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Archive for February, 2012

Last fall, I split a side of beef with a friend, and I ended up with the brisket (actually, half a brisket—there is only one brisket on the whole animal). I have never been too successful with this cut. I usually use a crock pot, and it usually comes out dry. So I recently snooped around the Internet for new ideas. I found that America’s Test Kitchen has a recipe that is not behind their normal pay-wall, so I tried it. OMG, it was the best brisket I’ve ever had! My hat is off to America’s Test Kitchen. You’ve got to love this show.

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Trends

We announced in a newsletter last week that we have started taking orders for pastured chicken by subscription for 2012. If you are like me, it may be difficult to estimate ahead of time how much chicken to buy for a whole year. I went searching around the web for consumption statistics, and I found this interesting graph:

Holy hockey stick, Batman! Look at that chicken trend! If you extrapolate from this picture, we’ll all be eating 500 pounds of chicken per year in no time!

So what is the answer for how many chickens the average family buys today? It’s complicated. Of the 60 pounds of chicken meat (not counting bones) consumed per person, 48% is sold through restaurants. So on average, we eat 35 pounds boneless or about 12 chickens per person at home.

My family of four bought 40 chickens last summer (2 subscriptons). It is February, and they are all gone. It looks like we are ahead of the curve.

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Now that our laying hens are finished with their molt, it is time for them to get back to work. Chickens naturally lay the most eggs at the time of year when the days are longest. You can fool them into laying more by putting lights on in their houses to extend the day length. The advice we have heard is to add lights in the pre-dawn hours only. (The chickens are less stressed if allowed to settle down for the night at the pace of a natural sunset.) The photo above shows our mobile chicken houses (now docked to the greenhouse for the winter) with the lights on at about 6:20 this morning.

I have posted before about our nifty electronic controllers that turn the lights on a little bit earlier each morning. In addition to running the lights, the controllers also open the eggmobile doors at sunrise and close them at sunset to protect the hens from predators. The whole system—controllers,¬† lights, and door motors—runs on 12 volts DC. During the winter, we use transformers to plug them into 110 volts. But when the pastures green up, these egg ships will launch again, running off deep cycle 12V marine batteries.

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