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Raising & Marketing Chickens & Turkeys

Lyn Garling and Christie Badger shared their experience as poultry growers and retailers with farmers who fit within Pennsylvania's poultry for slaughter exemption. Christie and her husband Mike also demonstrated on-farm processing with their mobile processing unit.
Christie & Mike Badger demonstrating their mobile processing unit.

Christie & Mike Badger demonstrating their mobile processing unit.

Lyn Garling started raising broilers on pasture in the 1990s. She was one on the first to do so in Centre County. Over the years, many more growers got into the business of growing and selling at farmers markets. Lyn started with the Salatin-style pen but soon found that too heavy to move. She experimented with different styles of pens until she settled on the current set-up which is an insulated brooder house that prevents stress and losses due to cold unstable weather in the Spring. She then moves the birds at around 3 weeks of age to a house out in pasture.

Garling has a full-time off-farm job and needs to be assured that the birds have adequate protection from sudden thunder storms or from excessive sun. The house style allows the birds choice to go in out of the weather where a fan blows hot air out or to wander around in the pasture or rest under shade shelters. There is feed, water and grit available in and out of the house. This house is on wooden skids and is moved by tractor after a batch is butchered.

Garling raises 800-1000 birds per season.  The first batch is timed to be ready for Memorial Day weekend. The last batch is usually early to mid-October. She described how she has built up her retail customer list via word of mouth. She maintains a 750 person email list and sends out the poultry order form to those folks in late winter. Customers order their chickens and then pick-up fresh birds on the day they are butchered. Lyn shared the "Marketing Poultry Slaughtered Under USDA Exemption" sheet that Penn State Extension, PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture and PA Department os Agriculture put together to help growers under the laws around poultry.

Poultry for slaughter exemption hand-out:

Updated Fact Sheet on Marketing Poultry Slaughtered Under USDA Exemption 

The other part of the day was designed around poultry slaughter, packaging and pricing. Christie and Mike Badger of Badger's Millside Farm brought their mobile processing unit (see photo) and butchered some of Garling's broilers so they could demonstrate the step-by-step process. Christie also showed participants how to break the bird down into pieces and to de-bone the breasts. Later, after the birds had chilled in ice, Christie demonstrated bagging the birds and pieces in shrink wrap bags. She described a rack that you can make yourself out of pvc that allows the birds to drip dry before bagging. This rack can be seen at http://www.friendlypastures.com/post/102/how-to-make-a-chicken-drying-rack.

Christie and Lyn then led a discussion on how to price birds for retail, especially if you are selling by the cut. Lyn talked about pricing out the cost of production and trying to make a profit and still stay within range of the competition. With Garling's birds, she feeds certified organic feed and pastures on fields that are managed organically although no longer certified organic. Lyn describes this to her customers so they know how her birds are raised. 

Christie talked about how you can increase value by selling by the cut. She shared the hand-out below on pricing.

Hand out from Christie Badger on pricing chicken for retail.

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS - Inside & out & Upside Down

The cost of doing business...based on a 100 bird batch dressing at 5 lb./bird...

COST                     WHOLE                       CUT-UP

Chick                      $1.25 each                  $1.25 each

Feed                       $4.50 each                  $4.50 each

Labor                      $4.20 each                  $4.20 each

Misc.                       $1.00 each                  $1.00 each

Processing                $3.00 each                  $4.50 each

Bags                        $0.50 each                  $1.50 each

TOTAL                     $14.45                        $16.95

NET                         $7.35                          $16.05 - 118.37% More

NET + LABOR          $11.55                        $20.25 - 75.3% More

Over the Course

of the Season...        $5,775 / 500 birds     $10,125 / 500 birds

NOTES  on COSTS:

Chick Cost can certainly vary depending upon whether or not you are paying shipping, how many you order, etc.

Feed Costs are based on a generally accepted 3 lb. of feed per 1 lb. of dressed carcass and $0.30/lb. feed cost. (5 lb. dressed bird x 3 lb. feed/1 lb. dressed carcass = 15 lb. feed/bird x $0.30/lb. feed cost = 44.50 feed.)

Labor Costs are based on producing a 5 lb. dressed carcass over the course of 8 weeks, or 56 days, at a rate of pay of $15/hour. (56 days x ½ hour/day = 28 hours x $15/hour = $420 / 100 birds = $4.20/bird labor cost.)

Miscellaneous Costs include bedding, feeders, waterers, shelters, electric, etc.

Processing Costs are based on our mobile unit and the average cost for our regular customers to process. If you are taking your birds to a custom processor, you would need to figure out your cost of processing based on your mileage/gas to get there and back to your farm; your time to pack the birds up, drive there, wait for them to be processed, drive home, and unload everything; the actual cost you pay for each bird to be processed; and any other costs you may incur, such as buying lunch/snacks, etc., for the trip. Even though we process our own birds, we still figure in processing cost and pay ourselves, so to speak.

Bag Costs are based on shrink bags costing an average cost .30 each, using 5 bags per bird (1-breats, 1-wings, 1-leg/thigh quarters, 1 back, 1-giblets).

 

TO PART OR NOT TO PART

5 lb. Dressed Bird…

Whole

Whole – 5lb. -  $4/lb. - $20

Heart, Liver, Gizzard – ½ lb. - $3.60/lb. - $1.80

TOTAL: $21.80/whole bird

Cut-Up

Boneless/Skinless Breasts – 1lb. - $10/lb. - $10

Leg/Thigh Quarter – 3 lb. - $5.50/lb - $16.50

Wings – ¼ lb. - $4.50lb. - $1.10

Back – 1 lb. - $3.60/lb. - $1.80

TOTAL: $33.00/boneless-skinless cutup – 51.4% More

 

OVER THE COURSE OF THE SEASON…

500 Birds – Whole - $21.80 each x 500 = $10,900

500 Birds – CutUp - $33.00 each x 500 = $16,500

Christie also referenced a table from Issue #82 of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association newsletter. The table is on page 4 and is Table 2: Average Cut-Up Pricing 

 

Mike Badger is the current president of the The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association. He talked about the benefits of APPPA membership and the ability to learn from other producers. He provided free newsletters to the group.

Lyn Garling is the 2015 Livestock mentor. You can find Lyn's contact information here if you have questions.