Best Meat Breeds

TheAmundsons

Songster
Mar 11, 2018
284
453
156
Vermillion, SD
Hello! We're going into our second year with chickens, and we are wanting to try meat birds. We have done some research on processing and care, but we were hoping to see what breeds people prefer, and why you would choose a certain breed over another. How many would you suggest getting for our first round?
 

Mosey2003

Crowing
Apr 13, 2016
2,832
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351
North-Central IL
You have to narrow down exactly what you want as far as meat breeds.

Do you want pure meat, and a good amount, especially breast? If so, you really want the standard Cornish X broiler chicks. Or one of the other slower growing broilers available. These are the chicks you can get at your local farm store or order from a hatchery.

Do you want to get dual purpose birds that will also lay eggs and possibly breed more in the future? If that is the case, the breed is a little less important than where you get them. A true dual purpose chicken that will butcher out worth a darn in 20 weeks or less really needs to be sourced from a breeder, preferably a breeder that is breeding to the standard and also paying attention to carcass qualities. Hatchery dual purpose birds simply will not butcher out as well as the same breed from a breeder, because hatcheries have taken all those breeds and bred them with the purpose of them laying more eggs and not with an eye towards carcass quality at all.

Breeds recommended for dual purpose use are usually New Hampshire, Buckeye, Plymouth Rocks (whites especially, although my Barred perform well in my opinion), Delaware, Dorking, Orpington, and Wyandotte. Jersey Giants get large, but take a longer time to flesh out. Brahmas too.

If you're butchering all by yourself for the first time, I would suggest fewer than 20.
 

RUNuts

Hatching Malted Milk Balls
Premium member
May 19, 2017
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For fast meat go straight to the Cornish Cross (CX). Not the tastiest or firmest, but quick, cheap and better than grocery stores. 8 weeks to butcher.

For Dual Purpose (DP), hatchery stock tends to be smaller and geared to egg laying, but they eat just fine. Expect 16 or more week grow outs and less meat per bird. Better taste, firmer flesh and will forage given enough room.

Meat birds other than CX that includes Freedom Rangers, Dixie Rangers, Imperial Broilers and all the other broilers can be explained by saying slower growing (12-24 weeks to butcher) birds that can get as large as the CX.

I started with CX. All the bad things you hear are not due to the breed, but the care they receive. They will outgrow their bodies and hang around the feeders unless you make them forage. The couch potatoes of the chicken world.

Research. See what everyone says here. Then figure out how much time, money and effort you have or want to invest in good food.

For butchering, take your time. Adding stress to your life will sour the experience for all involved. 20 birds is a good number. Enough to keep you from making pets and few enough to handle easily. I'll butcher 2-7 a day depending on how I feel. If you have helpers, you can process all at once. No reason to, though. The advantage of slow food is supposed to be healthy and enjoyable. All parts, not just the eating.

Best wishes!
 
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TheAmundsons

Songster
Mar 11, 2018
284
453
156
Vermillion, SD
Thank you for the advice! It would just be me and my husband processing them and we would probably make a day/weekend out of it just to get it all done at once. I appreciate the advice on allowing CX to forage. Our current flock free ranges all night and we just lock them in at night, so our meat birds would do the same. We don't necessarily have much interest in dual purpose, other than to be able to hatch out our chicks instead of having to keep buying them. We currently have a BR hen, so maybe we'll try to get a BR roo and a few other dual purpose hens as well for breeding. We typically order our birds from McMurray, any word on their quality of dual purpose birds as far as meat goes?
 

RUNuts

Hatching Malted Milk Balls
Premium member
May 19, 2017
3,960
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Eastern Houston
Thank you for the advice! It would just be me and my husband processing them and we would probably make a day/weekend out of it just to get it all done at once. I appreciate the advice on allowing CX to forage. Our current flock free ranges all night and we just lock them in at night, so our meat birds would do the same. We don't necessarily have much interest in dual purpose, other than to be able to hatch out our chicks instead of having to keep buying them. We currently have a BR hen, so maybe we'll try to get a BR roo and a few other dual purpose hens as well for breeding. We typically order our birds from McMurray, any word on their quality of dual purpose birds as far as meat goes?
Define quality. I have not ordered from McMurray but my understanding is that hatcheries are similar in regards to DP. If you want a true DP bird, find a breeder with the same goals as you. Meat, size, conformation or taste. Or any combination these. Lots of information on this site.

A free range, backyard bird will be higher quality in taste, firmness and umami. However, the meat quantity will be less.

The CX will be younger (compare to veal) and will have a different texture. These are the grocery store birds and has been described as mushy and flavorless.

Take the same CX and allow it to grow on grass and forage along with the limited amount of feed. Force the CX to move. Food on one side of the yard and water on the other. The use of the muscle will yield firmer meat, stronger flavor and the diet will give umami. Does this make sense?

I've raised Barred Rocks from Ideal Hatchery for meat. Puny, delicious little things. CX from a couple hatcheries with similar results. Currently, have Barnyard Surprises from a friend with a mixed flock in the freezer. In summary, don't overthink it like I did. Pick one or get a mix and try it. Taste is great.

There are a couple posts explaining the grading of meat chickens. The age determines the preferred cooking method. Young birds are fryers (hot and fast). Middle age are roasters. Old, tough birds need a slow, low and moist cooking method to be toothsome. I make a lot of gumbo, so it is all good.
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,298
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Southeast Louisiana
Think of your goals. There are only two of you, how important is a double extra huge bird? There are only two of us and we get two meals out of a pullet, the second meal soup. A nice sized cockerel just means I get chicken for lunch. You've been getting some good advice on here,not arguing with them at all, but my typical suggestion for your situation is to try all three and decide which suits you the best. We are all different and have different goals.

A lot of important stuff has been covered, especially how the method of cooking is tied to age of butchering. How much freezer space do you have? Could you handle 15 or 20 carcasses at one time. With Cornish X you have to butcher them when it is time. With Rangers you get a little more flexibility but not a tremendous amount. Dual purpose can go a lot longer but won't get as big plus you are restricted some on how you cook them.

If you are buying all their food the Cornish X are most efficient on the feed to weight gain ratio, Rangers less so, and dual purpose a lot less efficient. But if they forage for a lot of their food that may not be as important for you. All methods are all different and so are you. I don't know what is the best for you.

Hatchery dual purpose chickens will not be as big as breeder chickens if you find a breeder that is breeding for meat and size. Won't be nearly as expensive either. McMurray has assortments of dual purpose cockerels. You might try one of them if you are open to experimenting. These are excess cockerels they hatched and have no use for so they are pretty cheap. You don't know what actual breeds you will get, it depends on how many of what they hatch, but it's a relatively inexpensive way to try a few different ones to see if you like one breed better.

I hatch my own, which means I get as many pullets as cockerels. If you do that, what are your plans for the pullets? I eat mine but some people sell the pullets to help pay for the feed. Mine are mixed breed mutts so the pullets would not sell as well as certain breeds. There are all kinds of different twists to these different methods and no one can cover them all. To me the best way to find out which is best for you is to try them. If you don't like how something turns out you get to eat it and try something different.

Good luck!
 

NHMountainMan

Crowing
Premium member
Feb 25, 2019
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New Hampshire
My Coop
My Coop
For fast meat go straight to the Cornish Cross (CX). Not the tastiest or firmest, but quick, cheap and better than grocery stores. 8 weeks to butcher.

For Dual Purpose (DP), hatchery stock tends to be smaller and geared to egg laying, but they eat just fine. Expect 16 or more week grow outs and less meat per bird. Better taste, firmer flesh and will forage given enough room.

Meat birds other than CX that includes Freedom Rangers, Dixie Rangers, Imperial Broilers and all the other broilers can be explained by saying slower growing (12-24 weeks to butcher) birds that can get as large as the CX.

I started with CX. All the bad things you hear are not due to the breed, but the care they receive. They will outgrow their bodies and hang around the feeders unless you make them forage. The couch potatoes of the chicken world.

Research. See what everyone says here. Then figure out how much time, money and effort you have or want to invest in good food.

For butchering, take your time. Adding stress to your life will sour the experience for all involved. 20 birds is a good number. Enough to keep you from making pets and few enough to handle easily. I'll butcher 2-7 a day depending on how I feel. If you have helpers, you can process all at once. No reason to, though. The advantage of slow food is supposed to be healthy and enjoyable. All parts, not just the eating.

Best wishes!
Can I ask - if you process 2-7 per day, do you still scald the birds, or dry pluck or skin? To me, the most difficult part of processing was heating the water to scald the carcass.
 

AllenK RGV

Chicken Addict
Premium member
Jul 23, 2017
3,694
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647
Deep South Texas Laureles,TX 10A
Can I ask - if you process 2-7 per day, do you still scald the birds, or dry pluck or skin? To me, the most difficult part of processing was heating the water to scald the carcass.
I had a question regarding scalding if I may. Can't you just steam scald them? I'm lazy and were I ever to process want a lazy way out vs boiling a big pot of water. If that isn't possible I imagine the scalding process would have to be done on a homebuilt "Rocket Stove" as that is a huge waste of energy vs burning all the fallen twigs and branches in my yard.
 
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