Actually this page is more a short discussion about the common meat bird breed in the US and some alternatives.
In the United States you won’t find anyone selling dressed meat birds that are not Cornish X. Even here in central Missouri the only bird found at Farmers Markets and local farms is the Cornish X. While its possible to raise a Cornish X on pasture, it’s very unlikely that they will actually forage. So even birds sold as pasture raised are still mostly feed raised. The breed is just too heavy to have the energy to do much more than sit by the feed trough and eat all day. These birds are meant to be processed before they reach 12 weeks. Most people process at week 6, sometimes 7 so that they have less die offs due to physical problems like heart attacks or broken legs.
Recently I’ve found some sites that discuss removing feed at night helps the birds grow slower and push out processing time to as much as 14 weeks. I aim to give urban chicken owners an alternate choice to the Cornish X, if you want to raise meat birds.
Cornish cross vs buff Orpington visually.
Some meat bird pictures.
Pastured poultry data summary 2005-2009, slower growing broiler varieties.
I’ve heard really great things about the slower growing Freedom Rangers on pasture, also S & G Poultry as well as the flavor of Delawares.
- Freedom Rangers (5-6lbs live weight at 9-11 weeks)
- 3 types (fast, med, and slow growth) @ S&G Poultry
- Jersey Giant and here (cockerels, 9lbs, cocks 11-15lbs, hens 9-11 lbs, lg brown eggs)
- Delaware and here (cocks 8lbs, hens 6 lbs, lg brown eggs)
- Buckeye and here (they do best free range, cocks 9lbs, hens 6.5lbs, brown eggs)
- Sussex (7-8lbs, brown eggs)
- Wyandotte (7-8lbs, brown eggs)
- Cochins (cockerals 9lbs, pullets 7lbs, cocks 11lbs, hens 8.5lbs, medium brown eggs)
France has an interesting line called “Label Rouge” (30% of poultry sales) in which they raise a slow growing breed (their own-not widely available here) out to 12-15 weeks. This is a very informative website. French producers also use different feed than most commercial farms here: “A low-protein and low-calorie diet is used for slow-growing birds. Whereas typical fast-growing Cornish cross rations in the US industry start at 22% crude protein and finish at 17% protein, Label Rouge rations start at only 20% protein and finish at 15%. According to Jeff Mattocks of Fertrell, pastured poultry producers in the U.S. often use only one ration of 19% protein.” Interesting and more flavorful (so I hear).
Good websites for processing meat at home:
- University of MN Extension website on processing
- A VT farm discusses poultry processing
- Wizbang Plucker inventor Herrick Kimball’s tutorial
- Replacement fingers for pluckers, or make your own here or here.