Over the course of the last year, our homestead has yielded several hundred pounds of meat in the form of grass-fed beef, pastured pork, and pastured poultry. But because I lacked a plan for our meat, I found that we were almost eating "seasonally," if you will, depending on which we had most recently butchered. It's a vicious cycle that makes us glut on the latest additions to the freezer because we're so thankful not to be eating what we had previously been bored eating.
The easiest way that I can think to tabulate how much meat our family will consume is to break it down into weekly amounts.
2- chicken (stretched)
Right now we're eating about a pound and a half of meat at each meal for our (growing) family of eight.... and we're pushing it for needing more. With a teen-aged son and a husband with a turbo-charged metabolism that I envy, they easily consume over half of that and then I divide the rest amongst myself and the little ones.
Since we are growing, I'll allow for two pounds of meat for each meal to be certain that there is enough. It never hurts to have a surplus at the end of the year. I'm sure that I could stretch each days portion of meat further, but instead I will allow for that to go to leftover lunches.
52 whole chickens dressing out at about 5-6 pounds per year
We'll raise more than that minimum especially since we've experienced such high losses this year. Our first batch of meat birds totaled 31 birds (out of 50) and our second batch has fared much worse and we hope to get about 45 or so (out of 75!!) when they are butchered in the next week (if my husband gets his way) or two (if I get mine- I don't think they're quite large enough.)
I can stretch a 5-6 pound whole chicken further than two days, but I feel it's safer to account for only one stretched day for now. Usually we'll roast or grill a bird, eat about half and then I get about 4 cups of chicken from the other half to divide into two other meals. I was considering posting a few recipes here and there about how I stretch a chicken if anyone is interested.
one steer/heifer, butchered every two years
This is one that may take some time to get going. Our steer will be butchered in a little over a year and after that, the next time we butcher will be 2-4 years after that. Once Maybelle throws a heifer, we'll permanently add her to the homestead and butcher each calf after that every two years. Our yield on a four year old Dexter bull was low- about 300 pounds of beef, but our experience was low too and I hope that meant a lot of waste. Ideally, we could get at least 200 pounds of beef off each calf to last two years until the next butchering.
2 hogs per year
Because ground pork is breakfast fare at least once weekly in our home, I would like to have extra for that purpose. We rarely eat bacon for breakfast and prefer it in main dishes... like in fresh corn chowder.. about once a week. This amount of pork is approximately what our yields have been over the last couple years and we should still be able to squeak by with raising just two hogs to meet our needs.
Having never eaten it, rabbit is a real leap of faith for me. Normally, I would not advise making such a commitment on the homestead without being sure that the meat or produce is something that your family enjoys to eat, but the reviews of cultivated rabbit I've heard are glowing and I'm willing to learn to love them because I believe this will be the most cost effective meat to raise on any homestead. I will start a little slow and commit to only one meal per week.
I've done very little research at this point (that's what winter is for), but it looks like New Zealand rabbits reach a fryer weight of 5 pounds around 8-10 weeks of age. If they dress out at 50%, then I'll eventually need about one rabbit per week, assuming our rabbits are undersized and our inexperience produces waste at butchering time. This may mean I'll need to get probably 2 does and a buck since they have an average litter size of 6, a gestation time of a month, and can be rebred quickly after birth- for this I'll figure a month- which should give about 72 rabbits to butcher each year.
But as any homesteader quickly learns, all we can do is make a plan- it's up to the Lord to bless them and bring them to fruition. At any rate, it's exciting to imagine that our little 2 1/2 acre homestead might one day provide our family with over 800 pounds of meat annually!!
Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:5