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Raise your own meat for food independence

Hormones.

Antibiotics.

Toxins.

Disease.

Animals being treated inhumanely.

These are all reasons that drive people to produce their own food (or give up eating meat altogether). The idea of knowing exactly where our food comes from and that it is safer to eat than the given alternatives is a growing trend. When looking at the effect that things like growth hormones, E. coli, and antibiotics have on the meat supply, it is not hard to understand why.

After taking the initial steps of securing enough food to ensure individual survival for a specified period of time (likely somewhere between 3-6 months of shelf-stable foods), a natural next step is to obtain further food security. To do so, a conscious effort must be mounted to produce one’s own food through an individual or team effort. Many individuals can produce a fair amount of their own food but there is always a decent chance that there will be some type of shortcoming in meeting the requirements of a complete diet. A shortcoming could be from lacking the space to grow certain foods, like meat, to not being able to grow certain plants due to a restricted growing environment.

One of the most common challenges in personal food production comes from producing meat. Raising livestock is plenty of work by itself but then trying to produce a combination of meat, poultry, and fish can be more than one person can realistically do. When it comes to meat production, securing the right balance of meat products naturally suggests a team approach. In an ideal world we would all have the resources needed to do everything ourselves but the reality for most of us makes this impossible. Enter the team effort.

As an example, if I cannot raise beef in my suburban back yard (not an unreasonable assumption), I very well could raise meat rabbits and eggs that can in turn be traded to a beef producer in exchange for some of their beef. This type of arrangement allows for the self-reliant person to secure their meat requirements without being dependent upon the system.

Meat production challenges

There are a plethora of challenges that stand in the way of an individual’s desire to produce their own food and when it comes to meat production, there are even more challenges. We live in a world where municipalities or homeowners associations are receiving complaints about people growing vegetables in their front yard, imagine what could happen if a goat were to show up.

Space – This is probably the biggest reason that people run into when considering raising their own meat. A lack of space is a valid reason for not being able to raise meat but it is worth pointing out that even in an urban area, chickens and rabbits have been successfully raised for meat and eggs.

If you find yourself in an area where certain types of livestock cannot realistically be raised, look at what you can produce and see what arrangements can be made with other producers to obtain what you cannot produce yourself.

Capital – Aside from space, the next largest obstacle to producing meat is the capital requirement to obtain, house, feed, and process meat. While getting a baby rabbit or chick may not be overly expensive, the cost of meat production can start to accumulate over time. The best way to overcome this hurdle is to look at sharing costs or lessening costs per pound of meat through economy of scale where more meat is produced to lessen the overall cost.

The idea of sharing costs can be from a partnership with another family, other individuals, or even the community. Small-scale agricultural producers are experiencing beneficial results from CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) where a set number of shares are sold for a certain fee at the beginning of the season and then CSA members receive their proportional share of the harvest throughout the season.

On the other side of the savings spectrum is economy of scale. It is reasonable to expect things to get cheaper with increased production but is it reasonable to expect that everyone has the capacity to increase production? Without additional resources, increased production is probably not reasonable to expect. However, if producing one or two types of meat for several people (and getting the rest of your meat from someone else), it is reasonable to increase production of a specific breed or type of meat animal.

Environmental Challenges – As a result of rules and regulations in many areas, the types of animals that can legally be kept there is very restricted. This creates an environment where all of a person’s meat needs cannot be met through an individual effort. With the effort of several meat producers working together, it is more than likely that an individual’s meat requirements can be realized. The need for additional assistance with meat production can also stem from environmental conditions that make raising a specific breed of animal impractical like terrain challenges or poor weather conditions.

Types of meat to produce & associated Rrequirements

Beef

Its what’s for dinner. As the most popular red-meat, beef is a meat that everyone is familiar with and, more than likely, consume regularly. While a popular selection for consumption, the large size of cattle makes it a difficult animal to raise without a decent amount of land. Additionally, the cost of one head of cattle is a greater barrier when compared to other livestock.

The requirements for a single cow are:

  • Open-Front, 3-Sided Housing: 75-100 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: 100-125 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: 1-2 Acres
  • Best Type of Fencing: Barbed Wire, Electric, or Woven Wire
  • Feed: Primarily Pasture in Summer; 5,000-10,000 Pounds of High-Quality Hay during November – March (18-24 Month Slaughter Age)
  • Yield: 500-550 Pounds

Pork

Pork is a major source of meat and has a wide variety of cooking applications that it can be used for. One of the main drawbacks to raising your own pork is their destructive nature and the mess they may create.

The requirements for a single pig are:

  • Enclosed Barn, Hut, Shed, or Lean-To: 50 Sq. Ft. (100 Sq. Ft. if no Exercise Yard)
  • Exercise Yard: 200 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: 0.1 Acres (Rotational)
  • Best Type of Fencing: Electric or Plank Rail
  • Feed: 800-850 Pounds (6-12 Months Maturity: 200-250 Pounds)
  • Yield: 144-150 Pounds

Lamb

I think lamb is seen as more of a delicacy or higher-end meat because of the price tag that goes along with it but, if you are raising your own lamb, the cost for this meat should come at a lower price point.

The requirements for a single lamb are:

  • Open-Front, 3-Sided Housing: 20-25 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: 50 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: 0.2-0.3 Acres
  • Best Type of Fencing: Electric or Woven Wire
  • Feed: 400-500 Pounds (100 Pound Live Lamb Weight)
  • Yield: 50 Pounds

Goat

While not a traditional source of meat for most of us in the United States, goat has remained a staple source of meat across the world for about as long as man has existed (at least I couldn’t find anything different). One of the appealing factors of goats for meat is that the female goats can also be used for milking.

The requirements for a single goat are:

  • Enclosed Barn w/ Removable Side Panels or Windows: 20-25 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: 50 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: 0.2-0.3 Acres
  • Best Type of Fencing: Electric or Woven Wire
  • Feed: 50-100 Pounds (6-9 Months Maturity)
  • Yield: 40-60 Pounds

Rabbit

While not a very popular choice for a meat source, rabbits are supposed to be delicious and quite easy to raise for meat. There meat is extremely lean though so plan accordingly when considering daily intake requirements. They are best raised for meat on a rabbit pellet diet because pasture raised rabbit produces yellowish-tinged meat.

The requirements for a single rabbit are:

  • Rabbit Cage: 3-4 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: N/A
  • Pasture Area: N/A
  • Best Type of Fencing: Rabbit Cage
  • Feed: 15-18 Pounds (Meat: 8-12 Weeks Maturity)
  • Yield: 2.5-4 Pounds

With rabbits being relatively quiet and kept in cages, they are an easier meat product to raise in areas that have space and sound restrictions on raising animals. It is also easier to produce a greater amount of meat in a very small area when raising rabbits.

Poultry

Chicken

One of the big areas with raising chickens for meat that urban and suburban dwellers are faced with is a restriction on the possession of roosters. This is an issue because many meat birds are roosters. Many municipalities have come a long way and have started to allow hens for egg production but, because roosters make noise, they remain restricted in most areas. There is a workaround though! Because roosters don’t typically start to make “rooster noises” until they are 4 or 5 months old, they can typically be raised for the 8-9 weeks required to be harvestable without concern that they will give themselves away.

The requirements for a single chicken are:

  • Enclosed Barn or Pasture w/ Enclosure(Coop): 3-4 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: 10 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: N/A
  • Best Type of Fencing: Chicken Wire
  • Feed: 8-11 Pounds (Broilers: 8-9 Weeks Maturity) 14-16 Pounds (Layers: 0-20 Weeks; 1.8-2.4 Pounds/Week Following)
  • Yield: 4-5 Pounds

Broiler chickens are probably the second best alternative to meat rabbits when looking at where they can be raised and how much meat can be produced in such a confined area.

Duck & Goose

A less chosen option to eat from the flock, ducks and geese provide alternatives to eating chicken all the time. They can be slightly more costly overall (higher acquisition cost and greater food intake) but will offer more options for the dinner table.

The requirements for a single duck are:

  • Partially-Enclosed Shed or Lean-To: 3-4 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: 15-20 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: N/A
  • Best Type of Fencing: Chicken Wire
  • Feed: 20-22 Pounds (Meat: 10-12 Weeks Maturity) 20-22 Pounds (Layers: 0-12 Weeks; ~2.5 Pounds/Week Following)
  • Yield: 4-5 Pounds

The requirements for a single goose are:

  • Partially-Enclosed Shed or Lean-To: 3-4 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: 15-20 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: N/A
  • Best Type of Fencing: Chicken Wire
  • Feed: 27.5-44 Pounds (Meat: 10-14 Weeks Maturity) 27.5-44 Pounds (Layers: 0-14 Weeks Maturity; ~3.5-4 Pounds/Week Following)
  • Yield: 8-12 Pounds

Turkey

A traditional holiday meal offering, Turkey does not have to be limited to once or twice a year. However, in terms of pounds of feed put into a bird compared to the harvestable meat achieved, a turkey is on the high end with a minimal output vs. input.

The requirements for a turkey are:

  • Enclosed Barn or Pasture w/ Enclosure: 6 Sq. Ft.
  • Exercise Yard: 20 Sq. Ft.
  • Pasture Area: 100 Sq. Ft.
  • Best Type of Fencing: Chicken Wire
  • Feed: ~ 70 pounds (28 Weeks Maturity)
  • Yield: ~14 Pounds

Fish

There are a variety of fish that can be raised by the homesteader but without having specific conditions present like a raceway required for trout, the best species to raise (and are popular for their meat) is tilapia. These fish can be be raised in stock tanks or even swimming pools and require little more than water, food, adequate oxygenation, and protection from extreme cold or heat.

Tilapia

  • Space: 3.74 Gallons of Water/Pound of Fish (500 Gallon Tank ~ 135 Pounds Tilapia)
  • Feed: 1.5 Pounds Per Pound of Fish Produced
  • Yield: ~100 Pounds of Tilapia in a 500 Gallon Tank Every 8-9 Months

One of the tricky components of raising fish is the requirement to maintain water temperatures and possible issues with pH. If the tank is aerated, filtered, and the water is partially drained and replaced periodically, there should not be many issues.

Meat alternatives

Because not everyone eats meat, there is obviously a need to look at what can be produced as alternatives to meat. If meat is not your thing, aside from Tofu, alternatives can include:

  • Eggs
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Nuts/Nut Butters
  • Green Peas
  • Hemp & Chia Seeds
  • Edamame
  • Milk
  • Yogurt

These alternatives can provide your body the appropriate proteins that you body relies on to continue functioning properly. The great thing about these meat alternatives is that most of them can be found in long-term storage food selections.

For most of us, obtaining our food comes from working to make the money needed to buy it from other producers. Some elect to produce their food instead of working to pay for it. Most of us need things that we cannot produce, so there is a need for additional money or barter in combination with producing some of the things we need. A happy medium is working to produce for yourself and others as a way to meet all of your needs. Raising meat is a great method for this because there are not usually as many meat producers on a local level than fruit and vegetable producers, etc. in a given area.

Keep in mind when looking at raising your own meat that you should look at your available space and maximize your meat yield through proper species selection, based on your needs and those around you who you may sell to or trade with. While there are basic requirements outlined previously, it is worth noting that most animals will be happier if provided more than the minimum requirements they need.

Of course, I would be mistaken to not mention that the sale of meat products is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and all federal, state, and local laws and regulations should be adhered to when commercially producing meat.

— Thomas Miller

The post Raise your own meat for food independence appeared first on Personal Liberty®.

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