From Turkey to Burger

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On Monday morning, Rob loaded up the 18 turkeys he has been raising.  Their time had come.  With a pickup load of cages, he and Ja’Ana set off for the processing plant we use.  It is 1-1/2 hours from our home.  We use them because 1)They do an excellent job, 2)They are extremely reasonable in their pricing, 3)There aren’t many places around here that specialize in poultry.

It only took them about 1-1/2 hours to do the job.   He had 5 cut up for us to grind into turkey burger, 1 cut in 1/2 (for the 2 single people on our gift list), and the rest left whole. Rob and Ja’Ana killed the wait time in a little diner, eating breakfast and visiting.  It was good daddy-daughter time, for sure.

On the way home, they delivered turkeys to the relatives who were receiving them for Christmas. Last year, we did chickens and they were much appreciated.   Ja’Ana wisely used the time to sell pies to all the relatives–she’s earning money for a retreat she wants to go on in January, and that is the fund-raiser to help with the cost of that.  They picked Lovana up from work, and went to a friend’s house to borrow a meat grinder.  It was a long day.  They didn’t get home until around 6:30, where they got white bean chili or ham and beans from the crock pots.  (I soaked too many navy beans, so made 2 things and will freeze the extra).

The 5 whole turkeys we are keeping, plus the 1 undelivered one went into the emptied chest freezer in the garage.  The 5 cut-up ones went on ice in coolers until Tuesday morning.

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On Tuesday morning, Rob cut the bones out of the breasts and thighs of the 5 turkeys.  The drumsticks and wings were frozen in zip-top bags for future meals, 2 per package.  The bones that were cut off, plus the necks and backs were frozen for broth making another day.

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Then he ground it 2 times.  We had 3 of these large Tupperware bowls full of the first grind.  While he was grinding, he removed any tendons, stringy muscles, etc., whatever didn’t look like we wanted to eat it.  He ground it twice to get those undesirable things out, and also to get a good mix between the light and dark meat.

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During the second grind, Ja’Ana held the bags over the end of the grinder, and the finished burger was pushed into the bags by the machine.  I wrote on the bags, twist-tied them, and generally ran back and forth, fetching and carrying things for Rob.  I also took the finished bags, bones, meat pieces, etc. to the freezer and loaded it up.  There was a pretty big mess to clean up afterwards.

When we were done, we had 32 approximately 1-pound packages (we did not weigh, but filled to a marked line on the bag) and Rob made 2 pans of meatloaf.  We also have 5 whole turkeys, 10 drumsticks and 10 wings.  I will get a lot of broth one of these days, and I will pressure can it into both pints and quarts.  It was a very productive day and my 1 empty freezer is now full with the fruits of Rob’s labors.

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9 thoughts on “From Turkey to Burger

  1. I am completely amazed at what you were able to get from those turkeys. Out of curiosity, how much does it cost to raise one turkey? I’m wondering how much per pound that the turkey costs?

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    1. Rhonda,
      Rob says that the turkeys averaged out at about $25-$30 each, including cost of the baby turkey, feed and killing fees. Most of the turkeys were about 25 pounds, with a very few being under 20 pounds, and a very few being very close to 30 pounds. So, around $1 per pound, as a ballpark figure.

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      1. Thank you Becky and Rob. One more question, is it cheaper to raise a larger group of livestock together or does the cost breakdown work out to be around the same if you only raised say 2-3 at a time? I don’t live in a place where I can raise livestock, but I would love to buy a house where that might be possible some day. I’m trying to figure out if it is more costly to raise your own compared to buying it at the grocery store.

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        1. That is a loaded question, because there are so many variables. I’m only going to address turkeys here, today, and not even delve into pigs, etc. I would be happy to talk about pigs another day, if you want to know, just ask. You can save a small amount if you buy the food by the ton. Rob says he gets about 1 bag of food for free when he buys a ton, where he buys feed. (turkey grower) Some people feed scraps they glean from stores, etc., instead of bagged feed, or do a combination. It is cheaper to get get free food, but you do have to use gas to go get it, and time. They also grow slower on vegetable scraps. Otherwise, they all eat food the same, and it costs per pound to get them butchered no matter how many you get done at a time. For us, because it is a long trip to the processing plant, it is better for us to take more, rather than less, since we are spending the same amount of fuel for the trip. I hope that helps–sorry it’s not more definitive.

          Baby turkeys range in price from around $5-$7.50 around here. We got ours for $5. They are very delicate. Out of the 20 we bought, we lost 2, and that is considered really good for turkeys, so you have to plan for that.

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      2. I’d love to hear about how you raise your little pigs! Chickens too if you decide to raise them. I was a veterinary technician for a number of years, but have since left the field to pursue a career in history/museums (a lifelong passion of mine). I’ve never lived on a farm, but I’m really curious about how you raise livestock…what’s involved, cost factors, etc. If you wrote posts on your livestock raising adventures, I’d be thrilled to read about them. Thank you so much for answering my questions!

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        1. Ok. Sounds good. We do have 7 little piggies we are raising right now. We had 5, but Rob had to go back and buy 2 more once word got out that he was raising another batch. People like to pre-order them. That is a case where raising more than one pays off. He can basically get ours for “free” when he sells several (if you call all the work he does free–but you get the idea) Rob is the one who does the animals around here, so I’ll get together with him and get some posts going. We also have laying hens right now, but all of the meat chickens are already gracing our table.

          Your job sounds pretty fun!

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  2. That was nice of you to gift others with your turkeys. My son raises a few too. He lives near a very upscale place (Ann Arbor MI) and sold a few for over $5/lb! He had one that weighed over 40 pounds and someone paid him over $200 for it. It must be wonderful to have your freezer full of all that nice meat. I love to read about industrious people.

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    1. Thank you for the kind words. We found that family members have pretty much everything that they need, but we love them, and still want to show them that in a tangible form–so only the close family gets home-grown meat! They really appreciate it. I did give one to one of my closest friends, as well, though. She values it, because she has to eat “natural” and “organic” and very, very carefully, due to extreme allergies. She has paid $50-$60 for the same size I gave her. I think it shows people that you love them so much when you give a “home-made” gift, ours are just a different kind of “home-made.” I’ll bet your son was thrilled to have someone pay him for his hard work, time and care spent on the ones he grew, and I’ll bet he had enough to raise quite a few more birds or whatever he wanted from that one bird’s profit! With Rob’s recent job loss, all of that meat is definitely a little security blanket!

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