Good meat breeds for small scale production?

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by Kris5902, Dec 12, 2018.

  1. Kris5902

    Kris5902 Crowing

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    Hi, I’m fairly new to chicken raising and living on a small farm. I have a separate set of goals for my layers, but want to start meat birds this spring. Our abattoir doesn’t have the equipment for processing them for sale, so we will be taking them to a larger processing plant.

    My first run of meat birds I’m looking at a local hybrid bird (not a CX) I can get in decent quantities, but I’m wanting to establish a breeding flock and hatch my own going forward. I’m not worried about being a pure breed heritage or anything, but I’d like to have a sustainable meat bird I can hatch at home.

    What breeds would you recommend and why? I don’t need monster birds, but I would like a marketable, decent sized carcass. I’m in BC Canada.
     
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  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

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    My first thoughts for your purposes are Dorking and Brahma. Both slow growing but making a good roasting bird.
    For a fast growing non-CX bird, I like Freedom Rangers but I don't think you can breed them true at home.
    Another thing to consider is the RAFT (renewing America's food traditions) breeds, Slow Foods Arc of Taste. Those would be Chantecler, Buckeye, Delaware, Java (considered the finest table bird in the 1800s), Holland, Dominique, Jersey Giant, New Hampshire, Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, Rhode Island White and Wyandotte.
    Since Chantecler is a Canadian breed, that may be a good choice with a market there.
    There are more obscure breeds that could make a niche market for selling to high end restaurants. I can explain that if you want to hear about it.

    https://www.slowfoodusa.org/blog-post/ark-of-taste-highlight

    https://www.slowfoodusa.org/blog-post/why-heritage-chickens-are-slow-for-more-reasons-than-one

    If you Google one of the breeds I mentioned and Slow Foods, you'll get more info.
    Here is an example.
    https://www.slowfoodusa.org/ark-item/buckeye-chicken
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2018
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  3. Kris5902

    Kris5902 Crowing

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    Thanks! I’m thinking of trying out a few different varieties. We don’t really do the high end restraunt market in our area. Though our cafe has a highly acclaimed chef/owner. We direct sell to local consumers with our beef and lamb. I can also get our product into the local store which sells at a 20% markup if I can get my production costs to where that will be profitable for us. I’m looking at doing 50-70 bird batches because that gets a discount at the processing plant. I’m going to start slowly with monthly or bi/monthly batches. I plan on pasture raising them in chicken tractors.

    What niche market breeds were you thinking of? I’ve been looking into the Ayam Cemani as I see some local breeders have them, but they are very pricy and I don’t know how well they will sell in our market. We can charge more than big grocery store prices, as local/pasture raised/organic from our well known family farm is a huge selling feature in our community. It’s an interesting demographic of quite affluent people, a moderate working class, and some less financially stable people. It’s an island community of 300 permanent residents, with an influx of “summer people” and tourists every year.
     
  4. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

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    For the Asian market, Ayam Cemani and Silkies would be the way to go. There's an Asian market here with a huge freezer full of Silkies.
    The other renown breeds for flavor are the Bresse, the Black Penedesenca and the Barbezieux.
    They may be the most famous in the world for flavor. The first and third are from France. The Black Penedesenca has its own festival in Spain (Fira del Gall) and considered organoleptically unique. I likely have the largest flock of those in North America. There are a couple breeders in Canada.
     
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  5. Kris5902

    Kris5902 Crowing

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    If only we we had enough land to justify shipping into the big city (Vancouver, lol!) for the Asian market! My husband is convinced silkies are primarily ornamental! Actually he specifically said “sure, you can have them... but you’ll have to be the one to wash all the mud out of their fur!” Recent winter rains have turned several part of our farm into mud pits.

    I will look into some limited groups of those a little later, once I get more experience in poultry. If you run your Honda Civic into a tree it’s sad, when you wrap your Ferrari around one it’s tragic (for the cars, no humans or chickens were harmed in this hypothetical example)
     
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  6. Kris5902

    Kris5902 Crowing

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    If only we we had enough land to justify shipping into the big city (Vancouver, lol!) for the Asian market! My husband is convinced silkies are primarily ornamental! Actually he specifically said “sure, you can have them... but you’ll have to be the one to wash all the mud out of their fur!” Recent winter rains have turned several part of our farm into mud pits.

    I will look into some limited groups of those a little later, once I get more experience in poultry. If you run your Honda Civic into a tree it’s sad, when you wrap your Ferrari around one it’s tragic (for the cars, no humans or chickens were harmed in this hypothetical example)
     
  7. Kris5902

    Kris5902 Crowing

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    I’ve been following the TOAD breeding thread, but think that it would be genetically unstable, as from my understanding of line breeding and hybridization it sounds like they are trying to base a new breed on a F1 or F2 hybrid. Do you think I could cross a few meat breeds to add in some hybrid vigor and speed up maturity without getting a CX like result?
     
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  8. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    You might try reading this thread. If I remember right at least some Canadian hatcheries call their Ranger-type birds something else but that's just a marketing name. They are basically the same thing.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/crossing-my-red-ranger-hens.1281099/

    It's true the Rangers will no breed true. No hybrid does whether they are Cornish X, Rangers, the commercial laying hens, or crosses you make your self from recognized breeds. By introducing meat bird genetics you introduce meat bird genetics. The offspring will take on traits from both parents. If you cross a Ranger with a dual purpose breed you typically get a bird that is not as good a meat bird as its meat bird parent but a better meat bird than the dual purpose parent. By selecting which offspring get to breed you can shape your flock. Don't expect to get back to the Ranger bird but you can get a flock that is consistently above a dual purpose flock.

    Whether you cross dual purpose to Rangers for your parent flock or just breed dual purpose birds don't expect great consistency in size or maturation rates. Some cockerels will grow faster and mature faster than others even if they are pure breed dual purpose. By selective breeding you can smooth that out a lot within a few generations. My goal in breeding birds for meat is not to get the best birds as large as I can, it's the make the worst birds pretty good.

    What are you going to do with your pullets? There is not much meat on a pullet and half of what you hatch will be pullets.

    If you are just after meat for the market you cannot beat the Cornish X. You have to buy the chicks so they are not self-sustaining but you can't beat the feed to meat conversion rate. In spite of some of the stuff you read on here they can be pasture raised. There are threads on here about that. Other than your desire to hatch your own they sound like they could be a good fit for you. Pullets and cockerels are both marketable. You can buy large numbers of chicks at a time without having to house and feed adults to lay fertile eggs. They will fairly consistently all hit marketable size at the same time. The turn-around can be pretty fast so you are selling them every two to three months as opposed to maybe once every six months. There is a reason the large commercial operations raise these. They are not GMO. I don't know what the "certified organic" rules are in Canada but here in the US whether they are organic or not depends on what they eat after they hatch so they can be raised "organic" if you wish. That might help you fit a niche market.

    The Ranger chicks are going to grow slower than Cornish X but aren't bad. I haven't raised them but I believe the pullets also reach marketable size fairly young though they will not match the cockerels.

    I don't know what the right answer is for you. In some places in BC you may be able to pasture them a good part of the year. How often do you plan on starting a new batch? Can you fit a niche market if you only offer birds once a month or less often? You are in the meat business so you've probably thought of all this. I wish you luck.
     
  9. Kris5902

    Kris5902 Crowing

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    Thanks for the info... I’ve been following that thread for a while and it is full of interesting info. The only big issue with running Cornish Cross where I am is there is a limit on the number of birds a private farm can produce of the commercial broilers in my Province. 200 birds is not enough to provide for our own needs and have enough to sell. If I can start with “heritage birds” I don’t need to worry on that.

    Above all I want to have a good product without having to sign on with a big company and put up (what I think is a disgusting, unnatural, inhumane) chicken barn. I’m looking for something I can reliably reproduce at home as well. I live on an island, so shipping can be delayed, postal service takes at least two days longer than normal, and there’s basically no courier service. I could have the chicks flown in, but that gets expensive and unsustainable quickly.

    My thoughts are that if the CX is a 4 way cross of meat genetics... why wouldn’t I be able to have a selective breeding process that also produces reliable meat birds with some hybrid vigor at home? I’m not worried about trying to reproduce the exact consistency and speed of a CX... they are the McDonalds hamburger of chickens: fast, consistent, and researched to “perfection” (for their intended purposes). I can’t compete with the big producers, but I can provide our community with local quality meat.

    Our marketing technique (the only one the farm has really employed in the last 50 years) is donations and community involvement. Some of our beef goes to the community potluck dinners ($100+ roasts at a time!) and we donate a large portion of the 23 lambs for the Annual Lamb BBQ. Our current products sell well locally, so if I can keep the quality up and expand into quality poultry, finding a market isn’t really a problem! Our market is also unusually understanding of seasonally available products
     
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    I don't get hung up on hybrid vigor. It's real, don't get me wrong, but I consider it equivalent to genetic diversity. When you breed your own birds through the generations to get a product more suited to your goals you are eliminating genetic diversity. You are getting rid of genes that give you traits you don't want and enhancing the genetics you do want. That's how all breeds ave been developed.

    If a line of birds is too inbred they can become unthrifty, they may become less fertile, they can develop other problems. Introducing outside blood will increase genetic diversity/bring in hybrid vigor but you also introduce genetics that might not meet your goals. There is a line, sometimes a fine line, between keeping a thrifty flock and eliminating genetics you don't want. Breeders have different techniques to manage this and you are in essence becoming a breeder if you go the route of developing your own birds. Even without those special techniques you can usually go several generations of inbreeding (keeping your replacement breeders) before you run into lack of genetic diversity problems.

    In the US we can get Cornish Cross chicks from different hatcheries without signing on with the big commercial operations. I don't know how that works in Canada. With your Province rules about Cornish X and the numbers you want you rule them out anyway. Are you going to have the same issues flying in Rangers or dual purpose birds to get your flock started.

    On that island I can see why you want to have your own laying flock and hatch your own eggs. I did that even though I often got mailed chicks the day after they were put in the mail from the hatchery. With your goals as I understand them you can try that purely with dual purpose birds or you can introduce Rangers in the mix. You are going to have the exact same genetic diversity/hybrid vigor issues either way.
     

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