Options for Processing Your Meat Birds
Many homesteaders and small farm owners like to raise their own meat chickens, turkeys, ducks and other poultry in order to provide wholesome, fresh food for their own use. Let’s discuss the options that currently exist for what happens at the end of the growing time: processing. Different rules apply to those wishing to sell birds to customers. If that is you, we suggest that your first point of contact should always be your state’s Department of Agriculture and/or your county’s Board of Health or similar office that oversees food safety laws and regulations.
The most popular option for processing is finding a local poultry processor that will perform the service for you. Typically, you make an appointment, drop your fasted birds off on a designated day, and they are processed for a modest fee. Custom processors will usually accommodate special requests such as cutting up for whole birds, saving the giblets, vacuum packaging and other options. Most custom processors are very busy during the height of the summer season, so call well in advance of when your birds will be grown to make an appointment. One advantage of taking the birds to a custom processor is that he is dealing with the cleanup after the process is done. A disadvantage is caging and trucking birds may cause some loss, and at the very least may cause stress to the animals.
Another option is finding a mobile processor. These are more difficult to find, but basically, it’s the custom processor on wheels. They come to your location to process birds on site. The cleanup will likely be yours to deal with, but the reduced stress of crating and trucking the birds is definitely an advantage. Another option is renting the mobile equipment and doing the task yourself. If you have the skill, the time and the inclination to have total control on how the finished product is handled, this may be the way to go. Check Local Harvest for processors and rental options.
The final option is buying the equipment and setting up your own on-site processing area. If you do multiple groups of birds in a season or do a lot of birds, this option may make sense for you. Depending on the numbers of birds you do in a season, it’s possible to recoup the costs of the processing equipment in as little as a single season versus hiring the custom processor to do the job.
Advantages and disadvantages exist for all of the options for processing your birds, so do some research to find which options exist near you to help you make the best decision possible. Happy Homesteading!