All of our broilers were processed on Monday – an exhausting and rewarding day. We still have about 15 whole chickens left this year and I wanted to talk a little bit about how we raise animals here at Tangled Roots Farm.
Poultry can be especially confusing to shop for when you start reading labels: natural, free range, pastured, organic, etc. The best (and possibly only) way to know exactly where your chicken came from and how it was raised is to ask the farmer. Here’s what we do and why we do it:
With the exception of the first week under a heat lamp, our Freedom Ranger chickens live their entire lives outdoors. They are kept in an electric fence to deter predators such as foxes and raccoons, and have a large, portable roof to protect them from the sun, rain, and aerial predators such as hawks and owls. Their roof also collects rainwater for them to drink. The shelter is moved daily and the fenced pen is moved every two days, following the goats across the pasture. As much as our chickens love the grasses, bugs, seeds, and berries they find for themselves, chickens would have a tough time (and certainly not grow very quickly!) on forage alone. They need grain, and here’s where the organic part comes in. Organic grain generally costs twice as much as conventional grain and it can be really challenging to raise poultry organically and balance an already fragile small farm budget. Because of this expense, many small farms and operations raise pastured (or free range) poultry on conventional grain. The reason that we are committed to feeding our animals organically is simple: we do not want GMO crops, chemical fertilizers and pesticides used on our land or our food. By feeding our chickens conventionally (and they can eat a lot of grain!), we would be essentially eating this conventional grain ourselves and supporting agricultural practices that we do not believe in. Beyond their organic diet, our chickens are kept healthy and vigorous using natural methods such as apple cider vinegar and homeopathic remedies – the same way we treat ourselves. They are processed on-farm thereby minimizing stress on the animals and keeping us, the farmers, connected to the food we raise.
Our commitment to organic, sustainable agriculture dictates our practices and we feel that the extra few dollars spent on organic poultry is an investment in a healthier body, farm, and ecosystem.