2018 0303 How To Buy Real Pastured Poultry

March 3, 2018

Farm Update –

Spring has arrived at Nature's Gourmet Farm. Energy from the sun has really perked up our pastures and is providing nice green forages for our cows, pigs, and hens. Folks are starting to get out more! Farm sales this week have been brisk. Last week we planted Spring Peas and clovers into our bahia grass pastures and have ordered more seeds for our annual summer pastures. 

Wednesday is our regularly scheduled delivery day. So, if you have not got your order in you have until Midnight Monday, March 5th to be included.

Since the season for raising (buying) pastured broilers is here I wanted to share buying tips from the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association:

How to Buy Real Pastured Poultry

Do the birds live outside on pasture? 

Expectation: You're looking for an answer that demonstrates the flock is raised outside on pasture for a significant portion of it's life. The farmer will have a movable pasture shelter that provides protection from weather and predators. 

Beware: Pastured poultry is seasonal, so if you live in a cold weather climate, be wary of buying fresh poultry meat at market in the cold months. This could indicated non-local or non-pastured product. 

Where were the birds raised?

Expectation: Pastured poultry excels in community development by keeping food dollars in your "neighborhood" where it circulates through the local economy more so than purchasing products that need to be shipped in. 

Beware: While the definition of "local" can be subjective, be cautious of supporting "local" product that originates beyond a few hours drive. 

Understand: Are you talking to the farmer or a trusted associate of the farmer? Dealing with the farmer directly fosters a transparent relationship. However, some local farms form cooperative arrangements and sell complementary products. An example would be a vegetable farm selling a neighbor's turkeys and vice versa. This is a good thing and each farmer should be transparent and knowledgeable. 

How often do you move your birds?

Expect: First and foremost you're looking for the farmer to acknowledge moving the birds in a planned way. Meat birds are often moved daily.

Beware: A selling price that is significantly below the typical pastured poultry price for your community is a signal that the poultry may not be pasture-raised. Watch out for "pastured poultry" claims from farms that do not rotate their birds through the pasture; the taste, the nutrition, animal welfare, and environmental benefits of pastured poultry require intentional flock movement. 

Understand: Regardless of species, the constant movement brings the pastured poultry model to life. It enables the farmer to raise healthy birds without antibiotics; it increases the amount of green forage and small animal proteins the birds consume, which contributes to the health, taste, and nutrition of the final product. Movement improves the soil health and prevents denuded and diseased pastures often visible from continuous grazing. Pastured poultry is regenerative poultry.

Can I See Pictures?

Expect: You want to see birds on pasture in movable houses with vegetated pastures. If viewing pictures of the pasture rotation, expect to see evidence of grazing impact; however, the pasture should still be covered in vegetation.

Beware: Dirt, while sometimes present, is not synonymous with pastured poultry. Avoid dirt lot poultry.

Understand: Pastured poultry farmers love to show off their birds on pasture. Housing models incorporate varying degrees of function, style, and pragmatism. 

What type of feed do you use?

Expect: Chickens are not vegetarians. They are omnivores, and they require feed in addition to the supplemental forage of greens, insects, and small animals found in the grass. You want to ensure the chickens are eating a nutritionally balanced ration, which in turn contributes to the health of the poultry and helps ensure a pleasant eating experience. 

Beware: Use caution when buying from a farmer who claims the chickens forage for 100% of their diet from pasture. You will likely be disappointed with the quality of the meat, and the bird was not raised in a humane way. It is difficult for even a very small flock of birds to adequately forage for all food.  If a farmer claims not to use any prepared feed ingredients (corn, soy, wheat, oats, etc), you need to find out what else the farm is using for feed.

Understand: Common feed ingredients include corn, soybean, fishmeal, alfalfa, wheat; An overwhelming majority of pastured poultry farmers feed a certified organic ration or a non-gmo (not certified organic) ration.  Understand that if you seek chickens with specialty diets, those birds have a  higher cost to produce than the typical corn and soy feed rations

At Nature's Gourmet Farm our broilers are started in the brooder (see picture above) until they grow their feathers. Then we move them to pasture inside our chicken tractor that we move each morning. In addition to fresh grass, insects, etc. they are supplemented with NON-GMO Project Verified feed designed for their life stage. Plenty of fresh water is provided from our on-farm deep well. Additional pictures are available on our website. Check out why folks tell us we have "really good chicken". Thank you!

Customer Feedback- 

Thanks for making everyday a "Good Eats" day at the Tipton House. I really appreciate all you do to produce healthy & happy animals. J Tipton

Quote Worth Re-Quoting –  "You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit." --Joel Salatin

As always, thank you for supporting our regenerative, local farm.

Ben & Beth

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