Turkey Time

Somehow, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and so what better time to talk about the turkey enterprise.

Admittedly, this is one of the enterprises that we often forget when we make lists or attempt to answer the question of what we will be doing on the farm, but turkeys have been on our radar for months. We figured that we have a lot of experience raising chickens and at least some of that knowledge should translate to the larger poultry, and it would be appealing to people to get to pick out their own turkey, know what its environment is like, and pick it up freshly butchered (We are allowed to butcher and sell up to 1000 poultry- turkeys count as 4 poultry though- each year without government regulation) a few days before Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy of Don DeBold


While we definitely weren’t closed to any ideas in the early planning stages, we were skeptical about turkeys. You see, we didn’t know of any farms that sold them, except for a couple in books that we read that were not even in our region of the country, and we would have to contend with the supermarket, where frozen butterball turkeys sell for about a dollar a pound.

Once you do the math, it is a bit frightening to consider how big businesses charge that low. We figure that we could raise a turkey for roughly $20-$25 dollars, but that is without anything going wrong or any birds dying, so a more accurate estimate would be about $30. Now, we don’t want to charge the snot out of people for anything, but we also want a fair price for our labor. Selling the birds for $30 to roughly break even didn’t sound worth it to us.

Then, as we were going through farms and websites and getting prices for products, we realized that a lot of them sold turkeys, and we were looking at farms in our region. It turns out the going cost for a local farm raised turkey was in between $3-$5/pound! An organically raised turkey goes for $6-$7/pound! At roughly 15 to 20 pounds per bird, that price would put us in the profit zone. But would people pay that for their Thanksgiving feast? Almost every farm that sells turkeys (and I visited a lot of websites and have talked to several vendors at farmer’s markets) sells out over a month before the holiday. So… we are on board to try it and see how it goes, as with most of the enterprises we are preparing for on the farm.

Holiday feast. Image courtesy of Tim Sackton

The first Thanksgiving we are ready to sell turkeys for will probably be two years from now. We are ambitious when it comes to trying a lot of different things, but we recognize that we can’t start everything this upcoming year. However, we will aim to prepare a place for them this upcoming year and be all set to try the turkey business in 2016.

This is another project that I am pumped about. I hear that turkeys, especially as poults (baby turkeys), are harder to care for then chicks, but I believe that we are up for the challenge, and in two years, my Thanksgiving turkey could be a bird that I have brought up myself, watched it grow, butchered it a few days before the big day (if you eat them a day or two after the butchering, apparently they are a bit tough), and, at least to me, will taste like victory.

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