the lard. You can preserve a lot of those pieces, hang your own bacon, hang your own prosciutto, which is really just Italian ham that can store for a very, very long time.
So that's a great entry and you don't need a ton of space. And the thing I like about pigs is they fit into the homestead system very well because they will consume a lot of the leftovers. If you've got extra milk, even if you're buying milk and you're making dairy products, you've got way you've got buttermilk, you can fatten the pigs on that. So it's very economical. You can fatten the pigs on all of the meat scraps. And some of the heritage breeds and the lard breeds fatten easier. So they're a little more economical where some of your fast growing meat breeds are going to take a little more grain and that's fine. Pigs are fine. We're not trying to be all grass fed with pigs. They're not a ruminate, but they do have some advantages in giving you more lard for the table and they can be a little more economical to raise.
Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. A pig also has the benefit that it's a lot easier to find a butcher to actually butcher your pigs for you. So if you're interested in starting to raise animals, but you're not feeling like you are at the place where you're ready to butcher your own animals, a pig is really kind of that first step of something that you can call in a butcher, a custom butcher, and they'll take it and butcher it for you.
Josh: Yeah. Now, how much meat are you going to get? There's a lot of variety in that based on the pigs and we're raising lard pigs. And so we're getting a lot more lard and definitely a little bit less meat in a smaller animal where you can get some very big. A lot of people are targeting 250, 300 pounds for a feeder meat pig. And so that's going to vary a lot from... I don't know on ours. We haven't butchered the lard pigs yet, but I'm going to, I'm going to say 75 to a hundred pounds of meat, plus lard, maybe more, all the way up to a couple hundred pounds of meat per pig. So that you'll just have to find out like what do you have access to, what are you starting at, talk to whoever's raising them what you can expect for yield. But that's a good way to go.
Josh: It's a good way to get started in a small space. They don't need a ton of space. If you get pigs and you raise them, get two. Don't just get one pig. And this is true with any animals, but don't get a single pig. So if you don't feel like you need that much meat, then get somebody to partner with you because while they don't have to have a ton of space, they do need a good clean space. Pigs actually aren't as dirty as everybody thinks. They like cooling off in the mud and water, but they need good space and they need a buddy. They need a companion.
Carolyn: Yeah, that's pretty true of most of the animals.
Carolyn: The next animal that we like and that we raise is kind of in this small animal category and that is the sheep.
Carolyn: We love our meat sheep. The meat is delicious. If you've had lamb before and you have the impression that you don't like lamb, try locally raised, well raised lamb because it's probably different than the things that are coming over on the cargo ships from New Zealand or wherever they're coming from. Most people who come sit down at our table and eat lamb have the impression, oh, I don't really like lamb. And then they taste what we have.
Josh: And they're like whoa.
Carolyn: This is lamb? This is so good. I love this. It's absolutely delicious. It doesn't have to be strong in flavor. It can be really, really mild in flavor
Josh: Really can. And so sheep are pretty easy to work with. They're easy to handle. Again, they're another great entry if you're trying to learn to butcher and kind of go from raising all the way to get in your freezer yourself. They're easy to work with in that way and manage. Now, you generally do need some pasture for sheep.
Josh: You want a couple of them. And if you're going to raise a couple sheep, depending on where you're at and again, pasture changes everywhere depending on where you're out in the country, but you can probably need at least a half acre or better to raise a couple sheep. And-
Carolyn: I do want to say about sheep though, because right next to sheep is goats and goats are very similar, except sheep have this tendency to get into trouble in as many creative ways as they can. If there's a way to get stuck in something or to get in trouble with something, sheep will take that opportunity. On the other hand, goats have a tendency to try to get out of anything you put them in.
Josh: Well, they want to go up is what it is with goats.
Carolyn: They want to go up.
Josh: This is something I learned. I didn't really realize. I learned filming with the Anne of all trades and hearing Joel talk about it too in his book. Goats are browsers, so they they're going up. And so one of the reasons they get themselves in trouble is not so much because they're trying to escape, but they're looking up. They're climbing on things to find things because they're looking for food and they're naturally curious. And that's what makes them all the stories that we hear about goats.
Carolyn: They don't tend to get themselves in as much trouble. They just get out of everything that you put them into.
Josh: Well then they're in trouble with me or you.
Carolyn: Yeah. Then they're in a different kind of trouble. So just in both of those, make sure you have really, really good fences and make sure it's free from things like little holes in the fence or anything that they could get in trouble.
Josh: A couple differences though. Sheep are grazers.
Josh: And a lot of people get goats thinking that goats will do fine on pasture and they can pasture, but goats are browsers. That's why they're up, they're looking up. If they don't have browsing, you're feeding them on hay, which you can feed sheep and goats hay. Again, if you don't have pasture, if you've got a small lot, you can feed them hay, but know that those goats are going to be up looking to things. They're looking for browse and so that's why we don't have goats.
Joel Salitin tells a hilarious story. If you guys know him, he's into all kinds of pastured animals. He tried goats and got up and no matter what he did with fences, I think they ended up on the car in the morning. And I'm sure I'm not retelling the story well, but it was like, no, okay. They got to go. And I just totally relate. But you know what? Goats are great for some people because they can get meat, they can get milk, and it works real well. And that's fine.
Carolyn: Just like sheep, goats meat is wonderful. It's delicious.
Josh: It is, yep.
Carolyn: It can be very mild. It can be very good.
Josh: It really can, as can the milk as well.
Josh: Okay. So those are a lot of your smaller animals. Next, we go to beef, right? And we all, generally as Americans, love our beef.
Josh: And that can be a little harder to tackle. Though you can grass feed via hay, a cow, you should really have a half acre and room to move around and a buddy, so a couple steers, a couple heifers or something.
Carolyn: And I don't mean to pick on goats too much because they do have their place, a lot of people think do I get a goat or do I get a cow when it comes to beef and milk.
Josh: Definitely dairy, yeah.
Carolyn: And a lot of people think, well, the goat is going to be easier to handle and that is not always the case. In fact, I really beg to differ on that. A cow is much easier or a steer-
Josh: Oh yeah.
Carolyn: ... is much easier to keep in a space. They will often stay very nicely in a space with a single line of electric wire. And so just in thinking about these things where you're going to start, don't equate size to challenge level, I guess.
Josh: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. You want to know where your beef's coming from.
Josh: But beef, while they're larger, they're definitely can be easier to keep in, easier to contain. I like other breeds other than the Angus. The Angus, which is kind of the popular for the commercial market, they're generally one of the more high strung breeds. And so if you're going to buy a steer or two, personally, I would stay away from Angus.
They're not wrong. Actually, we had one when we first moved up here and we were leasing some pasture and we had a black Angus steer in a mix of cross breeds, whatever that would jump the fence.
Josh: All day long. He was like a goat. He just bing or sheep right over it. So anyways, just find an animal that's being raised that are a little mellower disposition, which is one of the reasons I like Herefords because they're pretty easygoing and mellow.
Carolyn: They really are.
Josh: But you got to blend that with what you have, but you can do beef on a small holding. If you've got to have acre, an acre and even if it's not grass. I mean grass is ideal. You just want to make sure they've got space to move around. You can keep it clean. It's not getting dirty and mucky and pooy and they need buddies as well if you're going to go that route, but again, a beef, you can yield three, four, 500 pounds of meat in a season and really take care of your meat needs.
Carolyn: There you go.
Carolyn: Okay. Another option for bringing in meat to your freezer or your house is hunting and in some parts of the country, that is a very good option.
Josh: And we're talking like sustenance hunting and as guys, yes, we all want to get the big buck. But if you're in the city and you're in town and you don't have hunting close by and you're like, "Okay, I'm going to go hunt," that's going to be recreational, even if it's helping the house out and you have to factor the cost in. And so it does depend on where you're at that you can utilize that-
Carolyn: And the flavor.
Josh: ... economically.
Carolyn: You have to factor the flavor in because a lot of times that big buck does not taste nearly as good as something a little smaller and a little fresher.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. Younger bucks and if you can hunt does like we have. We have doses in here and a large doe is some of the best eating and actually more obtainable. You get kind of down the road and hunting a little bit, but bucks are sneakier. They're careful. That's how those big ones get big. But yeah, hunting is a great way and venison is the most common and it's a good, good way. And that's what we use to supplement and also get out in the woods a little bit and practice some skills. And I know for me, it's a time of year where I get to just go sit and be quiet and enjoy nature because the white tail hunting is what we do mostly. So yeah, that's a great way to go.
Carolyn: That's good.
Carolyn: Very good.
Carolyn: And then of course we can always add in fishing right along with the hunting. That's a good way to bring in some meat. If you can't fish in your area, we already kind of talked about being able to bring in fish from maybe a local provider of some sort who's actually going out and fishing and handling the fish really well and getting it right to you.
Josh: Yeah. All of these things. You've got to work with the context that you're in and where you live. And you're going to have more ability to do one or the other and different things.
Josh: I think the really neat thing about all of these is getting to engage on the land, getting to engage in nature. And so we're doing something that's productive, but that's rewarding that we can share with others and raising our own meat's been a joy to us for a lot of years besides very, very good for the pocketbook.
Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. And if you feel like you just are not in a place where you can start actually raising your own meat or maybe you can only raise a little bit of it, make sure you look around and see if you can find a local farmer, rancher that you can work directly with and buy in large amounts of meat, maybe a half of a steer or a whole hog or something like that all at the same time so that one, you're helping develop your local economy. So we have locally raised meats again, that does in the long run help offset the costs going up and down. But also, it helps to get really healthy, good quality meat available to us on the local scale.
Josh: And I'm glad you mentioned that because we're not always going to be able to do everything ourselves and we shouldn't try to. And it really is important to support local, smaller scale suppliers. That's what's going to help them increase in which ultimately is going to help give us resilience from when the big factories fail like we saw during COVID and cause the meat problems. The more people that we have and the more you're supporting these farmers around you.
Josh: And if you can do that instead of the farmer's market, you're going to get a better price by buying it in a half or a whole. And even some of them would probably work with you if you want to save even a little more, if you're going that route and delivering it on the hook so you can butcher yourself. That's just some things to think about. And then you save that cost as well, even if you've got to go buy the animal. So it's different ways to approach it to help you get that year's worth of meat into the freezer or into the canning jars or even hanging in the pantry. And that's a good thing.
Carolyn: One way or another, make sure you start taking steps to come together, come up with your meat plan because it's not going to get any cheaper at the grocery store. And honestly, the quality is not going up. If you want good, healthy meat, you got to come up with a plan on how you're going to provide it. And divorcing the grocery store a little bit, that's a good thing right now. I'm all for it.
Josh: And if you can't get to a year's worth, just figure out how much a year's worth is and figure out what can I do this year?
Josh: Can I raise a batch of 50 chickens?
Josh: Or can I do some rabbits or a couple sheep? Just figure out what you can do and works for you and you start moving that direction.
Carolyn: Absolutely. Hey, you guys, don't forget to grab your subscription to the In The Homestead Kitchen magazine. I will put the link in the description for you guys but grab it now while you can.
Josh: And good hanging with you all. We'll see you soon.
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