We’ve had some feedback and questions regarding my post on Calculating The Cost Of Raising Roaster Chickens that I wanted to address.
Q: Are you sure you are feeding them enough? Wouldn’t they grow to a larger size if you fed them more?
A: We are feeding them to the specifications. This breed will literally eat itself to death, so you have to be careful not to overfeed them, else you risk them growing at too rapid a rate, and they start dying from things like heart attacks, strokes, and their legs breaking underneath the weight of their bodies. It’s a careful balance. Also, consider that if we feed them more, our costs continue to rise.
Q: Why don’t you purchase feed in larger quantities? Wouldn’t that help lower your costs?
A: Most of our suppliers don’t actually offer a bulk discount. Neither of our local feed elevators do. The chain stores (Tractor Supply Company, and Family Farm & Fleet) do offer a small (5%) discount when you purchase an entire pallet full of feed bags, but we then need a place to store it here where it won’t get wet or infested with insects or rodents.
Q: Why don’t you just feed the chickens corn? Isn’t that cheaper than feed ration? Seems like you could strictly feed that and save some money.
A: Sure it is cheap. And that’s why most of the cheap chicken you see in the supermarket is raised on the same. But why would we go through all of this effort to raise what we can already buy in the supermarket? We are striving for a better quality of life for the animals, and therefore a better quality of food for us.
Q: Why don’t you raise more than 50 birds at a time? I see the hatcheries do offer a discount the more birds you buy at a time.
A: Yes, they do. But all of our other costs per bird would remain the same. And it’s just the two of us, and one of us works a distance from home full-time “plus”. In order to insure the quality of life we feel these animals deserve, we raise them in the numbers we do.
Q: Why don’t you process the chickens yourselves? It’s not that hard. You could save money that way.
A: Whenever I hear someone suggest that processing chickens isn’t that hard, I always wonder (1) whether they have done it themselves, or are just basing their concept of difficulty on things they’ve read or heard, and (2) if they have done it themselves, what were the conditions? Did they do a few, like 3-4 birds? Did they help out at a poultry processing house? Because we have tried doing it here, and it took us a half a day to dispatch six birds. We did it in our garage, the only practical shelter we had, and the smell from the process lingered for a couple of weeks and seeped into our house. The results were not sellable. Now, sure, we could invest in a proper building and equipment: killing cones, feather pluckers, chilling tanks, vacuum sealers – tell me again how that is saving us money? You are talking tens of thousands of dollars between those things, and then we have to schedule at least an entire day to the process, and we would have to pay other people to come and assist if we wanted to get through fifty birds in that day. Suddenly, that $4 per bird in a facility where the family has already made that investment, has the expertise, and is USDA inspected seems pretty reasonable, right?
We don’t want to cut corners. We want to raise these animals in a humane way. We also want to stop having George’s paycheck subsidizing anything we sell from the farm. It’s not fair to us. And really, if we come to a point where we can’t do it any longer, it’s not fair to our customers. So we are trying to figure this all out.