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Cut Up Your Chickens to Make More Money

By   /  December 1, 2014  /  1 Comment

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Tom and Ruth Neuberger run a free-range poultry operation on their farm in Canistota, South Dakota.  In search of additional income from their operation, they began looking at other value added products to serve their customers. What they learned through their SARE funded Farmer Rancher grant was that they could double the value of a whole bird by simply cutting it up and selling the parts in pound packages.

The Neubergers are known for thinking outside the box.  In 1984 when Tom and Beth first fattened 3,500 geese the natural way, they found themselves without a market. They processed the geese and hit the road in a refrigerated bus. The Goosemobile was such a success that they’ve been traveling South Dakota ever since. Now they offer geese along with natural organic beef, pork, lamb, chicken, duck, flax, down comforters and feather pillows.

The Neubergers are known for thinking outside the box. In 1984 when Tom and Beth first fattened 3,500 geese the natural way, they found themselves without a market. They processed the geese and hit the road in a refrigerated bus. The Goosemobile was such a success that they’ve been traveling South Dakota ever since. Now they offer geese along with natural organic beef, pork, lamb, chicken, duck, flax, down comforters and feather pillows.

Using funding from their SARE Grant, they purchased the equipment and supplies to create convenient food products for their customers.  They began selling cut-up chicken in pound packages, split and quarters chickens, ground chicken, BBQ wings, chicken snack sticks and dog food.  Many of the birds were seconds and would have been sold at discount if sold as whole birds. Customers were able to buy the products at a local farmers market and on the farm.  A newsletter to their customer list of over 3,000 people added to the marketing mix.

The start up costs of the project, including equipment depreciation and overhead, and cost of bus and labels meant they had no profit during the start-up phase of making and selling their products.  But when Neuberger analyzed the labor and cost data for producing the 8 products, he found that a producer could further process 5.42 chickens per hour. Ten years ago, when this project was done, he figured 144 hours of additional processing at labor rates of $9 per hour ($1,296) to produce $6,301 worth of value-added products valued at $3,905 ($5 each) before processing.  That means they netted an additional $1,100.

What can you take from this?  Well, plug your own labor rates and the value of your birds into the equations at today’s rates.  Then consider your market which could be quite a bit different than the Neuberger’s.  Tom himself noted that a location with high demand for value-added products would allow producers to charge a higher price and make the entire process more profitable.

Just food for thought…or as a chicken might say grist for the gizzard.

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About the author

editor and contributor

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Bill Fosher says:

    Also be sure to check into state and federal regulations about where and whether your can sell your cut-up poultry. In NH, the birds would have to be processed in a USDA plant and probably cut up there as well, although there’s a possibility that value added products for direct sale from the farm to the end consumer could be produced in a commercial kitchen if made from USDA birds. The vast majority of farm-raised poultry in New Hampshire are processed under the federal exemption, which allows slaughter of a limited number of birds on the farm for direct sale to customers who will serve the meat only to their households and non-paying guests.

    Each state will have slightly different variations on this theme, depending on whether there is a state meat inspection program or not.

    One thing is for sure, though: if your poultry was not slaughtered and processed under USDA inspection, you cannot transport it across state lines. Your customers may, as long as they purchase it in the state where it was produced.

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