Monday, November 22, 2010

Raising and Butchering the Thanksgiving Turkey

This was our first year raising turkeys and let me tell you, it was an experience! I guess raising a new animal always is but I found with turkeys that there was a lot I didn't know. I was not aware of how much they ate. Granted, they can be 4x the size of a chicken but I guess when I purchased them as little baby chicks, that reality hadn't set in. These gals were hungry 24/7. Even watching them eat grass was amazing. I think if you had a small lawn then you could just own a turkey instead of a lawn mower. They work fast.One of our turkeys back in June.

We raised Bronze turkeys and they were about 1 month apart in age. Even though they were the same breed of turkey they both grew very differently and had very different personalities. Our larger turkey was much like a chicken while our smaller one was more like a overweight pig. She'd just lay around, eat and when she felt like it, she'd roam the grass. She also laid eggs for us while the larger one did not.
We raised them for about 7 months and butchered them yesterday. Before I go any further, let me warn the squeamish that there are some graphic turkey photos below. If you're a homesteader and butcher your own animals then it'll be nothing. If you don't even like to look at live animals and blood makes you faint then just go ahead and skip to another post. I've spared you the beheading shots!

The place where the magic happens. This is our friends home. He and his wife own the local feed store in town and are turkey butchering experts! They raise goats, sheep, pigs and have chickens, a horse and a huge green house. Normally, they raise turkeys as well but this year their turkey dinner became raccoon dinner.

The killing tree. Hanging the turkey up.

Time to take a dip in the 160 degree water (turkey has been beheaded already.) Gary had a nice large barrel that he had cut in half to use- certainly big enough for a turkey. Out of the pot and onto the table.

Plucking feathers. It was actually very easy to remove the feathers once the bird had been dipped. Gavin and Gary did the big turkey and Wyatt and I did the smaller one.

Gavin doing the dirty up the smaller turkey.

Cleaning the gizzard to be fried in coconut oil and added into the stuffing.

One finished bird.

Our larger turkey ended up being fairly lean. She weighed 25lbs finished and had very little fat on her. Our smaller one had quite a bit of fat (remember I said she was like an overweight pig?) and weighed out at 17lbs.

Cost wise these turkeys were expensive. The chicks were about $8.50 each and then feeding them organic, soy free food for the last 7 months has been pricy as well. While they were free range and did get to eat grass and bugs and other squirmy things, they still ate a lot of purchased food. My guess is that each turkey ended up costing about $60 when all was said and done. Pricey? Yep. But in reality I'd much rather spend the time and the money and know what my food has been eating and the conditions it's been in rather than getting a free turkey from the store if I spend over X amount of dollars. There is something very satisfying about raising and eating your own meat.


Leslie said...

now that is getting up close and personal with your do your kids handle this?

Mountain Home Quilts said...

They're fine with it. We don't eat pets ;) The animals that we buy to eat are purchased with that intention so they know right from the begening. I think Wyatt was a little grossed out at first but he's o.k. with it today! :)

Kim said...

This is what we'll be doing the snow. I'm a little sad about it because "Ricky" has such a sweet personality, but I knew this day would come. :( Hopefully, we're butchering the right tom and the other one will know what to do with the "ladies"!

Farmer's City Wife said...

Thanks for this post :). I think next year we're going to do this, and I appreciated your comments on it.

Please post an update after Thanksgiving to let us know if they were tender and juicy!

You Can Call Me Jane said...

It is so rewarding when you can raise your meat yourself. We've been toying with the whole raising-turkey-idea now for years. Maybe one day....Enjoy your home grown turkey and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Renata said...

Well done for doing this! I haven't braved the butchering of animals yet (although I love the cutting up & packing part of the meat). One day I'll have to give it a go!
I'd love to hear how the meat tasted - was it nicer than storebought?
Also I agree with you that I'd rather know where our meat is coming from!
Have a nice day

Judy said...

We've butchered chickens but have never raise a turkey. I hope he was delicious :)

Unknown said...

Great information, Heather. Here, I'll make you feel a bit better about the price...

I usually buy a free-range turkey from Shelton's. They end up costing me between $60 - $80 for a 24-26 lb. bird. Mind you, these are not organic, just naturally raised in free range style. They've always been excellent - the best I've had. This year I thought I'd save some money, so I went to Trader Joe's and bought two 12 pound turkeys, each costing me about $30. They were free range, but not Shelton's and if you put them together, they still cost about what a smaller Shelton's turkey runs me. I love Trader Joe's, but these were a bit tough even though I brined them. So I think you did pretty good if they were $60 for two.

Sunny said...

We raised some turkeys one year, white braod-breasted. The heaviest one dressed out was a whopping 49#!! I will never forget that!

We did however take them to a processing plant to be de-feathered and "cleaned".

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