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Last week we talked about the first focus food need in self-sufficiency. You can read that here if you missed it. This week I want to focus on the second primary food need, protein. Your body needs protein. Specifically, it needs the amino acids that make up the protein.
Yes, there are plant sources, like lentils and beans, but many times they are difficult or not reasonable to grow. If you’d prefer to keep a vegetarian diet that is perfectly fine, but make sure you can grow a protein source and enough of it.
No matter how much space you have, or how little, chickens are a good option for protein. Even if you live in town and are just beginning your journey, most towns allow some chickens (check with your city ordinance).
Chickens are good for many reasons. First, they provide eggs from about 5 months on. Some breeds will even lay year-round. Second, once they are done laying eggs, they provided their final protein in the form of meat. You can also use the bones to make chicken bone broth as well.
The third advantage to chickens is bug control. Even if you live in an area, you cannot free range the chickens, you can make movable pens so they can forage and still be protected. Fourth, they provide excellent fertilizer for your garden. Note, chicken poop is very rich in nitrogen and can burn plants if applied to heavy. Always apply in the fall so there is time for it to break down in the soil.
Other good protein sources, if you have a few acres are goats and sheep. Goats are excellent for milk too. With their milk you can drink it, or make soap and lotion out of it. Sheep provide wool in addition to meat. If you are the crafty type and want to learn wool spinning, carding, and knitting.
The most space consuming protein is beef. Depending on if you want to grass finish or grain finish your steer how much space you will need. Grass finished beef requires quite a bit of land and grass/hay. Grain finished, requires quite a bit less land/space.
Dairy is another area you can explore, dairy goats or cows. With dairy goats, make sure you like the taste of the milk, before you invest in raising one. It does taste quite a bit different than cows milk, which many of us are used to. Dairy cows are also an option. While they do need more space, one cow can feed an entire family, providing around 7 gallons of milk a day. Where as goats you would need 7 or 8 goats to get the same amount of milk.
Whatever protein source you decide on, make sure you are keeping track of expenses vs value of product produced or sold. As good as a protein source it is, if it is costing you more money than it is bringing it, it is not helping you become self-sufficient. I made a special place in my Homesteading Organizer just for tracking the critter expenses and income. You can check out the Organizer before you buy it here.