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Acquiring and Storing Enough Meat for a Winter

 
gardener
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I love food. I love meat. I've struggled to eat in a way I consider ethical but also afford to purchase said ethical food (I'm sure not an uncommon fight).

This season I filled my freezer with enough to feed myself and my partner for likely the whole year (plus inviting family & friends over to share in the bounty)

One of my freezers:


  • I raised & processed 150 Mistral Gris, kept 30 for myself, and sold/traded the rest
  • I raised & processed another 12 roosters from my layer flock ( I had 25 Americana chicks and only 8 where hens *sigh*)
  • I raised 3 pigs with two other families which means I got a whole pig to myself. The other two families didn't want the fat, hocks, or other "poor" cuts so they all went to me! I didn't butcher the animals myself but it is on the list of things to learn. We ate the first of the bacon yesterday and it was amazing!
  • I saved up and purchased 1/4 of a bison. Friends of friends own a bison ranch that they established in 1987 and basically they just roam around and get some hay in the winter. We ordered a whole bison with 3 other families. Again, people didn't want the liver, bones, and some of the other cuts so we ended up yet again with more than what we paid for.
  • I saved all the feet and necks when I processed my birds. I plan to make soup stock with them but I did not need 300+ chicken feet. Little did I know how many of my friends love them so I've been trading them for homemade canned goods and wild game.
  • My sister helps raise a couple cows on a friends property so I traded her chicken for some beef.
  • I also ended up with 3 pigs worth of pork fat. As much as I plan making lard and adding it to bison burgers it was a lot for me to handle. I learned that the hunters love to add it to sausage so again I traded friends and family for wild game.


  • So I ended up with :
    - 40 whole chickens
    - 2 larges bags of chicken feet and necks
    - 1 pig
    - 1/4 bison
    - A smattering of beef cuts
    - Cuts from deer, elk, and moose
    - A whole new food network outside of the grocery stores or farmer's markets

    I don't mean to brag, I was just tickled pink at how well things worked out in the end and how many friends & family where stoked to trade. I know running 2 deep freezers is not ideal but I'm learning food preservations skills in the meantime and I'm really keen to learn to use lard it my cooking. I also surprised myself just how many calories I could raise & grow myself (OMG there is so much food in 1 pig!!!).

    I know I still have a long way to go, but the sight of a full freezer was just the moment I needed to feel like I was starting to figure things out.

    Thanks for reading!
     
    steward & bricolagier
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    That's NOT a small accomplishment!! Congratulations!
    :D
     
    steward
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    Good for you!  

    I especially love the idea of trading pork fat for wild game meat.  Your next step is learning to make sausage!  It's so fun, and frozen sausage (in links or just in smallish quantities "loose") is maybe as close to convenience food as you can get, while still being real food.

    I hope you have a meat grinder, or can borrow one.  
     
    gardener
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    Inspirational!  You get a chicken pot pie.  It's purple.  Just ignore that.
     
    master gardener
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    Do watch out for freezer burn. I vacuumed pack  what needs to last more than 6 months.  Oh yes, great accomplishment.
     
    gardener
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    Ashley Cottonwood wrote:

    I did not need 300+ chicken feet.

    The inspectors here on the Island won't allow the processor to give us back the feet so consider them a valuable commodity. They make *incredibly gelatinized* chicken broth. I brought some I made to a friend once and she was skeptical at first and then every time I visited it was, "can you bring me more?" What I've read since suggests that adding some quality greenery when making it really improves the nutritional value, but if I don't get that far I consider that whatever I use it in will likely have veggies added then.

    I think that beyond the accomplishment that you've got meat for the winter - the fact that you've built community is equally important! We are currently selling our "grown for sale" chickens and we always give a bird to each of our neighbors. The one fellow loves to fish, so we often get pieces of salmon from him, so it's the same idea - share the bounty!
     
    Rob Lineberger
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    I missed the whole discussion but If somebody doesn't want the chicken feet I'll take them for the BEST STOCK EVER.
     
    Ashley Cottonwood
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    I'm also not allowed to sell the chicken feet (even for consumption by dogs). Giving them away/trading is a grey area. I have a good relationship with the local health inspector and she's more of "if I don't see it I don't care" mentality. She has bigger fish to fry.
     
    gardener
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    It's inspiring to see the results of so much work! I think it is truly lost on many people today just how much work EVERYONE used to put into storing food, because that was the only way to survive. I would say you have a new appreciation for how people used to live before vehicles, paved roads, and supermarkets.
     
    pollinator
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    Congrats on the food supply and the network you've set up.

    We barter is similar ways.  I give eggs to a friend who volunteers at the food bank. Produce or damaged goods they can't give to their clients gets put aside for us for the birds.  She also gets a couple meat birds a year as a thank you.  

    Another friend loves to hunt and my husband prefers fishing.  Since husband is allergic to fish we can trade part of his catch for meat he can enjoy.  When our friend gets geese and ducks that he wants smoked, he brings them over and gives us what I call sky cow in exchange for us doing the smoking.

    This year we will hopefully have success with the new beehives, so it will be interesting to see how we put that to use.

    Working in sync with others really makes our efforts go so much further!

    Ashley, you have my sympathy.  Out of 26 barred rock, I have 10 hens.  More chicken dinners for us😀
     
    pollinator
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    Wow, what a stash of meat provisions, that would last me years. So I’d need to consider freezer burn.
     
    Julia Winter
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    It looks like this is a deep freeze that requires manual defrosting.  If you have a freezer that doesn't automatically defrost, freezer "burn" is far less of a problem.

    These can be hard to find.  Most people will accept the food damage in exchange for the convenience of never having to clear out and defrost your freezer.  

    Good things come to those who forgo convenience!
     
    pollinator
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    That is really a great way to stock your freezer/s. The one big plus you already highlighted was : - A whole new food network outside of the grocery stores or farmer's markets.:
    I really fear the collapse of our entire food system through large stores that rely on extra packaging, chemicals to prolong shelf life, a fleet of trucks burning more oil to bring food to markets. In this system, farmers do not get the money they deserve. Food [bad food, really] is incredibly cheap compared to other countries, but we may pay the price in poorer health, as the additives we put in our foods may put our health at risk. This link only scratches the surface of this conundrum:
    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/12/this-map-shows-how-much-each-country-spends-on-food/#:~:text=Countries%20that%20spend%20the%20least&text=The%20remaining%20four%20countries%20are,%2C%20while%20Australia%20spends%209.8%25.

     
    pollinator
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    Well done Ashley! I do not believe anyone here thinks of it as bragging, we are all very happy for you. That is quite exciting and I miss being on my farm to do this as I was accustomed to doing every year. You have renewed my inspiration and hope of attaining that here in Aus, thank you so much!
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