Amy Sliffe of Blue Whistler Farm and founder of Homestead Mamas lives with her husband, Josh, and their two little boys in Harrisonville, MO, where they are currently bringing back to life a 100 year old farmhouse on 5 acres. Her passion for farming and desire to provide nutrient-dense food for her family sparked the idea of bringing together a community of like-minded women.
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Raising your own meat can seem very intimidating. There are major learning curves, and you are dealing with living, breathing things that have to be taken care of every single day. But let me tell you… It is beyond worth the fears, and you won’t regret it one bit! I would always tell anyone who wants to raise their own meat to start with smaller animals – pastured poultry is a great place to start!
When Blue Whistler Farm was in production my primary focus was pastured poultry. I raised a couple thousand birds over my five years of farming, and was selling direct to consumer, and to restaurants in the RDU area. Now we have shifted into homesteading, but for a while there, I was producing thousands of pounds of pasture raised chicken, duck, and turkey. I raised Cornish Cross broilers, Grimuad Hybrid meat ducks from Metzer Farms (if you wanna raise meat ducks, I cannot recommend that hatchery, and those ducks more!) Broad Breasted White Turkeys, and Bronze Orrlop Turkeys.
Looking back to our first year on the farmstead, we were super inspired by the great Joel Salatin, and his books “You Can Farm“, and “Pastured Poultry Profits.” My husband and I decided to raise a small number of birds that year for our own consumption, and family and friends. The day our 75 chicks arrived, we had the brooder set up, ready and waiting for the little yellow puff balls. We had the heat lamps set just right (now we use radiant heaters for a safer, and more efficient heat source for our itty bitties) waterers, fresh grit from the creek, food, and some “Sav-a-Chick” probiotics and electrolytes set up for them as well since they had a rough couple days in the mail.
We (…ehem… my husband) built 2 small sized Salatin style chicken tractors, that would fit about 35 birds per tractor. We had a little dolly built (If you are using Salatin Style tractors, get a dolly!!) and once they were old enough for those cool fall evenings, we moved them out to their pasture pens. We moved the birds across our front pasture every day, and twice a day for the last couple weeks of their lives. The daily chores aren’t difficult at all, and usually don’t take more than 5 minutes to move a tractor, fill feeders and water.
Our first-time processing on farm was a very long day. It was Josh and I, and 3 of our friends there to help. Josh and I had taken a Poultry Processing class a few months before, but we were all complete beginners! As beginners, it just takes a while to figure out where on the bird to cut, and to remember the order in which you do things. Josh was on the kill cones and scalder (we use a turkey fryer, and it works fantastic!) and we took turns on the plucker that we had rented for the day. It was a very, very long day, and we were only half way done when our friends had to leave. Josh and I worked late into the night, and finished the birds. Our freezer was filled to the brim with delicious, nutrient dense chicken. It felt so great knowing those birds had such a beautiful life from day one. They lived stress free lives, ate a ton of grass and bugs, breathed fresh air, and bathed in the sun every day. They had a very swift death, and fed our family and friends the some of the best tasting chicken they had ever had.
There’s a good chance that we will never buy chicken or turkey meat again, as we love raising birds, and want our boys to see and know exactly what it takes to put meat on the table. Whether you hunt, fish, or raise it yourself, providing your families meat supply, or even part of it really boosts your family’s self-sufficiency! This is a huge step in the right direction for your health as well, as these meats are chocked full of nutrients that you wouldn’t otherwise get from meat bought from the store! We haven’t bought meat in years, and it really is a beautiful, and delicious thing.
You eat very differently when you raise/hunt/fish for your own meat, because you eat nose to tail. You won’t waste a single piece either! You worked hard for that meat, and that animals’ life was taken by your hands with the goal of feeding the ones you love the most. Your food has a story to tell, and it is so worth all the hard work you put into it to get it on your table.
Growing your own meat isn’t easy. I can’t tell you how many chickens we lost to predators, and from our own mistakes. As with everything in this homesteading life, you must give yourself grace in learning what it takes to turn these 3-day-old chicks into a 5lb bowling ball sized chunk of meat and bones for your family to consume. When you grow your own, and harvest you own, it’s sweeter and more delicious than you ever imagined it could be. All the hard work you put in comes out in the flavors and textures. You won’t easily go back to store bought meat once you sit at the table with your family and dig into to that home-grown goodness!
I’ll end this post with one of my very favorite quotes…
“This magical, marvelous food on our plate, this sustenance we absorb, has a story to tell. It has a journey. It leaves a footprint. It leaves a legacy. To eat with reckless abandon, without conscience, without knowledge; folks, this ain’t normal.” Joel Salatin in “Folks, This Ain’t Normal”