May 23, 2009

why we do things the way we do. . .

Some of you might be wondering how things work around here or why we do things the way we do. I thought I should fill you in a bit. Be prepared.... some of this info is not for the faint of heart.
Free-range eggs
Our hens spend their days happily roaming around foraging for bugs and grass in the fresh air and sunshine. We supplement their diet with a custom ground blend of local grains and minerals. No hormones, antibiotics, medications or anything unnatural. At night, they head into their 'Eggmobile' and we close the doors keeping them safe from predators. Because of their grass consumption, the eggs are super yummy, the yolks are bright orange, the whites aren't runny, they're high in Omega-3's and they are very low in cholesterol. In fact these eggs are rich in CLA, an essential fatty acid, which can help lower your cholesterol.
Unfortunately, the conventional method for raising laying hens is in confinement. Sometimes eight hens to a cage, their poop covered eggs drop onto a conveyor belt. Sunshine and fresh air are but a mere dream for these ladies. The conditions are so unhealthy that there are often sick or dead hens in the cages. They HAVE to administer vaccines and antibiotics just to keep them alive. Ironically, the white leghorn, the standard for conventional confinement operations, are the most active and are the best foragers. They de-beak the hens because they often resort to cannibalistic behavior when forced to live in such confined conditions.
Right now, we have 89 hens and most of them lay an egg a day. We have another 105 little hens who will start laying in about 4 months.
The Eggmobile
The Eggmobile and some very happy hens
These are the meat birds. This breed is conventionally raised by the thousands in horrible warehouse conditions never allowed to see daylight. Same conditions warrant the same need for drugs. The goal is to grow a chicken as fast as possible. Lights are kept on 24 hours a day so they eat all the time. Believe it or not, they even put arsenic in their feed to encourage them to eat more. And yes, that arsenic is passed along to the eater, of course.
Poultry are very susceptible to stress and it’s affects can be devastating. We’ve often heard people rave about the difference in the taste and texture of our chicken. We believe it is due to the lack of stress in their lives.
We do all of our own butchering here on the farm. In conventional operations, butchering is done mechanically, often causing the intestines to break in the process contaminating the chicken. These chickens sit in a chill tank with all of that feces. The chickens then go through up to 40 chlorine baths to get them clean before they are injected with dyes and flavorings, bagged and ready for your consumption. This is why we decided that we want to see these birds all the way through to their end. We can’t guarantee our product otherwise.
We choose to raise our meat birds outside on pasture. It’s harder work for us but the result is a healthier bird with no need for any drugs. We also feed them a custom ground mix of local grains and minerals.
This is how the baby chicks arrive. They are shipped Priority mail and the post office calls us in the morning to let us know they’re in and we go pick them up.
We count each one as we unload them. They stay inside the brooder for the first few weeks where they have heat lamps to keep them warm and cozy.
After 3 or 4 weeks, once they’ve grown feathers, they get to move outside into our field shelters. These shelters are bottomless and offer them the best of both worlds. They can forage grass and bugs while staying safe from predators and weather. This breed is not quite as smart and self sufficient as our layers so they need a little extra care. We move the pens by hand twice a day to a fresh patch of grass. Their manure is an excellent fertilizer and the grass grows back unbelievably lush and green.
Field shelters
Field shelters
Our turkeys are raised the same way as the broilers except that they eat so much more grass, we often move them several times a day. We love raising turkeys. They’re lots of fun.
Kristen moving the turkey pen last year.
Kristen moving the turkey pen last year.
Our lambs are raised organically and are 100% grass-fed. Sheep are ruminants and like cows and goats, are meant to eat grass. Feeding grain puts such a strain on their systems that again, health problems arise and drugs are needed. As a result of the extensive use of antibiotics in animals, people are becoming immune to their effects are are now needing new stronger ones. There is, of course, more than one school of thought on this which is why some farmers feed grain. More info to come on grass-fed meats…
Doing things this way only makes sense to us.
Some resource links:
Grass-Fed basics at
Home-grown vs. Agri-industrial chickens

No comments:

Post a Comment