Over time, our homestead has yielded several hundred pounds of meat in the form of grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and pastured poultry. But because I lacked a plan for our meat, I found that we were almost eating “seasonally,” if you will, depending on which we had most recently butchered. It’s a vicious cycle that makes us glut on the latest additions to the freezer because we’re so thankful not to be eating what we had previously been bored eating. What we were really missing was a plan for a year of homegrown meat. A plan that would ensure that we had enough to keep our freezers full and to last from one season to the next.
With a plan worked out we worked ourselves into a system whereby our freezers are filled with a plethora of meat selections for our meals allowing for us to be more thankful for the blessings we receive. The diversity balances out the nutrition in our diets making our bodies grateful as well as our minds.
Planning for a Year of Homegrown Meat
The easiest way to tabulate how much meat our family will consume is to break it down into weekly amounts. The plan for meat in your family will look different based on your needs and what you prefer. To give you an idea, this is what it looks like for our family.
2 Days- Chicken
1 Day- Beef
1 Day- Pork
1 Day- Bacon/Sausage
1 Day- Rabbit
1 Day- Meatless
1 Day- Pork
We eat about a pound and a half of meat at each meal for our large family of (I have 7 children still at home)…. and and these guys aren’t getting smaller. Since we are growing, I’ll allow for two pounds of meat for each meal to be certain that there is enough to cover us and account for hospitality. It never hurts to have a surplus at the end of the year! I’m sure that I could stretch each days portion of meat further, but instead I will allow for that to go to leftover lunches.
So according to my calculations we’ll need:
468 pounds (314 pounds meat)
100 whole chickens dressing out at about 4-5 pounds per year, presuming 33% bone percentage
I can stretch a 5-6 pound whole chicken to two days, but I feel it’s safer to allow for 2 birds. Usually we’ll roast or grill a bird, eat about half and then I get about 2 cups of chicken from the other half to divide into another meal.
one steer/heifer, butchered every two years
This is one that takes some time to get going. Presuming we will raise up our dairy cow’s calves to butcher every winter, it is a 2 year minimum plan to get the ball rolling. Ideally, we could get at least 200 pounds of beef off each cow to last two years until the next butchering.
2 hogs per year
Because ground pork is breakfast fare at least once weekly in our home, I would like to have extra for that purpose. We rarely eat bacon for breakfast and prefer it in main dishes… like in fresh corn chowder.. about once a week. This amount of pork is approximately what our yields have been over the last couple years and we should still be able to squeak by with raising just two hogs to meet our needs.
Having never eaten it, rabbit is a real leap of faith for me. Normally, I would not advise making such a commitment on the homestead without being sure that the meat or produce is something that your family enjoys to eat, but the reviews of cultivated rabbit I’ve heard are glowing and I’m willing to learn to love them because I believe this will be the most cost effective meat to raise on any homestead. I will start a little slow and commit to only one meal per week.
I’ve done very little research at this point, but it looks like New Zealand rabbits reach a fryer weight of 5 pounds around 8-10 weeks of age. If they dress out at 50%, then I’ll eventually need about one rabbit per week, assuming our rabbits are undersized and our inexperience produces waste at butchering time. This may mean I’ll need to get probably 2 does and a buck since they have an average litter size of 6, a gestation time of a month, and can be rebred quickly after birth- for this I’ll figure a month- which should give about 72 rabbits to butcher each year.
But as any homesteader quickly learns, all we can do is make a plan- it’s up to the Lord to bless them and bring them to fruition. At any rate, it’s exciting to imagine that our homestead might one day provide our family with over 800 pounds of meat annually!!
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5