We raise slow-growing, pasture-raised chicken. There are many terms and buzzwords that get thrown around the supermarket in attempt to appeal to the demographic of food-eaters that value healthy, local and nourishing food. After a certain point, it is hard to distinguish what these terms mean when they are used liberally by the industrial food industry. When we talk about "pasture-raised" chickens we are referring to continuous flock movement, mimicking how birds in the wild interact with their environment. By moving the chickens to new pasture every day and encouraging them to forage amongst the diverse polyculture of plants and insects, the result is a fundamentally different chicken. This chicken is firm and savory with deep, rich flavor produced by the culmination of a diverse diet and healthy lifestyle.
Chickens are omnivores and because ours live outdoors on fresh pasture, much of their diet comes from living plants as well as insects with the occasional field mouse or shrew. Animal protein is a really important component to a healthy chicken’s diet. Without it chickens can develop a deficiency in the amino acid methionine and as a result start to peck each other. Most large poultry farms, certified organic included, debeak the birds to prevent pecking. This practice is inhumane and completely preventable. In addition to what our chickens harvest on their own from the pasture, we feed a balanced ration of barley, corn, oats, and linseed meal to promote high omega-3s.
Choosing chicken breeds that are slow-growing is an important part of producing chicken with extraordinary flavor. A chicken that has taken longer to grow will have more complex proteins, antioxidants, and vitamins than the 5 week old turbo-charged chickens common throughout nearly every grocery store in the United States. The slow-growing breed we have chosen is called the Freedom Ranger. They were initially bred out of protest of the fast-growing, industrialized breed of chicken, the Cornish Cross. They come from Northern France as part of the Label Rouge movement, which is similar to the USDA Organic Standards, but has much more stringent regulations on animal welfare with a focus on small, diversified farms. In addition to their superior flavor, Freedom Rangers are equipped to thrive in the outdoors and transform grasses, bugs, and grain into highly nutritious food.
EGG LAYING CHICKENS
We raise a breed of egg laying chicken called the Black Australorp. They came from a breeder in North Carolina who is a member of the Sustainable Poultry Network that works to preserve the integrity of heritage, standard bred chickens.
The Black Australorp has been bred to thrive in the outdoors and to forage for plants and insects vigorously. They also make use of spilled grain and other feed sources around the farm that miss the pig trough, recycling them into eggs. They play a major role in keeping our pigs healthy. We give them access to wherever the pigs are so that they can scratch around the pig's dung and pick out insects that can become pests to the pigs. Because the birds are continuously moved to new ground via a mobile coop on wheels, they have constant access to fresh forages. These fresh plants, contact with dirt and insects make their eggs much more flavorful and make their brilliant deep yellow yolks unmistakable.
Because we hatch our own eggs at the farm, we raise the Black Australorp cockerels (young male chickens) as broilers. They are butchered at around 18 weeks of age, which is about 6 weeks after we butcher our meat-type chickens. The breed and the slower growth give the meat more flavor and character, but it will be tougher. We recommend our heritage cockerels for stewing and roasting.
Olivia moving the Freedom Ranger chickens to new pasture.
Jackie, livestock guardian dog and Hayden