Folks often ask me "what's the difference in pastured poultry and free range?"
for the most part it depends on who is defining it! Grocery stores
would want you to believe that "free range" or "pastured" means the
birds are free to roam around outside and range for bugs and grass and
live the life every chicken dreams of.
But most of the time it means in the industrial setting, they have a minimum amount of access to the outside.
It might be dirt and completely devoid of bugs or grass but they met the requirements to advertise free range.
the small farmer it can mean different things as well. I've seen birds
turned out in the day and locked back into the coop at night.
know farmers who have a chicken "run" that lets the bird outside but
unless moved frequently to another area it quickly becomes not only
devoid of bugs and grass, but becomes a breeding ground for pathogens.
What do we do here at Spring Hill Farms with our pastured poultry?
We use movable, floor-less, pens. These pens are moved daily and depending on the age of the bird, could be moved twice a day.
also think that electrified poultry netting is a very good option as
well. Provided the birds are moved to fresh pasture as needed.
Why don't we let our birds roam around? The number one reason is predators.
the decline in hunting and trapping of fur bearing animals and
varmints, the farmer is over run with Raccoons, Fox, Coyotes, Weasels,
Mink, Opossum, and who knows what I forgot.
These are all dangers to your poultry flock.
work in co operation with nature and wildlife but there is no sense in
tempting animals to get a free, easy meal by leaving our pastured
poultry or laying hens completely exposed to danger.
Another reason we prefer movable pens and poultry netting is we can control the birds access to harmful pathogens.
that free range or roam about freely tend to roost in the same places
night after night. Farmers tend to feed them in the same place day after
Both of these practices can lead to a build up of pathogens in those feeding/sleeping areas.
Spring Hill Farms we strive to raise animals with the least amount of
inputs to keep them happy healthy and robust. Reducing harmful pathogen
loads is the first step in that journey.
This is done through
intensive management not medicating. On the surface it seems easier to
drop some chemical wormers or antibiotics into the animal and fore go
the moving pens everyday.
But it is actually easier to avoid health problems than try to fix them.
From the health standpoint for the consumer we believe it gives us a superior product in taste, texture and health.
Let's look at the idea of moving pens daily.
of all this automatically reduces pathogen loads by moving away from
yesterdays lounging area and providing new ground for the birds.
it provides fresh grass of our choosing not the birds. When birds free
range roam about you'll find they lounge in the same areas, (pathogen
problem) and range fairly close to the lounging area.
lazy by nature. They will not go long distances just because the grass
is better. And at some point if the area gets poor enough and large
enough, the birds will have played out the range they are used to and
need more grain and are really no different than a grocery store chicken
at that point.
We work hard to mimic nature when raising
livestock, wether it's chickens, pigs, or goats we think as natural as
possible is best.
The Freedom Rangers birds we use are aggressive
foragers by nature. Unlike the industry standard Cornish Cross or
Cornish X, which is lazy and fast growing by nature.
We have raised them in the past and found them to be undesirable in a system such as ours.
I actually blogged about the problems with Cornish Cross Chickens. You can read it here.
the video below to see these birds going after forage. They consume
forage like a heritage breed bird because they are derived from heritage
Aggressive foragers means more CLA's and Omega 3's in your poultry.
Watch the video here to see what Professor Crawford of Britain has to say after 30 years of studying the nutritional value of chicken.
is very concerned with the levels of Omega 3 fatty acids being almost
nonexistent in chicken. He even says it could cause mental illness to
skyrocket in the years ahead.
Here's an excerpt from Paris Reidhead's article:
CLAs & Omega-3s: Pasture Health Benefits Passed Transferred to People.
laboratory animals, a very small percentage of CLA—a mere 0.1 percent
of total calories—greatly reduced tumor growth. CLA may also reduce
cancer risk in humans. In a Finnish study, women who had the highest
levels of CLA in their diet, had a 60 percent lower risk of breast
cancer than those with the lowest levels. Similarly, French researchers
measured CLA levels in the breast tissues of 360 women. In fact, the
women with the most CLA had a staggering 74% lower risk of breast cancer
than the women with the least CLA.
Switching from grain-fed to
grass-fed meat and dairy products places women in this lowest risk
category. Researcher Tilak Dhiman, PhD., from Utah State University
estimates that persons may be able to lower their risk of cancer simply
by eating the following grass-fed products each day: one glass of whole
milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat. One must consume
five times that amount of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the
same level of protection.
are polyunsaturated fatty acids found in leafy green vegetables,
vegetable oils, and fish such as salmon and mackerel. Omega-3s reduce
serum cholesterol levels and are anticoagulants. Grazing livestock also
yield abundant omega-3s in their meat and dairy products, almost as much
as the oils from the above-cited fish. (Such claims cannot be made for
has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an
adequate supply of Omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty percent of U.S. citizens
have blood levels so low in Omega-3s as to be undetectable. Switching to
the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals is one way to
restore this vital nutrient to their diet.
It is increasingly
evident that eating pasture-based animal products greatly benefits human
health. This fact spotlights the need for producers to stress elements
of animal husbandry, specifically pasture management, which maximize the
intake, by grazing animals, of CLAs, Omega-3s, and natural vitamins.
More and more, informed consumers expect and demand these health
elements in their animal products. Dairy and livestock people who meet
those demands should be rewarded accordingly......
If you're in central Ohio and looking for grass-fed meats give us a call or email, we'd be glad to help you out.
Watch our Freedom Rangers Here
Posted by David
@ 11:48 AM EDT