After raising free range birds for some 40 years I too can confirm what
Robert has said, that cost of production is low because our housing costs
are low. A new commercial layer facility today costs over $250,000 compared
to a backyard free range portable house that costs maybe $200. My neighbor
has two commercial barns that cost nearly $600,000. His net income for 1998
was $18,000. My small-scale flocks cost about $15,000, and my net income for
1998 from poultry was $15,000.
We need a new paradigm if we are to design and build farms that our children
will want to own. I have young friends whose parents own commercial poultry
barns, and all these young people are scrambling to get jobs off the farm,
or get out of town. They do not want the debt, and the worry and the
inferior lifestyle offered by commercial poultry production. However, if we
show them free range projects like mine, and Robert's, and hundred even
thousands more, across the country, then perhaps young people will want to
stay on the farm and work to make a go of it.
A $1 per dozen profit IS realistic, and what's more, it is NECESSARY, if we
are to keep our farms profitable, for this generation and the next. Jim, you
might be correct in saying that performance will suffer. Perhaps we can't
produce as many eggs per hen as the commercial people can. But, why would we
want to? The commercial paradigm burns out the hens, burns out the farmer,
and gives the consumer a pale, soft and watery egg that has no flavor and
probably very little nutritional value.
Consumers will pay $2 per dozen, and more. My wholesale price to retail
stores is $2, and they mark them up to $2.39 to $2.69 and sell out every
week. Here at my farm we get $2 per dozen unsorted, and every year we get
more and more customers. No, it's not because a bunch of yuppies have some
discretionary income that they spend foolishly. It's because families like
yours and mine are demanding better tasting, nutritious, clean food, and
willing to put their money where their mouth is.
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