How long do you let them grow???

Discussion in 'Turkeys' started by WIchickens, Mar 18, 2015.

  1. WIchickens

    WIchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok, so here's the deal. We want to start a little Thanksgiving turkey business. I have experience with chickens, but turkeys will be new to us. I am reading about how long it takes to get to butcher weight and I am getting a bunch of different answers. Yikes! I am reading anywhere from 20 - 28 weeks. I really need some guidance here.

    I have 10 heritage breed turkeys coming April 1st, but that is just my "trial group" so I can make sure I know what I am doing. I plan on getting the bronze turkeys in may to raise for thanksgiving, or incubate some eggs for heritage breeds. This, of course, all depends on timing! Do the bronze finish faster than heritage? Urgh...I thought I had this all figured out, and now I am so confused!

    We are hoping to butcher the weekend of Nov 13th. When should I start these birds?

    Thanks!!
     
  2. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    I have been raising turkeys for Thanksgiving market for about 15 years.

    Heritage turkeys are fully feathered with a thin layer of fat by 26-28 weeks. This is the ideal processing time, so I ensure mine are hatched by end of May.

    Broad Breasted turkeys are fully feathered with a thin layer of fat by 16-18 weeks. I buy my poults around July 1.

    Heritage bronze are slower growing turkeys, same as Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, Narragansett, Slate, etc and follow the same growing schedule. Be certain what type of bronze turkey you are purchasing.

    You are processing about 10 days before I do, so adjust your calendar accordingly. Starting a couple of weeks earlier is better than a couple of weeks later.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
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  3. WIchickens

    WIchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for all your help! It is so nice to hear from someone with a lot of experience.

    Do you think there are any advantages to raising the heritage breeds vs the broad breasted? The closest hatchery to me has the bb bronze. Is the bronze on the same schedule as the white ones? If there are advantages to the heritage breeds I will try and get my hands on some eggs!

    I would prefer and process closer to thanksgiving, but that time is gun deer hunting season....and all my helpers along with the rest of the state will be hunting. Big deal around here.

    I guess that leads me to my next question. Do you freeze them before you sell them? I know the meat needs to rest before cooking....and I understand why. I am just not sure how this step works! Also, what do you prefer for packaging?

    Sorry for all the questions....:p
     
  4. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Here are the essentials of the pros and cons.

    Heritage birds: active, vigorous, athletic, love to free range, capable of natural breeding, moderate growth rate, long lifespan, lots of delicious, tender dark meat (DON'T overcook!), 6 months to early maturity. Good hatch rates, and generally decent layers.

    Broad Breasted birds (for all practical purposes, BBB and BBW grow the same, the whites dress cleaner if they are harvested before the feathers are fully developed): Incredible growth rate (4 months to market), good feed conversion, relatively inactive, large ratio of white to dark meat, very docile, no natural defenses to predators, cannot mate without AI (toms...hens intentionally grown small by withholding feed may be bred by heritage toms), short lifespan, hip and leg issues are VERY common. Considered poor layers.

    It's deer season for me too, I go for the end of archery season and the firearm opener in mid November, then again the day after Thanksgiving. My normal slaughter dates are between the Thursday and Saturday before Thanksgiving. I do not freeze the birds, and do not recommend my customers to do so. I thoroughly chill them after slaughter and bag them in clear shrink packaging for the neatest presentation. They are picked up the weekend before Thanksgiving as I can't store them fresh for an extended period of time.
     
  5. sparrker

    sparrker Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I was wondering the same questions, thanks for the info.
     
  6. doubleFfarms

    doubleFfarms New Egg

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    How long can you keep them chilled, or fresh. Is there a guideline as to a certain day after slaughter that you discard?
     
  7. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services, Fresh or Frozen Chicken from Farm to Table Food Safety Information (excerpts):
    Quote: Product dating is not required by Federal regulations, but many stores and processors voluntarily date packages of chicken or chicken products. If a calendar date is shown, there must be a phrase immediately adjacent to the date that explains the meaning of that date, such as sell by or use before. The use-by date is for quality assurance; after the date, peak quality begins to lessen, but the product may still be used. It’s always best to buy a product before the date expires. If a use-by date expires while the chicken is frozen, the food can still be used because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.

    Fresh Chicken: Chicken is kept cold during distribution to retail stores to prevent the growth of bacteria and to increase its shelf life. Chicken should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Select fresh chicken just before checking out at the register. Put packages of chicken in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leakage which could cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Make the grocery store your last stop before going home. At home, immediately place chicken in a refrigerator that maintains a temperature of 40 °F (4.4 °C) or below. Use it within 1 or 2 days, or freeze it at 0 °F. (-17.8 °C) If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.

    Encyclopedia Brittanica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/473031/poultry-processing/50392/Fresh-poultry states:
    Quote: The optimal storage temperature for fresh poultry is 26-32F. At these temperatures, the meat does not freeze, but it firms. It is sometimes a struggle, even in November in Michigan, to maintain those temperatures for an extended period of time. Since our turkeys are purchased live in advance by the buyers and then custom processed, we want to be sure they have their turkeys as quickly as possible and we pass proper storage information along.

    When I raised my first turkeys, I was concerned about the food safety rules that said "refrigerate no more than 1 or 2 days" when my processing dates were a week ahead of that. My processor laughed, and assured me they would be perfectly fine for Thanksgiving. Today, nearly all commercial poultry changes state from fresh to frozen to fresh before hitting the shelves. There is no way of telling how old it is, or how long it has been thawed in a display case, before we purchase it. I have been eating my own turkeys that were processed up to 12 days before Thanksgiving and they have always been wholesome and delicious.

    The minimum time between slaughter/processing and ideal cooking time is about 3 days. Until then, under refrigeration at about 32F, the meat is still stiff with rigor mortis, which sets in after processing and chilling. It relaxes and the natural enzymes tenderize the meat.

    This article suggests a week of hanging for optimal quality. http://www.poultryclub.org/poultry/keeping-birds-for-meat/
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015
  8. WIchickens

    WIchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok, so if I am reading this correctly, I should let the meat "rest" in the fridge for 3 days before cooking, but I can stay in a fridge for up to 2 weeks and still be safe to eat? wow I had no idea!

    Next question - Since you do preorders, and I am planning on doing the same, do you just tell your customers they have to pick up on a certain day? I definitely don't have the fridge space for 30 turkeys (that's what I am aiming to raise this year). Or since I am process a little early, should I have customers pick them up that weekend I plan to process, but then tell them to freeze it until a few days before thanksgiving? I just have a feeling people might not believe the meat is still good 2 weeks later (a lot of city slickers around here). but I guess that defeats the whole "farm fresh" thing. Sigh. Not sure what to do!

    Thanks for all the info on breeds. Definitely leaning towards heritage breeds for sure!

    where do you get your shrink wrap from?
     
  9. VikkiP

    VikkiP Out Of The Brooder

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    Wi set pickups over two days, with the day's clearly stated at time of order. I would let the customers do what they want with their fresh bird, and send them off as soon as possible after processing. If your refrigeration were to fail, that is an expensive problem.

    I bought the shrink bags in various sizes online. I don't recall the seller. I bought enough for broilers and turkeys for a couple of years.

    Freezing for a week right after pickup, then allowing to thaw in the fridge, would put the timing just about right. You are selling them fresh.
     
  10. WIchickens

    WIchickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok, this all makes sense. Do you think it's wrong to process this early for the thanksgiving market? Honestly, I guess I don't have a choice everyone will be 5 hours north hunting except me and the kids. I hope this ends up working out for us! It would be great to have a little extra side business, especially since I am off all summer long. I think I am going to try some meat chickens too and see how that goes. at least the time commitment is a bit shorter! I have the space so why not.

    Mind if I ask where you get your heritage turkeys from? Do you order from a hatchery or your local feed store? Or hatch your own? The best I can do around here is $10 a poult for heritage breed. I do have an smaller incubator, and I love using it, but there are never any guarantees with hatch rate when I am looking to grow a specific number of turkeys! Maybe I will do both...

    There are just so many details to think about!

    New question - what do you use for fencing outdoors?
     

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