7 Meat Animals For Beginners
You have decided you are ready to add a meat animal that will provide you with quality homegrown meat. Which meat animal is right for you and your country life?
Adding any animal to your farm is a big responsibility and knowing which to add is important. When deciding which meat animal you will bring home, you should think about what your family enjoys eating, what you will be willing to spend, how much space you have and what the long term goal is.
To help you make the best decision, I have provided a list of 7 meat animals that can be added to your life for a beginner project.
7 Meat Animals for Beginners
If you are looking for a smaller alternative to chicken, quail is your best bet. Quail do not require a lot of space but can fly so an enclosed pen will be needed to prevent escaping. Depending on the breed these little birds can be ready to butcher at 7 weeks of age. If quail sounds like something that interests you, the breed to consider is the Coturnix Quail. Coturnix Quail are fast growing, very docile and can survive in most conditions.
Chickens are the most common thought of meat bird to raise. There are a variety of different breeds to meet everyone’s needs. If you are looking for a fast-growing chicken that will be ready in as little as six weeks the White Cornish Cross is your bird. If you do not mind waiting longer for your birds to mature a nice dual-purpose bird (chicken used for both meat & eggs) might be what you are looking for. We have raised both types on our farm, personally I prefer the dual-purpose Barred Rock breed. The slower growing bird had more time to mature giving it a better flavor when it came time to butcher.
Ducks are nice chicken alternative, that grow quickly. Most duck breeds can be used for both meat and eggs. There are a few breeds that are better for meat production because of their overall size. Pekin ducks (the big white ones) are the first-choice breed for meat production. Standard Pekin males average around 9 pounds when ready to butcher. The Rouen duck breed (look like large mallards) is also a good meat choice that is easy to find. The Rouen breed can range from 9-12 lbs. Ducks produce a darker greasier meat then chickens, but still taste great!
It is the traditional Thanksgiving Main Course, but turkeys can also be a great source of everyday meat production. The most common turkey used for meat is the White or Bronze Broad-Breasted, these are the commercial turkeys that are found at the grocery store. The Broad-Breasted is raised for meat production only and take 16 weeks to reach butcher weight. These commercial meat birds are not known for their foraging abilities, so they will rely on feed from you. Standard and Heritage breeds of turkey grow slower and weigh less than the commercial Broad-Breasted but can free range and forage for bugs. Some great breeds to consider are the Holland White, Standard Bronze and our favorite the Bourbon Red.
Most have heard of the traditional Christmas goose. Geese are very large, fat, dark meat birds that grow quickly and are easy keepers. These birds are on the expensive side due to a short hatching season. If you are thinking long term goose production or would like more then a few a year, buying a breeding pair to hatch your own eggs should be considered. Embden, Pilgrim, and Toulouse are more common breeds used for meat all can average 19 lbs. Our breed of choice has been the buff goose due to a more docile nature.
A well-known source of meat are feeder pigs, these are pigs that should weigh around 60 lbs. Today there are many different breeds to choose and most are used for meat at some point. Common breeds will differ from area to area, the most common breed found in the United States is the Yorkshire. The Yorkshire breed is white with pointed ears and tend to be leaner. Other breeds that are good beginner meat projects include the Duroc (Red Pig) and the Hampshire (Black Pig with White Belt). Different cross breeds are also a good choice as they may be easier to find. One of the best meat producing pigs that I have had was a Duroc-Hampshire cross.
Like cows, goats have dairy breeds and meat breeds. Both can be butchered; but the meat breeds are what you should look for if the goal is to fill your freezer. Boer goats are the most common meat goats on the market. They are white bodied with red heads and are one of the largest goat breeds in the United States. Using goats for meat has increased in the United States making this breed relatively easy to find.
These 7 meat animals are not the only animals you can raise to produce meat, but they are some of the smallest and easiest to maintain for a set amount of time. Each will have different feed, shelter and over all maintenance requirements. Research their requirements and learn which addition will be the best fit for your farm and freezer.