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University of Minnesota Extension

Pastured poultry enterprise analysis

Key findings for communities

  • A University of Minnesota Extension study of two pastured poultry production systems found that, while both operated profitably, some input costs varied significantly.
  • Main Street Project (MSP) operators garnered $3.76 in operating revenue for each chicken sold (an average of $13.26 in gross sales per bird) where operating revenue was total sales minus variable expenses, such as chicks, feed, and processing.
  • In comparison, the University of Minnesota system was more profitable, averaging $25.07 in gross sales per chicken and retaining $13.48 after deducting all variable costs.

About this study

This report provides an objective financial comparison of the two production systems — one a free-range broiler system that used large paddocks and the other a pastured poultry system in which broilers were confined in moveable pens. The purpose of this report is to assist existing and prospective poultry growers with business planning and benchmarking.

Main Street Project (MSP) is a non-profit organization in Minnesota committed to developing a regenerative agricultural production system though demonstration farms and grower training. Main Street Project growers raised between 800 and 1,500 broilers per batch in stationary coops in large paddocks, while the University of Minnesota raised up to 300 broilers in nine transportable pens moved daily in pastures.

A higher profit for University of Minnesota operators was, in part, due to a higher sale price ($4.50/lb. for a U of M chicken vs. $3.19/lb. for a MSP chicken). The moveable pen system was also more profitable than MSP growers' free-range system, even when controlling for sale price differences. U of M operators, however, spent significantly more time per broiler to realize higher profit margins. Operating revenue per hour worked was very close when comparing the two systems—$22.63 for MSP and $20.87 for U of M, although U of M operators received higher net revenue per hour, since the cost of moveable pens was significantly less than MSP’s stationary structures.

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Author: Ryan Pesch, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2016

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