Have you ever wondered where your food comes from? Specifically, the meat you eat? Some people think nothing more than that it comes from the grocery store. Magically appearing before they arrive. There are other ways. Some of us know and a few of us want to teach others to know as well.
We are Chuck and Heather Vessey of Vessey Ranch. We have spent the last several years trying to learn the way things were done in the past. We want to share some of what we’ve learned.
100 years ago, grocery stores were a novelty and few if any carried meat. Most people still raised their own meat and others went to the butcher. From an early age our grandparents and great grandparents were taught to raise and care for the family cows, pigs, chickens or whatever else they had. They were also taught to butcher or process the animals when the time came.
If you were to ask kids these days, especially those living in the cities where their meat comes from before it gets to the store most probably couldn’t tell you.
Driving to the local grocery store to purchase our weeks’ worth of meat is just a part of life. That’s why so few people know anything about raising their own meat. We decided that we wanted to raise our own, so we know what’s in it and where it’s been. If you watch the news you regularly hear of recalls on meat. You also have to worry about the hormones and anti-biotics that are used in commercially raised animals. That stuff can’t be good for you.
We weren’t raised on the farm and didn’t experience raising our own animals for food growing up. I was a Navy brat and lived all over the place, mostly Alaska. Heather was raised in town. My last 2 years of high school however I lived on the farm with my grandparents.
Every year they would order 100 chicks. I would care for them until they were big enough and we would have the entire family down for a butcher party. I would hold the chickens before and after the removal of their cranium. Dunking and pulling feathers by hand was so much fun and I would spend a couple of hours stripping gizzards for grandma. When I left for college, I was so happy to not have to do that again.
Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and Heather and I decide in late 2019 that raising and selling meat chickens might be a good endeavor to start. In April of 2020 we prepared to process our first batch of birds. She had never done it before and my experience in the process was limited.
We researched and watched videos and I even watched a live demonstration at the Mother Earth News Fair in February of 2020. We went into the first batch hesitantly confident. We did have a friend come by and guide us with the first few. Thanks Jeremy from Ten Oaks Farm. He even loaned us their chicken plucker which is so much better than plucking by hand.
Well our first batch was small, only 11 birds and it took us about 4 hours to complete the process of processing. Thankfully, we improved greatly over the next few months. We also purchased our own plucker.
We had a good system going. I would take care of the dispatching, dunking and removal of feathers. Heather then would attend to the dis-assembly procedure. We then worked together to weigh, bag and seal each bird. Our last batch of 25 took us 2 hours. Much better.
Now we want to teach more people how to do it. We have had a few people over to watch and help because they were wanting to learn. We are going to take it up a notch and offer classes where we will teach and those wanting to learn can learn hands on and they even get to keep the bird they work on. Our first class was October 3rd. We want to get to the point where we can do classes more often.
In the future we will be looking to add more classes on other subjects that we have learned over the years. We have taught soap making and essential oils classes in the past. Some of the other topics we want to teach include microgreens, moringa, backyard construction of things like chicken coops, goat butchering and rainwater collection. Topics that a surprising number of people want to learn more about.
For those that want to know where their meat comes from, we want to offer a way to learn. For more information, like and follow Vessey Ranch on Facebook and check back regularly on here.