PROCESSING YOUR ANIMALS INTO MEAT

This letter was sent out last year to all our customers at that time. These questions keep recurring, so here it is, with the prices updated for 2019.

We get questions about how to order meat from us and how much it costs, and my answer is, "it all depends." In this email I'll clue you in to what it depends ON.

Birthing season is almost over in the barn! All the goat does have kids, and only one ewe has yet to lamb. She's heavy in the belly, or maybe just really fat. A couple years back, another ewe never went into labor and had to be c-sectioned when we observed her in distress, so I'm hoping that doesn't happen again (because that ewe didn't survive, although the lambs did, and it was draining emotionally). If no lambs appear soon, this ewe will make really juicy "sheepburger."

We don't sell any meat by the cut, which is covered by a whole different set of licenses, permits, regulations, inspections, and expenses. You must buy the whole animal from us.

LIVEWEIGHT

Our order form can be found here, just scroll down under the chickens (and piggy) and click on the download button. At the top of page 2 on the form, the bold letters state "all animals sold by the liveweight". Liveweight is the same as "on the hoof" and means just that--the animal is weighed on the scale in our barn live. If you plan to process your own animal (off our farm, not legal to do on our property), you will be here to pick it up and we will weigh your animal together. If we are taking it to the locker for you, let us know if you want to be present when we weigh, usually several days beforehand. Otherwise you have to trust us to be accurate and honest.

You see on the order form that the minimum price for a lamb is $125 and for a buck kid $100, no matter how small it is. Once a lamb is over 55.5 pounds or a kid is over 40 pounds, it will be over that minimum, based on the per-pound weight. 

Each ewe or doe on the farm needs to more than pay for her keep, which she does by raising twins. If she doesn't, she goes on the cull list. Culls are animals who don't measure up to our standards and will be sold. 

Now, say that a lamb weighs 100 pounds, which is pretty high for our medium-sized Katahdin breed of sheep, but it makes the math easier. This year's price is $2.25 per pound live, so the customer pays us $225 for that nice, big lamb. If the customer is doing his own processing, we make sure the animal gets safely loaded in his vehicle or goes outside of our gate, and that is all the expense the customer has. If we're taking it to the locker in Ivesdale, it goes in the back of our truck or on our trailer. We've learned the hard way to require payment from a new customer before taking his/her animal to the locker. The order form and website also clearly say that the locker's/processor's fee is not included in what you pay us for the animal.

HANGING WEIGHT

Once the animal is dispatched at the locker, the skin, head, entrails, hooves, and other parts considered inedible are removed, and the carcass is required by state regulations to hang for 24 hours to chill. The locker typically saves the liver for you, and will save the heart and kidneys of sheep and goats if you ask first and then remind them several times. My family and I think the locker throws away a lot of good stuff, such as minor organ meats, large bones that can be stewed for bone broth, and hooves that can be boiled for gelatin. If you want these, you'll need to watch YouTube videos and learn to do the job yourself! 

The meat is now at the "hanging weight" stage. A 100-pound lamb will have around 52 pounds "on the rail" weight; the rest goes in the offal cans for use in dog and cat food, or animal by-products.  Many farms charge by the hanging weight. However, since we had a meat inspector here at the farm tell us point-blank that the only legal way for a farm to sell a slaughter animal is by the liveweight, we'll keep to that practice. If you took the carcass home at this stage for a whole barbecue, it would have cost you $225/52 lbs = $4.33 per pound, plus what the locker charges.

BOXED WEIGHT

This is also known as "retail" or "take home" weight. Actually, the locker doesn't put it in a box for you, but sometimes they have extra boxes you can use! After sheep and goat carcasses hang for a couple days (NOT 10 days like a beef steer), they are furthered processed into retail cuts, which the customer ordered just as soon as she knew her animal was leaving the farm.

How much meat you get depends a lot on what you order. Boxed weight is commonly 60% of hanging weight, so your 100 lb. lamb is now down to 31 lbs.  and costing $225/31 = $7.26 per pound plus locker fees. Part of the shrinkage here is that the carcass loses moisture as it hangs. Part is also that if you order boneless, the bones will be cut out and thrown in the scrap bins. Since the locker charges on the "hot hanging weight," whether you order boneless or not won't change their income, but it will greatly lower the weight of what you receive. If the cutter is having a bad day, some of your meat may go in the scrap bin with your bones. I recommend always leaving bones in--give them to your dog after you're finished cooking if need be.

If you ask, the locker can cut any excess surface fat from your meat (grassfed animals probably won't have excess fat), also lowering your take-home weight. We never want the fat thrown away! It's useful in cooking and making soap.

CURRENT LOCKER FEES

The locker in Ivesdale is now called Arends' Meats and we're happy to have a good relationship with the new managers. They've decided to charge flat fees for sheep and goats this year after losing their shirts processing very small lambs/kids from another farm. If you want your animal whole and chilled only, perhaps for a barbecue, the charge is $80; if you want it cut up, wrapped, and frozen, it is $110.

SUBMIT YOUR RESERVATION NOW

Half of the lambs and half of the kids are already reserved! Many thanks to you early birds! Our first locker date is scheduled for June 26 for the largest lambs and kids. 

When we receive a deposit in the mail, we write the customer's name on our herd/flock list next to a specific animal and that one will be yours.  The deposit is subtracted from the final price of the animal. The order form, once again, is at our website.

There are no yearling ewes available. Two mutton ewes are available in July or later.

We are taking payment online at this time, but you can also mail the order form with a check, visit us with a credit card, or bring cash--those all work!

Customers are welcome to visit and physically choose their lamb from those still available, but it will take some time! All the animals must be herded into a small enclosure for inspection and to read their IDs. If you want to do this, wear mud boots and a warm coat, and be willing to get dirty! Customers who arrive at the farm wanting an animal that very day without a reservation are not guaranteed to get one. If you are not ready to leave a deposit, we cannot reserve an animal for you. Waiting until the lambs are bigger may mean finding they are all "spoken for."

Whew! This was a long message. Thanks to husband Les for website help! It’s is a bit less of a mystery each time.

Penny at Joy of Illinois Farm

 

 

NOW TAKING ORDERS FOR 2019!

It’s 2019, and we are off to a great new year on the farm!

We’re thrilled to announce:

  • Customers can now buy directly through our website.

  • We are rolling out a series of classes and events on the farm.

  • We will once again be selling at the Champaign Farmer’s Market.

  • Our very own designated back porch distribution point coming soon!

EASY ONLINE PAYMENT

To pay for your livestock, egg shares, milk shares, classes and events online, just click on on the Reserve Livestock/Products tab. You can also still print out the order form and mail it to us with a paper check, or have your bank send a check while you send an email with your order. And of course, you can always come out to the farm to place your order--give us a call first to make sure we'll be available--with cash, check, or plastic. We do have the Square to take cards for convenience, but be warned that it will add 3% to your purchase.

CLASSES AND EVENTS

Small farmer wannabees, come learn with us! We are now offering classes and mentoring opportunities that range from how to plan an organic vegetable garden to how to milk a dairy goat to all about eggs to how to identify wild plants and herbs that are edible and delicious!

Crafty folks can sign up for a class on feather crafts, how to make all-natural goat’s milk soap, and Christmas arts and crafts on the farm.

And last but not least, little children are invited to get to know the farm, starting in March with our Meet the Barn Babies event, and continuing through the summer season with events like our Barnyard Dance and Singalong!

Peruse class descriptions at your leisure, and reserve your spot here:

https://www.joyofillinois.com/registerforclassesandevents/

JOY OF ILLINOIS FARM AT THE MARKET

Watch for us at the Champaign Farmer’s Market starting in mid-May. We will be selling fresh herbs and vegetables from our farm garden, as well as baked goodies, and more.

BACK PORCH DROP-OFF & PICK-UP

Intern Sarah and I recently trailered home a large glass-door commercial fridge (on an icy, windy, cold day, brrr) and hope to have it in place and running by the time shares start in mid-March. This is part of our plan to set up a new designated back porch distribution point where you can step in and help yourself to your milk and egg shares, and see what other goods we’re offering. These will include vegetables and herbs in summertime, hand-crafted maple syrup produced by family in Wisconsin, and our own delicious honey (in season). We’re also thinking about offering hand-crafted goat’s milk soap. Let us know what you think!

P.S. For our established customers, this will be on the other back porch (on the north side).

Now taking orders for 2018!

Making this website is fulfilling my 2018 New Years' resolution! What was supposed to take 6 hours has now taken over 3 days, as I flounder around in the program morass until my faithful husband comes by to pull me out once again. Anyway, all the farm financial information for 2017 has been thoroughly digested, and based on that the order form is ready. It looks like the price of feed will rise only very slowly through this year, but it seems like everything else, like gasoline, is spiking

At this time customers can't buy through the website. You can print out the order form and send it with a paper check, or have your bank send a check while you send an email with your order. Or, you can come to the farm--always best to make sure first we'll be available--with cash, check, or plastic. I have the Square to take cards, but be warned that it will add 3% to your purchase.

Quantities of milk and eggs are limited, and once the lambs and goat kids are born in March, that's all we'll have. We fill CSA shares and reservations before selling to drop-in customers. Once we're sold out, we'll see if another farm in our network can supply your need.

The goat mamas-to-be are wider than they are tall, and excitement is in the air for the 2018 growing season!