The night before the big slaughter, Glenn and I got out our calculators and notes. We had no idea how much our turkeys would weigh. Glenn added up all of the bags of food, poult price, and slaughtering fees. We determined the turkeys would have to weigh over 11 pounds each at our price of $6/pound to break even (and not pay ourselves for any work). Glenn was slightly disappointed when he picked up the turkeys and their weights were in the ranges of seven to thirteen pounds. Most were under ten pounds. I had been warned (by a wonderful heritage turkey farmer) I needed to raise the price to $8-9/pound to make a small profit, but I wasn't sure they would sell. Because they were relatively easy to sell (I only advertised on Facebook a couple of times), I don't think raising the price will be a huge problem. We also need to start raising the turkeys earlier in the season to give them more time to plump up.
One difficult aspect of raising turkeys, is keeping them out of the mouths of predators. We had to be home each night before sunset to wrangle all of the turkeys and lock them up for the evening.
The weekend before the turkeys went to slaughter was a dark time in our house. Glenn and I were depressed about the impending slaughter. I had nightmares and wanted to lay around in my sweats all day. I caught Glenn sitting on the couch in the front porch gazing at the turkeys. The morning Glenn had to drive the gang to the butcher, he had the most difficult task of all. Glenn had to make "Sophie's Choice" and decide which turkeys were going to live and which were going to be food. Once we knew the turkeys were gone, a huge weight was lifted and we could focus on them being food and delivery of them to our customers.
Raising turkeys was such a wonderful learning opportunity for our kids and ourselves. We learned about turkey behavior, the meat processing industry, and poultry anatomy.
Benefit: New Pets
I love having turkeys as pets. They follow us around the farm, chase off stray dogs, and just look cute walking around. You can read my whole blog post about the benefits of turkey ownership (see previous post).
Benefit: Community Farm Movement
I feel really good that we (as a community) saved turkeys from the major meat-processing industry. I love that so many people got behind us and were willing to pay (a lot) extra for quality, humanely-raised meat. Plus, when your customers CARE about about their food and the welfare of animals, they tend to be pretty cool people. This is one of the reasons I wanted to keep the cost down the first year. Did we stick it to "The Man?" I like to think we did.