packages of wrapped meat on counter

Our Plan to Raise a Year’s Supply of Meat on the Homestead

Over time, our homestead has yielded thousands of 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 to raise a year’s supply of meat on the homestead that would be enough to keep the freezers full to last from one season to the next.

With an organized plan, we can work into a system whereby our freezers are filled with a wide selection and diversity of meat for our meals! Of course, we’ll continue to keep careful homestead records to make sure our costs stay low. It will also help us to track yields from year to year. That way if we run out of something before the year has passed we can see exactly how much we had put away in the freezer and make a better plan to raise more the next year so we don’t run out again!

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.

{Dinners}

  • 2 Days- Chicken
  • 1 Day- Beef
  • 1 Day- Pork
  • 1 Day- Bacon/Sausage
  • 1 Day- Rabbit
  • 1 Day- Meatless

{Breakfast}

  • 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 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 day’s portion of meat further, but instead, I will allow for that to go to leftover lunches.

So according to my calculations, we’ll need:

{Chicken}

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.

Our Plan to Raise a Year's Supply of Meat on the HomesteadOur Plan to Raise a Year's Supply of Meat on the Homestead

{Beef}

104 pounds
one steer/heifer, butchered every two years

This is one that takes some time to get going. It is a 2-year minimum to get the ball rolling since that’s the best age to butcher. We can get at least 200 pounds of beef. Enough to last the two years until the next butchering. If we raise a beef breed, this number easily doubles, but so far we’ve only raised one beef breed steer. Mostly we’ve butchered the steers from our dairy cows which have the much lower yield.

{Pork}

312 pounds
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 or Venison Meatballs over Fettucine (though we use beef these days.) Or I’ll use it as a garnish in Spinach Apple Bacon Salad or Wilted Lettuce. If we’re hankering for that good old “bacon and eggs” flavor I’ll whip up some Bacon (or Pancetta) Compound Butter to cook the eggs in. All the flavor, but uses very little bacon! 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 by choosing heritage-style bacon-type breeds that gain more weight than smaller heritage breeds.

{Rabbit}

104 pounds
52 rabbits

We actually haven’t started raising rabbit… yet. We spent this past year trying out some new recipes to make sure it’s something we will like eating. And they were a HUGE hit! I’ll start slow and commit to only one meal per week while we work this new area of production into our homestead.

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%, I’ll need one rabbit per week, assuming our rabbits are undersized. Not to mention our inexperience will make waste at butchering time. This may mean I’ll need to get 2 does and a buck since they have a “minimum” litter size of 4, a gestation time of a month, and can be rebred quickly after birth. For this, I’ll figure a month. Which should give at least 48 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 1000 pounds of meat annually!!

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5

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5 Comments

  1. Looks like a good plan! It’s great to hear from someone else with a large family about how much meat they eat. We have 5 children (9 and under) 4 of which are boys… We raised (hopefully) enough chicken meat for our family for a year…we gave a decent number away to family, but our freezers are still very full. We aren’t ready for a cow just yet, but that’s next on the list. My husband hunts, so we were able to put a decent amount of red meat in the freezer this year, which was a huge relief. It’s probably only enough for 1/3-1/2 the year, but I will take it! Do you butcher your own cows? Also, so far I am loving the smartsteader app! Too bad our chickens stopped laying eggs when the cold snap hit! But we’ll be making plans for this year’s bees soon, and starting seeds is just around the corner for us!

    1. Oh I’m so glad you’re loving the app! We’ve got the same problem right now with slacker hens. In fact, we entered a feed total today and I was laughing cause our cost for eggs this year is $45 per dozen! Really looking forward to those numbers leveling off in a month or so-lol! The full freezer- it’s a good feeling isn’t it? We do butcher our own cows. Definitely more of a learning curve than with pigs, especially if you only do a beef every other year cause there’s so much meat. I think the cuts are harder to find, but the savings definitely make it worth it and seeing where the cuts come from on the animal gives you a better understanding of how to cook them.

  2. Excellent post and just what I needed! We are still in the planning and saving stages for buying land to have a farm here in Northern California. We will be starting out with chickens then working our way up through 4H programs learning how to care for pigs, sheep, cattle and eventually horses. We’ll be growing forage crops for all of them and rotating pastures, etc. Growing up in suburbia but with the heart of a farmgirl, I’m planning my dream and my kids are ALWAYS talking about what they’ll do when we get our farm. The meat estimation for the year is great information. I’m figuring for a family of 4 (and both kids are under ten) but as far as chickens, we’ll need about the same as you, beef we’ll probably need twice as much and pig around the same amount. We took out the rabbit and added in a few turkeys to our estimates. The main reason for a family of 4 eating roughly the same amount of meat as a family of 8 is that we eat mainly meat, vegetables and fruit with very little grains.

    I really enjoy reading of your experiences as I work towards having my own farm.

  3. I remember growing up as a child in Texas we decided to raise a cow for fourth of July. He was about 9 months old only when we butchered him and the food was absolutely delicious! We were inexperienced and did a horrible job is well, but the meat was enough to feed 50 grown men plus 2 families of 7 which were at the party. We still had plenty left over. I can imagine that your family have a good amount from the calf for sometime. But I have to ask, would it be smarter to wait until the calf was grown?

  4. I remember growing up as a child in Texas we decided to raise a cow for fourth of July. He was about 9 months old only when we butchered him and the food was absolutely delicious! We were inexperienced and did a horrible job is well, but the meat was enough to feed 50 grown men plus 2 families of 7 which were at the party. We still had plenty left over. I can imagine that your family have a good amount from the calf for sometime. But I have to ask, would it be smarter to wait until the calf was grown?