When to process

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by orrpeople, Dec 14, 2016.

  1. orrpeople

    orrpeople Looking for a Silver Lining Premium Member

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    We are hatching some BCM/BR sex linked crosses for some friends. We know we will have cockerels, so is there an age limit to meat tenderness? When would be the best time to process? Our BCM rooster is a big dude, so we're hoping his genetics are greatly in play!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    You have a dilemma. Size isn’t important to tenderness, age is, but size comes with age. The problem with dual purpose cockerels like you’ll have is that they get tougher before they get very much meat on them. In my opinion breed isn’t important to this but some cockerels put on meat earlier than others, even if they are the same breed or cross with the same parents.

    Another complicating factor is that we all have different tastes and different things we are used to. Some people are quite happy to fry or grill a 15 week old cockerel, others finds that meat to be tough as leather. Most people are happy with the tenderness of a 12 week old cockerel but there just isn’t much meat there, mostly bones. Some of that depends on how you feed them. Brining or aging might make a difference.

    I know you are looking for a hard and fast age but I can’t give you that, there are just too many variables. In general I suggest you try something and see how you like it. If it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure, it just means you need to try something different.

    The older they are the more they need to be cooked slowly and with moisture. There is an exception to this though, a pressure cooker at high heat (but with moisture) will produce fall off the bone tenderness. The general progression is young birds can be cooked practically any way, including fried or grilled. Next comes roasting. Baking, crock pot, stews, or pressure cooking can handle the older birds. Coq au Vin or chicken and dumplings are traditional ways to handle really old roosters.

    I would not dream of processing a dual purpose cockerel before 16 weeks and really prefer them around 23 weeks old. I don’t fry, grill or roast. I wait until they have some meat on them.
     
  3. orrpeople

    orrpeople Looking for a Silver Lining Premium Member

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    Thank you so much - I really appreciate what you have said. I have an excellent pressure cooker, so that takes the anxiety out of the "when" part. What's a good weight at which to process a duel purpose bird?
     
  4. Molpet

    Molpet Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I processed my free ranging BR cockerels at 6 and 7 months... processed weight was just over 4lbs each...I cooked in broth on top of the stove in a covered pot for around an hour or so at a low simmer... they were excellent
     
  5. Pack Fan

    Pack Fan New Egg

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    I was always told to butcher dual purpose birds around 20 weeks. Some birds were ready at 17 weeks though. We use them for soup and crock pot.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    As you can see we don’t all agree on the best time to process. It is a personal decision, as you go through the process you’ll find what is important to you. To me, it is not a weight decision. Out of the same hatches, fed the same way, and out of the same parents you can get a pretty big difference in weight between individual birds at the same age. There is trial and error involved.
     
  7. orrpeople

    orrpeople Looking for a Silver Lining Premium Member

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    But what's a decent weight that will yield more than skin and bones?
     
  8. FoodFreedomNow

    FoodFreedomNow Chillin' With My Peeps

    I hatch my own flock's eggs, so end up with quite a few roosters. Most are mixed breed. I like to wait until they're at least 20 weeks old so they attain a good size, but have processed cockerels of various ages. A couple of days ago, I processed a GLW/Brown Leghorn that was 28 weeks old (he was getting hormone-crazed and causing too much distraction for my flock rooster), and he was 4 pounds (dressed weight). He's in the slow cooker right now, in fact.

    Marans are rumored to be especially tasty. I have a couple of full BCM cockerels that will be reaching processing age in a few months and am eager to see if they live up to the hype. [​IMG]
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I don’t weigh my birds. I also hatch my own and wind up eating a lot of pullets as well as cockerels. I hatch both and have limited space in my flock so all the excess get eaten. To me weight doesn’t mean much. They grow as big as they grow.

    Some cockerels from the same hatch with the same parents and fed exactly the same will have quite a bit different weights at the same age. Some will never get very big compared to others. I like to process at 23 weeks. To me most of them have finished a growth spurt about then so feeding them more for extra weight isn’t usually very efficient. They gain weight after that but it is slow. Others process at different times for their own reasons.
     
  10. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    I grill up cockerels between 12 and 14 weeks. Tender enough for the grill and most economical time to butcher. Feed intake takes off after 10 weeks of age then think of letting them roam around for roasting size. Try a few at a young age, split in halves to grill and see if you want to butcher more before 14-15 weeks. Frying or roasting or anything but grilling can be done for birds older than that. 20ish weeks is the cut off for frying, I don't fry birds so can't say but would think 18 weeks more the time limit to fry. Then roast birds are great and can be done to any age bird up to a year but you'd probably want to cap the roasting to 30ish weeks. I've brined and roasted year old cocks and liked them, very different flavor and care needs to be taken when cooking. Then there is your older stew, crock, pressure cooked birds. When speaking about dual purpose birds the method of cooking and naming a bird means something. In stores now it's only denoting the size of bird (age of broilers). With dual purpose they live longer so methods of cooking are omitted as they age due to getting tougher.

    Enjoy.
     
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