Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Most Pork is Contaminated With Pathogens

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Health information floating around on the internet and every other form of media can boggle your mind at times.

Heck you can have a conversation with a friend at the water cooler and end up wondering if we're all going to die of some horrid disease from eating wrong. It's all around us - This is bad for you, this is good for you. Eat this, don't eat that.

If you've ever looked at indoor air quality you can be afraid to take a breath inside your own home.  How do can you know what 's the truth?

Unfortunately I don't have a definitive answer for that!

What I can tell you is the rule I live by:

Have the sense of an old cow - Eat the hay and spit out the sticks.

Dr Mercola posted a blog today titled: Why I Do Not Recommend Eating Pork.

Those of you who follow my blog know I'm a big proponent of Dr Mercola. I still am.

However on this particular point,  I don't agree with some of his views or conclusions, particularly about pastured pork.

He has softened his stance some over time. At one time he did not recommend eating pork of any kind.

He now states in his most recent post: "Pork is an arguably "healthy" meat from a biochemical perspective, and if consumed from a humanely raised pastured hog like those on Joel Salatins' farm and prepared properly, there is likely minimal risk of infection. However, virtually all of the pork you're likely to consume do not fit these criteria."

However in the side bar of this post, he has the following: "If you choose to eat pork, I recommend seeking a naturally raised, pastured source, although this is no guarantee of safety. Pastured pigs are vulnerable to Trichinella spiralis infection—aka “pork worm”—due to their exposure to wild hosts. Trichinella is one of the most widespread parasites in the world, and can cause potentially serious health complications."

Perhaps Trichinella spiralis is one of the most widespread parasites in the world but according to the CDC:

Over the past 40 years, few cases of trichinellosis have been reported in the United States, and the risk of trichinellosis from commercially raised and properly prepared pork is very low. However, eating undercooked wild game, particularly bear meat, puts one at risk for acquiring this disease. [More here]


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Cases Reported to the CDC
This is one of the favorite arguments  big-ag uses to make us think animals raised outside the way nature intended is actually risky to our health.

We must keep animals inside in an environmentally controlled  setting lest they get contaminated and harm us...Rubbish.


If we mimic nature, feed a proper diet, and let the animals have sufficient room, they will be healthier themselves and impart that health to us when consumed.

A historical research into trichinellosis in swine shows us that it was linked to feeding pigs swill or garbage. This practice today is banned in many states. Most that allow it require a license to feed it to pigs.

I've blogged about alternative feeds before and I personally would not eat pork that has lived on garbage.

Overall I think Dr Mercola did a good job of showing that pastured pork done right is your only option for pork. But when it comes to trumping up the dangers of trichinellosis in hogs that roam outside...this old cow is spitting out that stick.

Until next time...


 

 

 

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How is Your Chicken Raised?

 

When I first started raising pastured poultry I used the standard Cornish Cross birds that are used in commercial operations. I explain why I stopped raising them here.

Many pastured poultry farmers use these birds because they are convinced that no other bird compares. This blog on Dr Mercola's site is an interview with Joel Salatin. To me, Joel is one of the great pioneers of sustainable farming of our time.

You'll notice that Joel uses these Cornish Cross birds as well. His contention about using anything else the last time I heard him speak about it was that no other bird could be successfully raised at a profit.

For the most part that is true. However Freedom Ranger birds like we raise here at Spring Hill Farms not only can compete with the Cornish Cross, in some ways they are actually better.

Number one - They are a more active bird than Cornish Cross birds. This means the meat is firmer and has more texture than a bird that for the most part lays around and eats.

Number two - Freedom Rangers consume more green material than Cornish Cross birds hands down.

Number three - This makes for a bird that is healthier and has a better flavor profile.

My personal opinion is Joel has it figured out when it comes to the pastured poultry model but we differ on what bird is best to use.

Take a look at this blog on Dr. Mercola's site where he interviews Joel as it closely mirrors how and why we use movable shelters to raise our broilers.

If you want the best chicken you can eat that you know is healthy for you, find a farmer that uses these methods and Freedom Ranger birds . If you're around central Ohio, try Spring Hill Farms pastured poultry, you'll be glad you did!

Until next time....


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Free Range Eggs - A Top 10 Superfood

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Fresh Brown Eggs
I have long been a proponent of eggs from pastured hens.

Eggs get a bad rap many times but the truth is they are a great source of:

  • Nine essential amino acids
One of the highest quality proteins you can find. Proteins are nutrients that are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your body tissues such as your skin, internal organs and muscles. They are also the major components of your immune system and hormones
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin (for your eyes)
  • Choline for your brain, nervous- and cardiovascular systems
  • Naturally occurring B12

I routinely eat my eggs raw but for many that is not something they are ready to do unless they are really a committed health fanatic!

It's very handy though, I can have two or three raw eggs and some fresh vegetable juice for lunch and be back to work in ten minutes.

If I'm in a hurry in the morning I can crack a couple of eggs into a mug and two swallows later my breakfast is over and I'm out the door!

I would not recommend doing this with store bought eggs regardless of pastured, free range or otherwise. The risk of salmonella is very real.

Here's a list of the top 10 super foods for your health. How many are you consuming?

The Top 10 Best Superfoods



 
 

Eating Grass Fed - Increases Blood Levels of Omega 3's

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Tamworth Pigs on Pasture

I have long been a proponent of Grass fed beef, pastured pork, and poultry.

It always thrills me to see studies as they emerge proving out more positive benefits of eating grass fed meat.

A recent article discusses the fact that eating grass fed meat for just a short period of time can raise your blood levels of Omega 3's. Read it here

 


 

 
 

Free Protein for Chickens

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Laying Hen Spring Hill Farms
I'm constantly looking for new and free (or cheap) protein sources for chickens. Obviously for us here at Spring Hill Farms it also has to pass clean food test as well. I'm not of the mind that "free" is good no matter what.

While reading Newman Turners book FERTILITY FARMING. which I highly recommend by the way, I came across a section on poultry. Newman makes the statement that " hens will generally mop up all the food which one is able to allow them, even when on free range."

If you have chickens you can say a big "amen" to that. Chickens have a high metabolism and therefore a big appetite.

Newman also says that he found birds ranging on high fertility soil that contained good quantities of hummus ate less feed. Especially on oat or wheat stubble.

He writes, "
They would usually come to meet me when I arrived with the food which in the semi-confinement of folds they would consume to the last morsel, but after pecking away at it for a while they would wander off to their obviously far more palatable and juicy soil organisms -- worms, insects, and much that was invisible to the human eye -- which they were getting from the humus-rich soil without overmuch scratching. If it weren't that I am sure there is much in compost and humus-rich soil which the hen eats, and which I am unable to identify with my own eyes, I would almost venture to suggest that compost is in itself a good food for poultry. For the hens most certainly consume large quantities of what looks like pure compost whenever they get the opportunity." 

I have definitely seen poultry picking away at nothing I could really see with my eyes many times.

Newman goes on to share an idea he used to supplement his hens protein by starting a compost pile in what he calls the "hen yard."

He basically started a compost heap in the yard where he would be running the hens in the fall and winter. Seeded it with earth worms, and then let it compost until he turned the hens into it in early Autumn when he says it will be "an ideal dinning table for the hens."

I'm planning to do this and see how it works. Give it a try and see what you think. If you already do something like this let me know how it works!

**Update** I found this really cool book on worm farming called "Worm Farming Secrets"

“DISCOVER HOW TO GROW BIG FAT COMPOSTING WORMS & PRODUCE MORE PREMIUM ORGANIC WORM COMPOST & WORM TEA FASTER THAN EVER BEFORE...

Until next time....

 
 

Pastured Freedom Rangers and Carcass Weight

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Freedom Ranger 5 1/2 lbs 68 days
We just processed a batch of Freedom Ranger Broilers we ran on pasture. Actually in movable cages on pasture.

This was the last batch of the year and we were pushing it to have birds on grass the last day of November.

These birds have impressed me ever since we decided to go with them instead of the industry standard Cornish Cross birds.

Compared to Cornish they are aggressive foragers. More like old time chickens than the souped up meat birds of today. We tried for several years to get something besides the latest and greatest meat bird genetics that produce a bird ready to slaughter in 45-50 days.

Finally the Freedom Ranger came onto the scene in the last couple of years.

Although our customers had always been happy with the standard meat bird, I wanted something more suited to sustainable farming and outdoor operations.

Exceptional taste was also something I always strive for and I knew that old heritage breed birds have a flavor that blows away the Cornish type meat birds.

The catch to using old meat bird type chickens is they grow extremely slow. The carcass is so far from what most people are used to in a chicken that it's very easy to turn customers off regardless of how great they taste. Mainly since the breast on these birds are not "double breasted."

The Freedom Ranger broiler answers all these problems!

They are a double breasted bird that grows out in about 70 days. The taste? Out of this world when raised on pasture.

PictureThe bird pictured here weighed 5 pounds 12 ounces in 68 days. We had some break the 6 lb mark! This was in late September through the end of November. We had quite a bit of temps down in the 30's at night and 50's through the day. Several times we had storms with strong winds and gusty winds for a day or two after.

Not the perfect weather I always hope for, but these birds still did quite well.

The carcass is longer than the usual grocery store chicken or Cornish type bird but every bit as meaty. Since they forage so aggressively they've got to be loaded with Omega 3's.

If you are looking for good chicken that forages for grass, bugs and worms like the old time chickens of yesteryear, look no further than Freedom Rangers at Spring Hill Farms.

 

 
 

Tamworth Pig Taste Test

Tamworth sow circa 1920 

Did you know? The Tamworth is one of the great ‘dual purpose’ pigs producing stunningly good pork as well as equally tremendous bacon. In the mid 1990’s the Tamworth came top in a taste test carried out by Bristol University using both commercial and rare breed pigs in a scientifically controlled experiment. It was later suggested that further investigation should take place to establish just what it was that gave the Tamworth meat such a distinctive taste putting it way above all the other breeds.

 
 

Some Obscure History of the Tamworth Pasture Pig

I came across some old writings recently that stated the Tamworth at one point had some "crosses of pigs having a strong infusion of Neapolitan blood...It is also said that a few breeders used a white pig that had been improved by Bakewell."

 I was surprised as everything I ever read about the Tamworth indicates no particular story of having any known infusion of other breeds.  Some have speculated that probably it did, have but no indication of what type.

 Although the writer didn't say anything with certainty, I found the account interesting.

They did start out saying "The Tamworth is probably the purest of the modern breeds of swine, it having been improved more largely by selection and care than by the introduction of the blood of other breeds."

They go on to say, "Fortunately the class of men who had undertaken the improvement of some of the other breeds, by sacrificing almost everything to an aptitude to fatten, did not undertake the Tamworth; hence the preservation of the length and prolificacy of the breed. For a number of years previous to 1870 the breed received comparatively little attention outside it's own home. About that time the bacon curers opened a campaign against the then fashionable short, fat and heavy shouldered pigs, which they found quite unsuitable for the production of streaked side meat for which the demand was constantly increasing. The Tamworth then came into prominence as an improver of some of the other breeds, in which capacity it was a decided success owing to its long established habit of converting it's food into lean meat."   

 We're thankful to those very early Tamworth breeders here at Spring Hill Farms, and once our customers try some of our old fashion hickory smoked bacon they are too!

 

Until Next time...


 

 


 
 

Freedom Ranger Chicks Arrived - Video

Our Freedom Ranger chicks arrived at the farm today today. This video shows us putting them in the brooder.

These birds are from the Label Rouge program. We believe them to be better than the standard Cornish Cross chickens for the model we use to raise them. 

In my previous post  I outlined why I think they are superior to Cornish Cross for the pastured poultry farmer.


I will be showing you how these birds grow out this season so stay tuned for more videos.

 

Watch the video here.

 

Until next time...

 
 

What's Wrong With Cornish Cross Chickens?

Cornish Cross are the industry standard for meat birds in the United States. I recently mentioned I had switched to Freedom Ranger chickens and had several people ask why.

Cornish Cross birds are a lazy bird by nature with an insatiable appetite.

They basically sit, eat, and get bigger. These are admiral traits if the only goal is to produce a bird that grows very rapidly and produces a lot of breast meat.

However, if you sit back and observe this bird for very long you realize these cleverly select traits come with a price.

Research shows that these birds can gain weight at a rate faster than their skeletal system can bear.

This shows up as lameness and even broken legs. Another trait of these birds is they suffer heart failure.

You go to tend the birds, and find one stone dead for no apparent reason. More than likely it suffered heart failure.

Because they are so selectively bred for certain traits it can lead to a compromised immune system.

They are a fragile bird that was designed for huge agri-business to stuff in a confinement barn and feed sub therapeutic antibiotics to keep them healthy.

The hatchery told me to limit feed them so as to slow the growth rate down and help curb these health issues.

I did limit their intake of feed, and to a large degree it worked. But I came to the conclusion you were basically starving them to slow them down!

They are genetically designed to have an insatiable appetite. I raise Tamworth pigs on pasture and these birds make them look polite when it comes to feeding if they have ran out of feed for any length of time…even on grass.

Which brings up another observation: Freedom Ranger chickens are a far more aggressive forager of green material then Cornish Cross.

One of the health benefits touted by pastured poultry farmers is the opportunity for the birds to graze on green grass and bugs.

It made sense to me to use a bird that gets the most out the environment in which you raise it. Cornish birds were designed as an inside bird with no thought of foraging, that burns calories!

Contrast that with birds from the Label Rouge program in France (such as Freedom Rangers) and you see some distinct differences.

 

  • They are a healthy robust bird
  • Freedom Rangers grow slower without the problems associated with Cornish Cross.
  • They are much more active foragers.
  • Customers in taste test when compared to the Cornish Cross prefer Freedom Ranger.

I chose Freedom Rangers because after examining the facts I felt they were better suited to my model of farming and welfare standards.

Why take a bird that was bred for big business and put it in an environment that it was never designed for?

I realize pastured poultry farmers while minimizing the problems outlined here can raise Cornish Cross birds.

 

But for us at Spring Hill Farms, we think there is a better way.

 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Building a Temporary Brooder

Randy and I will building a temporary brooder today. The barn we had a brooder set up in burned down last Spring.

We have a batch of Freedom Ranger chicks coming in eight days so I though we better find somewhere to put them!

I didn't want to get birds this early but since we are having trouble keeping up with the demand I decided to get going as soon as possible.

The Freedom Ranger birds are part of the Label Rouge program from France.

We were looking for a bird that has a more aggressive nature to forage than the standard Cornish Cross birds that many folks use for pastured poultry.

The Freedom Ranger birds fit the bill! The meat is also excellent. They take a couple more weeks to grow out than Cornish Cross but as with any animal that matures slower, they are flavorful!

These birds remind you of old breed birds because they are! They are several different colors and are noticeably more active than Cornish Cross.

We are running them in poultry netting instead of movable pens or chicken tractors as some people call them.

You can see our philosophy on pastured poultry here.

I'll be sure to post more on these birds through the growing season. 

 Well I'm off to get started!

 

 Until next time...

 


 
 

Chicks on the Way

I ordered our first batch of chicks Friday morning. We have pretty much quit using Cornish Cross birds and went with birds from the Label Rouge program.

We have always had good luck with the Cornish, but I've never been happy with the amount of foraging they do.

By genetic nature they are lazy birds. They don't scratch like a heritage breed bird does either. 

I have not ran them in poultry netting only movable pens because they don't seem like they would go very far in a open pen type arrangement.

All of the stock we select at our farm is based heavily on their nature to forage on grass.

That was why I went with Tamworth pigs. Then worked with them through selection to eliminate as much grain as possible and still get a nice finish.

Around here it's eat lots of grass or you're off to another farm or the processor.

Hopefully when these birds are ready to come out of the brooder we can get them on pasture, but who knows with two feet of snow on the ground now!

Guess we'll have to wait and see!

 

Until next time...

 

 


 
 

Do Pigs Really Eat Grass?

I hear this question a lot. Your pigs are on pasture? Do they eat grass? Suprisingly enough farmers ask this more than anyone. If I explain a little to them many times they dismiss it and go on.

I can see them thinking to themselves and some have even said 'you can't get a hog to eat enough grass to make any difference.'

I just smile. I know mine do! My feed consumption and weight gain records don't lie.

It's a practice that was common years ago.

 Here's one account from 1910:

Pasture plays an important role in the common practice of swine feeding. Besides getting fresh and palatable feed the pig in such cases harvest the crop which saves considerable expense.

He also gets a greater variety of feed as well as different mineral substances that may be gathered from the soil in different places.

While the feed gathered from the pasture in the form of grass, plants of various kinds, etc., is of the nature of roughage, still the pig can use a considerable quantity of this even though he is primarily adapted to concentrated feeds.

In fact, he will do better with some roughages in his ration than he will to be confined entirely to concentrates, especially if the former are gathered from from the pasture. The pasture exercises a considerable influence besides the feed it supplies. - William Dietrich - 1910

Hogs on grass fell into obscurity for quite some time, thank goodness it's making a come back!

 

Until next time...

 



 


 
 

Educating Potential Customers

I find a large part of my work as a small farmer is educating folks as to why they should buy local off the farm whenever possible.

 Sure, there is a segment of soceity that is already convinced of that and some of them shop here at local harvest or the local farmers market.

 I find a much larger portion of Americans have only had some form of exposure to these thoughts. They aren't always convinced yet. I'm always on the look out for evidence supporting my belief in local food and/or sustainable farming.

 One of the most prevalent stories right now is one of food safety. Almost daily we see something on the news or Interent about food safety issues. All these things help our cause. Americans are starting to pull all the bits and pieces togther of the whole local farm freash thing thanks to the media.

 I checked my mail today and viola it seemed as though Consumer Reports is seeing that it is a hot topic now too!

 I got a mailer from them trying to sell me the 2010 buying guide. On the front cover in large letters:

 "How safe is that chicken? We'll tell you..." see page 4

 

On page 4 they inform you that they compared 525 chickens from 27 brands and found only 17% were free from salmonella and campylobacter.

 

Thanks Consumer Reports for doing such a study! I'll use it to sell my pastured poultry!

 

Until next time...

 
 
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