Our chickens are grown for the most part out on our pasture. When they arrive at the farm they are one day old and live the first few weeks indoors where we can keep them warm. Once they have grown a full set of feathers we put them out on pasture in movable pens, sometimes called chicken tractors. We are using the pen design developed by Joel Salatin. You can check out his pens and how they work in this Youtube video. Out on pasture, our chickens will be able to get fresh air, sunshine, and fresh protein in the form of insects and other creepy crawlies. We move the chickens to fresh pasture every morning.
The grain that we feed our chickens is free of Genetically Modified Organisms(GMOs). Most feeds that are not Certified Organic are now adulterated with genetically modified corn and soybeans. Genetically modified crops fall into two major categories:
- They are modified to be resistant to herbicide. These crops encourage the use of chemical herbicides to knock down all living plants except that crop since it has a resistance to the herbicide. or
- They are modified to be resistant to an insect pest. These crops are touted as beneficial because they reduce the use of chemical insecticides. The problem is that the crop itself has become a pesticide! If you look at the seed bags of these crops they have an EPA pesticide registration just like you would see on the side of a can of Black Flag Wasp Killer.
Since this type of agriculture is on the leading edge of careless exploitation we do not support it and will not feed our animals these kinds of grains.
We grow two different breeds of chickens.
First, the Cornish X is the classic hybrid meat bird that comes to mind most often when thinking about chickens. These critters have white feathers and grow quickly. They have large broad breasts and smaller wings and legs. These are the type of birds you find in the meat section of your grocery store.
Our second breed we grow is named Freedom Ranger. These birds will have longer, narrower bodies than what most people are familiar with. Their wings and legs will have more meat and their breast will have less meat than the Cornish X.
The meat from both of these birds will be more nutrient dense and you will actually get more meat per pound than a factory raised bird.
Our chickens are processed at our farm on a small-scale, clean processing set up. Processing on-farm allows us to keep our chickens from day one to the day they are ready to go into freezer in the same location. This means no transportation (i.e. stress) the day before they are processed. This keeps our birds calm right up to and through the time of processing. The resulting meat is of much higher quality because the birds have not pumped a bunch of stress hormones throughout their body.
We sell our birds for significantly higher prices than what you would pay for the same sized bird at your local supermarket. The primary reasons for the higher price are as follows:
1. We are feeding our chickens non-GMO grain. We have located a local growers cooperative that produces organic and transitional (farms in the process of being certified organic) feed. This feed costs significantly more than the GMO-adulterated feeds that grocery store chickens are fed. Conventionally grown corn is also heavily subsidized by government funds. This creates an artificially cheap ingredient (we are paying for at the IRS instead of at the register) in feeds made for supermarket chickens. To keep from going too far down this rabbit trail here, I recommend you check out the documentary King Corn to further explore the cost of cheap corn and its impact on our food in the U.S.
2. We are also factoring in the cost of our labor at a level that will support our family’s needs. Grocery store chicken’s low price is subsidized by very low-income labor in factory settings. Most of the time the laborers at the chicken factories are not able to support their families with that income, so another income or government subsidies are used to supplement the chicken factory income. The goal of our farm is to operate it in a way that covers the cost of our family’s needs without supplemental income from the government or an off-farm job.
3. Mechanization of the major poultry processing operations has created a great reduction in production costs. These plants will process millions of birds per week. This level of mechanization requires that the birds must be uniform in size and shape. Thus the birds must be grown according to strict protocols. This includes living indoors, without sunlight, in high density populations. These indoor conditions create a dusty haze that is comprised of mostly fecal dust. This dust contaminates the feed and water that the birds consume. Thus the environment factory birds live in breeds sickness. The only way to keep from having massive die offs is to regularly feed the birds antibiotics. These birds are not healthy, if they were not pumped full of meds they would not survive. In addition to the growing conditions, the processing of so many birds in a factory setting creates huge opportunities for microbial contamination. To mitigate the effects of contamination the meat is treated with harsh chemical rinses before it is packaged and sent to the supermarket. Another recommended documentary is Food, Inc. It explores how the industrialized food system has created low-priced food through cheap labor and factory processing and what the outcomes are of such a system.
So, essentially the chickens we grow and the chickens found at the supermarket are two products that happen to look alike but are fundamentally quite different. If you are hesitant to pay so much for chicken, we encourage you to try a couple birds this year to experience the difference in taste and quality. We are sure you will notice the difference and might even be persuaded to set aside a few extra dollars for some more next year :-). If you would like to order some birds please click on the link below and print off the order form and send it in to us.