Pasture Raised Chickens
Our Pasture Raised Chicken
“Pasture Raised” is really just a term that describes how and where chickens are raised. As the term suggests…. “pasture raised” means just that, chickens are raised on open pastures, rather than in a cage or within the confines of poultry barn.
Our method of raising pastured chicken involves using portable “hoop houses”. These open-air structures are mobile, providing us with the ability to move the chickens daily to fresh sections of our pastures. These mobile units also provide shelter that protects them from the weather, as well as providing protection from predators.
Pasture raised chickens benefit from having access to fresh grass, fresh air, the ability roam around freely, and hunt, peck and scratch up whatever they desire. This arrangement helps to provide happier, healthier birds that enjoy a stress-free life.
Raising Chickens- a look back
If you look back to the early days of the family farm, chickens were actually raised for their eggs, and not for their meat. A typical small farm supplemented their income from the sale of eggs generated by small flocks of chickens.
Chickens were for the most part, left to their own means and “free-ranged” around the yard, with sometimes having access to the barn or a small chicken coop where the eggs could be collected.
Chickens ate what they found around the farm yard, and were sometimes tossed a bit of grain or kitchen scraps to enhance their diet.
It was a “rare event” like a family holiday, that brought a chicken to the dinner table as the main entre. Chickens were simply too valuable as “egg producers” to be considered a regular food staple.
This all changed during the 1920’s and 1930’s when the concept of housing several hundred chickens under one common roof was introduced. It was during this period when the commercial “broiler” industry was born, bringing modern mass production techniques into play.
Over time, the public’s increasing demand for chicken as a dinner staple was met with introducing larger and larger “chicken houses” that now housed thousands and thousands of birds. Efficiency demanded that chickens be raised shoulder to shoulder inside these crowded barns with no access to natural feed, or fresh air and sunshine.
But, all of this “modern industrialization” came with a price.
With so many chickens being mass produced in such tight living spaces, issues started to develop which were offset by the introduction of anti-biotics, vaccinations, and medications.
“All natural” feed was replaced by an “all grain” diet that was more efficient and fattened up the birds more quickly. Chickens lost their ability to build muscle by their lack of ability to walk about freely and exercise their legs and thighs.
Not much has changed in the way 90% of the chickens we consume today, are raised. The “chicken houses” and complexes have grown increasingly larger, now housing as many as 40,000 birds under one roof.
But what HAS changed, is the modern marketing and labeling techniques that have been introduced to confuse the unwary consumer.
Packaging labels touting now familiar terms like “Farm Fresh”, “Organic”, “Grass Fed”, “Free Range”, “Cage Free”, “Humanely Raised”, “Non-GMO”, Hormone Free”, “Free of Antibiotics ”, have become the new norm .
Today’s consumers are left to try to wade through all this confusing labeling and then try to make the best decisions for their family, as they peruse their local grocery store coolers.
The USDA has not been of much help in this area, allowing “liberal” interpretations of many of their labeling requirements. As an example, labeling chicken as “Free Range” or “Free Roaming” only requires that the poultry has been allowed some kind of access to the “outside”.
Large producers have been known to poke a hole in the side of the building and build a tiny “porch” that a chicken can stand on, in order to meet the USDA labeling requirements of “Free Range”.
As a contrast, at Yankee Chicken, we have hearkened back to the day of raising relatively small flocks of birds in the most natural setting possible. We provide our pasture raised chickens with fresh air, sunshine, natural food choices, protection from the elements and an overall stress-free existence in the time they spend with us.
So when we place a label on our chicken that says “Pasture Raised” you can be assured that’s EXACTLY what we mean!