Friday, November 13, 2009

Last Processing Day this Year, and Thinking About Next Year

The last processing day is now behind me. Twenty-hours awake is tough, but not as bad as the last one. All 84 turkeys (we sold two) are freezing down right now. I got a call this morning, saying that our smoked turkeys are ready to go, and we are careening toward next week, where we will have three deliveries to make and all of our orders to sort.

It is good to be this close to payday, because I am pretty broke. Processing charges went up again this year and it is now running $7 to $8 per turkey. I left the locker over $600 lighter (plus I had to drop $75 on gas to get out there). This all has me thinking, home processing equipment would set me back about $3,500 and it is looking more tempting with the passage of time. It would bring new challenges like hiring some assistance, compost handling, and dealing with some regulations, but it would save the rough 2o hour marathons, those crippling butchering bills, transit stress on the birds, and I could keep the carbon that I am currently loosing in the poultry parts that stay at the locker (if composted on-farm, they can be used to build the soil). One limiting factor, would be that I could not sell 0n-farm processed poultry through the Iowa Food Cooperative. The cooperative represents about 10% of our business, so we might consider still processing a limited number of chickens and turkeys through our existing channels and the rest through on-farm processing. I have spent over $1,500 on processing this year with gas and if I raise the 180 turkeys and 440 chickens that I am looking at next year, then I will spend $2,150 on processing next year and at least and additional $375 on gas doing it. There will be some labor expenses, but it does not take too long to begin to rationalize the whole set-up. I will have to continue to examine this during the off season. I already help Galen Bontrager from time to time with his processing, but there are some things that I will need to improve my proficiency with before going down that road.

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