WRITTEN BY NICOLINA FOTI OF CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION OF SARATOGA COUNTY
In Homesteading or farming, you always seem to be planning today for tomorrow's work. And there is an important reason for that, and it's the adage "up the creek without a paddle." None of us want to get into that situation. But there is one instance that I have found with those who are new to the homesteading/farming lifestyle when they find themselves up that very creek, and that is when people buy livestock for meat.
Whether it's a cow, pig, meat bird, it all unfolds somewhat similar; they get the animal, they raise it, and just about when they would like to (or need to), they go looking for a meat processor. After that, to their surprise, they conclude it's not that easy, and those who can process animals are booked for months. Now they have a 400lb pig in their backyard; winter is coming, and there are beads of panic rolling down their face!
"What am I going to do?"
Let's rewind this story and go back to what they should have done. In this scenario, they have "put the cart before the horse," so to speak. The best way to get livestock for meat is as with everything else in homesteading/farming. Do your homework! Decide what meat you want. How long will it take to harvest or bring that animal to market, and most importantly, where will you bring it for processing? Contact a butcher/meat processor first. Tell them the type of animal you want to raise, and ask if they will be able to process it for you.
As I mentioned previously, the meat processor will book in advance with an approximate date, and they book months in advance. So, for example, if meat birds take on average 12 weeks to harvest, you would need to plan that and schedule an appointment within that time frame. This is also a great time to ask questions. How long will it take to fully process the animal? How much meat can I expect to get from a 1,200 lb cow? (it's not 1,200 lbs of meat!) How will the meat be packaged? What types of cuts of meat can I get? What is the pricing, how is it figured, will it change? If you are doing meat birds, ask if they have a bird minimum. Many places will only do a minimum number of birds in one order. So partner with a friend or know to raise that number of birds to meet the minimum for processing.
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