This past Saturday we finished butchering the last of the meat birds. These were the Freedom Rangers that were not quite big enough the first go round. Most of the bird's (dressed weight) were around 3 pounds with a few hitting 4. We decided to do most of these whole, which is not the norm around here, but being that we had freezer space and these birds were not huge, it seemed like a good thing to do. Yesterday we again smoked one to see if there was any difference between these and the broilers. None, Nada. No difference in flavor or texture at all.
So here is my take on the experiment.
The broilers cost 1.10 each and the freedom rangers 2.04. A pretty significant difference except for the fact that I lost no rangers and 7 broilers. (even after all the stress of their first night!!)
Of the broilers lost, 2 died the first night, one at about 4 weeks and the rest just disappeared, we think lost to hawks due to their high visibility. The rangers were barely detectable in the high grasses in the orchard and they were penned together.
The broilers did grow out a full 2 weeks quicker. At first I thought that was a good thing, but the final two weeks the rangers only ate about 75 pounds of feed where the broilers, towards the end, were consuming almost 50 pounds a day! The rangers were just as content to go and look for things to eat as sit in front of a trough waiting for it to be refilled, which is what the broilers do.
As far as body shape goes, the broilers do have a more uniform round body, plumper legs and heavier breasts, where as the rangers have longer legs and are a bit more narrow through the breast. I had hoped that the rangers would have a "grainier" texture, like that of a wild turkey, but they did not.
Our final take: we most likely will raise the freedom rangers next year. Two weeks ago I would have said broiler, but after seeing how these birds grew on so much less feed, even though they cost more in the beginning and take a bit longer to grow out, in the long run I feel they are hardier and cheaper to raise.
A word of warning though~ lock the little buggers up the night before because once they realize what is up on butchering day, the chase is on!! It took three times the amount of time to catch them.