Thursday, February 4, 2010

Our Chickens are Poultry in Motion

As you may remember from a previous blog, I wrote about our Ladies, the laying hens. Today I'm going to turn the tables a bit and talk turkey (and chickens) literally. After a break for the 2009 season, Hand in Hand Community Farm will be once again proudly offering pastured poultry shares.

Your Humble Farmer, Brian, has over 5 years experience raising on pasture, the best tasting, hormone, and antibiotic free broiler chickens and turkeys. High-end chefs in area restaurants demand antibiotic/hormone free pastured broiler chickens due to their exceptional taste; many are willing to pay well over market price. For those who are unfamiliar with pastured poultry, here are some facts and differences between commercial and pastured poultry:

*The meat is clean. Commercial poultry is washed with heavily chlorinated water which leaves a residue on the meat. This is why Russia and the European Union have banned importing poultry products from U.S. processors.

*Pastured poultry are raised in bottomless cages on grass where they peck and scratch at the ground and hunt for bugs and seeds along with their grain. Their manure is spread over wide areas of pasture as they are moved. This is better for the birds and the soil.

*Balancing the essential fats in your diet is easy with pastured poultry because it has more Omega-3's than commercial chicken meat (green vegetation is rich in Omega-3's - 30% of the chickens diet is from the grasses they are raised on.)

*Pastured poultry meat has more vitamins E, C and Beta-Carotene.

*Pastured poultry is Arsenic free. Commercial poultry are fed trace amounts of arsenic in their feed. This is a poison that stimulates their appetites. Traces of Arsenic can be found in commercial meat.

Our chickens are raised on open pasture where they are free to roam a large area (fenced to reduce predation). They get plenty of exercise, fresh air, clean water, and their pen is periodically moved so they are not bedding down in their own fecal matter. The added by-product, and benefit to the soil, is their waste - FREE Organic Fertilizer!

Our chickens are processed on farm in a safe, sanitary environment (they are humanely processed - Your Humble Farmer prays over the birds before processing, thanking them for their lives.) Our chickens are renowned for their large breasts and meaty thighs (the chicken breed is: Cornish-X.)

Our chickens are sold in a similar fashion as our CSA vegetables are - we offer Full Shares, picked up monthly (dates to be determined but are scheduled for 5 months: June, July, August, September, and October.) Each Full share consists of 4 whole broiler chickens each month, for 5 months (20 total) ranging in weight from 3 to 5 pounds. We do not weigh the birds at pick up, experience has shown that the birds weigh, on average, 4 pounds.

Day One - Chicks
We receive our Day Old Chicks from a local hatchery that is licensed by state and federal agencies. Unlike commercial hatcheries who de-beak (burn the tip of the beaks upon hatching to prevent pecking - commercial birds, raised in large indoor pens, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands, become hostile and would peck each other to death) our hatchery does not de-beak the chicks.

Week One - Chicks
For the first 14 days, our chicks are kept in a brooder under strict controlled temperatures, slowly reducing the heat to acclimate them to their environment. They are raised in fresh pine shavings that are added layer upon layer with each subsequent batch - the lower layers actually contain 'good' micro-organisms and at the end of the season, the shavings are composted.

Week Three - First Day out of Brooder
Week Three and our 'chicks' are fully feathered. The first day the brooder door is opened, it's interesting to see them peak out the door taking those first tentative steps. They spend one week in this controlled outdoor chicken run as they get their 'chicken legs'. The end of week three they are moved out to pasture where they become broilers.

Week Six - On Pasture
Two weeks on pasture and the chickens are at home in the grass. The hot days of summer often find them in the shade of the movable pen. The chickens are still growing (evidenced by frequent leg stretching); they will pack on more muscle in these last few weeks. Antibiotic and Hormone Free, these birds live as natural a life as we can provide them. There is simply no comparison to the superb quality of these birds!

I hope that you've enjoyed learning more about the pastured poultry that we have on our farm. If you're interested in learning more, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

The Farmer Babe

No comments:

Post a Comment