[Edit: Never mind. This batch was a bunch of “Fast Cornish” broilers, which isn’t what we ordered. The real “Slow Cornish” have been far too slow-growing for us, and we have reverted to the faster-growing birds.
Lesson learned: if you tell the hatchery that it’s okay for them to make substitutions, always look at the shipping invoice to see what they actually sent you!
The rest of this article reflects my thinking at the time, when I still thought we had Slow Cornish broilers.]
The current batch of Privett Hatchery “Slow Cornish” broilers is turning out very well, dressing out at an average of over three pounds at eight weeks, in spite of a bout of coccidiosis at three weeks of age.
We put them on medicated chick starter temporarily, two sacks’ worth, and they started getting better right away. They were already quite a bit perkier 24 hours after switching feed, and now they are a very fine batch of broilers indeed.
People on various discussion groups talk about the need to develop a new strain of broilers for pastured use, but they need to keep in mind the old comic-book maxim: “Never compose what you can copy; never copy what you can trace; never trace what you can cut out and paste down.” There’s no point creating a new type of livestock until you’re sure that there isn’t an old one lying around that does the job. Breed creation takes years, costs real money, and usually doesn’t work.
The odd thing about the Privett Slow Cornish is that we think there might be two kinds. The last six weeks or so, we’ve had smaller birds that look less like a standard broiler, and this latest batch is bigger and looks more like a standard broiler. We will investigate.
Growth rate is very important to us, even though many customers prefer small broilers, because we sell by the pound. A four-pound bird pays the bills a lot better than a two-pound bird does. The labor in raising and butchering the broilers is about the same, regardless of size, and (as you’d expect with small-scale nice products) labor is more expensive then feed or any other single cost. So our profits are based on pounds of meat per hour of labor. High growth rates are money in the bank.
The option of selling older broilers doesn’t pan out, not so much that it takes more labor and feed to grow a 12-week broiler than an 8-week broiler, but because customers complain about toughness after 10 weeks. When people say that the American consumer prefers tenderness to flavor, they aren’t kidding. Toughness is a deal-killer.
So we’re happy that the broilers are staring to fall into the right ballpark. Normally we do standard, fast-growing broilers, but there’s so much interest on the Web in slow-growing broilers that we’re making the experiment, partly for something to talk about.