As I am writing this article it is winter in New England. On farm I have several chest freezers full of pasture-raised meat that I am using to supply my markets until the grass begins to grow again in the Spring. That is one of the things I love about pastured protein, it has a shelf life. That shelf life has an expense though, and all expenses need to be accounted for.
We have a total of eight chest freezers on farm of various shapes and sizes. I like using chest freezers because I can turn them off to save energy when they’re not in use. I can also thaw them and sterilize them to keep a clean and food safe environment for storing my hard earned bits of meat. For us farmers, that’s a box of frozen money, and we want to keep it in top shape.
The expense of running those freezers is something we can plan for. Let’s walk through two examples of freezers on my farm.
Now, there are going to be variables that I can’t control. Freezers work harder in the summer and less in the winter. Older freezers are less efficient, as are empty freezers. Full freezers have thermal mass and don’t have to work as hard once they get down to temp.
We’re going to make some assumptions here. One is that the wattage use is going to average out over the year, the other is that the manufacturer claimed Kilowatt hours used per year is accurate for the machine regardless of age and condition.
Looking at the information on my electricity bill, the average cost to use 1000W for an hour or 1 kWh is $0.18.
1000W used x 1 hour = $0.18 or more simply, 1kWh = $0.18
Our chickens cost $6 per pound and average 4 pounds. That works out to a $24 bird for average gross profit. I know my chicken reference came out of left field, but hang onto that number. We’re about to need it.
Our standard mid-size chest freezer is about 12.8 cubic feet. I can fit about 60-100 chickens in that depending on the size of the birds. According to the product specs on Sears.com, that size chest freezer uses 271 kWh per year. Our math is:
271kWh x $0.18 = $48.78 or approximately 2 chickens.
Now, we have a big wamma-jamma freezer that is 24.8 cubic feet. Twice the size of the other one. Again, according to the manufacturer that freezer uses 426 kWh.
426 kWh x $0.18 = $76.68 or approximately 3 chickens.
Great, we calculated how much it costs us in electricity to run our freezers, what do we do with that information? Remember when I said I had eight chest freezers on the farm? If they were all the same size as that big guy I’d be paying over $600 a year in electricity. Makes you stop and think.
This math also comes into play when we’re deciding what freezer to buy when we’re storing beef, pork, or poultry. Going with the bigger freezer I have twice as much space for only 1.5 times the electricity. There are other variables to consider here as well. I’m not here to give you the “right answer”, just to share the process and get you to think.
It’s such a mundane thing to think about, but it can eat away at our bottom line. Taking the time to manage inventory, turn off appliances that are not in use, and investing in energy-efficient solutions can help us inch that bottom line up toward a more comfortable financial situation.
This is just freezers. Where else on your farm can you find slippage? Leaky water lines, messy workshops, excessive tractor idling, markets that are a long drive but yield few sales, chefs that are high maintenance. Keep plugging the holes in the boat and you’re more likely to enjoy the ride down the river.
John Suscovich is the Founder and Creative Director of Farm Marketing Solutions. His Pastured Poultry Packet #1 is a great tool for defining all the costs associated with starting and running your own pastured broiler operation to make sure your poultry operation is profitable. Check it out!