Thanksgiving is a huge event at our farm and something we look forward to every year. Last T-day, we had over 50 people in attendance. As you might imagine, this crowd can plow through some turkey. We had the quasi-brilliant idea that we would raise our own turkeys for the event (as well as a few chickens). While I have some distant experience with raising poultry, with my grandparents on their farm when I was a kid, I was surprised by the seriousness and difficulty of the enterprise. We started with 15 turkey chicks and ended up dining on 3 extremely tasty, free range, organic, and locally grown birds that I cooked on the grill. Good thing they were tasty, because the cost per pound was ridiculous. Ignoring the time investment, we had over $20 per pound in the initial chick purchase, feed, brooder lights, bedding, material for the turkey tractors, and slaughter and dressing costs. If you add in the cost of the time, the number is silly. Turkeys are famously stupid and ours were no exception. Three drowned in their water bowl. Many others fell prey to predators. All the while, the chickens got along with no problem. When chickens, in comparison, seem smart and barnyard savvy, you know that there can only be 3 to 4 synapses actively firing in each minuscule turkey brain.
With this many people coming to Thanksgiving, we needed a fourth bird. I found myself in Costco staring disgustedly at the $.99 per pound price tag on the turkeys, about 1/20th of my total costs (again, discounting four months of minimally successful poultry husbandry). I bought the bird. It was also tasty, this one fried.
We are unsure whether we might try again. Try or not, I've developed a very personal respect for folks who can raise and sell organic beef and poultry. We recently got together with friends and family and bought a side of beef from Chad and Jodi Ray (outstanding green builders as well as farmers) that was grass fed and pasture raised and is free from drugs and antibiotics. Some of the best beef I've ever had. I've also purchased and enjoyed organic chicken from folks at the Durham Farmers Market. I no longer think that buying meat from these folks is expensive. Instead, it is good food at a good value.