Spring Hill Farms

  (Newark, Ohio)
Heritage Breed Pastured Pork, Chickens, Grass Fed Beef
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Cornish Cross Chickens - How Fast is too Fast?

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The ASPCA has recently launched a campaign "The Truth about Chicken" which is exposing the facts about how chickens are raised in the factory farm model and they are actively promoting slower growing breeds instead of the industry standard, Cornish Cross.

 

Here's a quote from the ASPCA website "In 1925, it took 16 weeks to raise a chicken to 2.5 pounds. Today, chickens weigh double that in just six weeks!"

So for all the genetic improvement over the last 80 plus years we can definitely see a big part of the focus was get the birds to slaughter weight as fast as possible.

Which begs the question: How fast is too fast?

In this case if you were to compare the growth rate of a human to that of a modern day broiler chicken you would find According to the University of Arkansas, if humans grew at a similar rate, a 6.6-pound newborn baby would weigh 660 pounds after two months. 

You have to admit, that's pretty fast by anyone's standards!

At Spring Hill Farms we have been raising Label Rouge broilers since they have been available in the United States. Although these birds grow slower than Cornish Cross, they are faster than a chicken in 1925.

Of course this type of "exposure" about what's going on in the poultry industry causes some very fervent emotions. The last time I checked there were about 300 comments on the ASPCA's blog where they announced the launch of The Truth about Chicken.

Before this campaign was launched I was contacted by the ASPCA to inquire if I would allow them to use a quote from my blog about what I felt was wrong with Cornish Cross chickens. You can read that blog post here.

I'll be honest with you...I was hesitant at first because I really had no idea what the ASPCA stood for when it came to livestock welfare. After a conversation with them and reading through their website I felt that they have a fairly balanced approach to livestock issues.

Many of the humane and cruelty type organizations have a "do not eat meat" mindset. I obviously wouldn't agree with that type of philosophy.

Of course I believe high welfare standards are a very central part of raising livestock.

See I don't believe that the fastest growth rate obtainable for poultry or any other livestock is the number one one factor.

I believe that high welfare standards should come first followed by nutritional quality of the meat, flavor profiles, sustainability, etc.

A small farm that is ran right should reflect a place:

  • that cares about animals
  • provides food that helps keep you healthy
  • is responsible to the environment



I signed the petition for The Truth about Chicken and I urge you to do so also.

If you are a small farmer let people know you believe the industrial poultry farm model is not the way to raise chickens. If you're using Cornish Cross birds on your small farm stop using them and get something better suited to the small farm model.

If we take a stand on these issues through organizations like the ASPCA and stop supporting the commercial poultry industry with our dollars things will begin to change.

At the very least we'll be able to sleep a little better at night knowing we are doing something to help facilitate change where it is needed  very badly.

Sign the petition here: "The Truth about Chicken"

Until next time...

 


 


 

David Fogle is owner of Spring Hill Farms in Newark, Ohio you can follow him on Google+
 
 

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....


Google
 
 

Don't Use Antibiotics for Poultry and Resistant Bacteria Levels Drop

PictureAmerican consumers are becoming aware of the practices of large commercial farming operations and they don't like what they learn.

Here's a great example of proof. Not using sub-therapeutic antibiotics can quickly lower the anti resistant bacterias found on these farms.

You can read more about just how dangerous antibiotic use can be to all of us here: "This development of drug resistance scares the hell out of me," says Kellogg Schwab

(From the Union of Concerned Scientists)

A blockbuster new scientific study shows that a transition to organic animal production methods that don’t use antibiotics can reduce levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on farms.

This is the first U.S. study to provide on-farm data on the impacts of removing antibiotics from large-scale poultry CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations).

Researchers from the University of Maryland and the Food and Drug Administration measured levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in poultry litter, water, and feed samples from 10 conventional poultry operations and 10 newly-organic operations of similar size. (Under organic certification rules, producers are not allowed to use antibiotics.) The newly antibiotic-free organic farms had much lower rates of resistant bacteria compared to the conventional farms, demonstrating that the reduction in antibiotic use can immediately lower the levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found on the farm.

The study was released in the midst of a massive food safety recall of ground turkey contaminated with antibiotic-resistant salmonella. That incident, involving 36 million pounds of ground turkey produced by agribusiness giant Cargill, sickened some 111 consumers. Read the full study here, and learn more about the turkey recall here.


 

 
 

Hard Core Sustainable Farmer or Lunatic?

In my never ending quest to reduce inputs from outside sources (like the local feed mill) I have been widening my research on ways to increase the amount of green foodstuffs I can carry through the winter for the animals.  [Read More]
 
 

Over Seeding Pasture for Pigs and Poultry

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Tilling Pasture
Pigs eat a lot of grass. Especially a bunch of
Tamworth pigs
that get fed limited amounts of grain.

In order to keep our pastures full of good grass we sometimes over seed with different types of grasses.

I ascribe to the saying "manage fescue and encourage clover."


What that means is some grasses such as fescue, are pretty aggressive when it comes to taking over a stand of grass. Clover on the other hand will normally die out after several years due to the fescue and other grasses crowding it out. Even if that's not the case clover still dies out after several years and needs replanting.

This particular pasture we are working on is really what most people would call their back yard. I want to utilize all the land I own. So I ask myself "why mow all this every week when I could ease some pigs up in here for a few days of intensive grazing?"

I then posed the same question to my wife! After all, it's gonna take some talking to get pigs within twenty feet of the back of her house.

Which brings up another point...Do you think I'd have a chance if she thought she was gonna smell pig manure?

When you look at pictures of our farm you notice we have neighbors on top of us. Our property is narrow and deep. Minimum amount of road frontage and goes back forever. There have been something like 18 houses built within the last five years around us. 


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Tearing up the sod.
If you look in this picture we are actually going behind my father-in-laws house because he likes to mow about as much as I do!

It is critical that we manage these lots so as to not offend anyone with sites or smells.

Most people who drive by our farm have no idea the number of pigs running around. Many don't know we even have pigs!

 

Compare that the old pre-1950's model of running pigs outside where everyone knew it because they could smell them a mile away. People are amazed when they come to visit at how they can't smell the pigs.

How do you accomplish this?

1) Move your pigs often to new grass.

2) Don't try to raise more pigs than your land can support.

I'll be talking about this more in future blogs. I have a lot of people who want to see how we manage these pigs here at the farm. I plan to video and blog some of this through the summer.

This ground was horrible when we first started running hogs and poultry over it. Slow but sure it just keeps getting better as we allow the pigs and chickens to fertilize it.

Until next time...

 

Watch a video of this while I ramble.


 
 

The USDA - Antibiotics and Chicken

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Bacterial Chicken!
Poultry are heavy consumers of antibiotics in mainstream agriculture. The establishment has assured us for years that it is not really a health hazard. The reside left in the chickens is harmless. Yea, right.

So I wonder why The United States Department of Agriculture has a team of scientist working on introducing what they call "competitive exclusion cultures." They introduced these cultures of 29 different bacterial species into farm raised chickens as part of their diet and then exposed them to salmonella. They found that chickens exposed to the bacterial culture had 99 percent less salmonella colonization than unexposed chickens according to Discover Magazine, March 2011.

Interesting! I blogged on this very topic a while back. I'd love to think the USDA scientist read my blog but the truth is, as always, public outcry over several studies that have been done in the last several years have consumers getting worried about antibiotic residue in their food.

That coupled with the deluge of antibiotic resistant bacterias that are surfacing (which is what prompted the studies no doubt) not only in livestock but humans as well have scientist worried.

So many consumers have been opting out of the antibiotic laced factory farmed chicken and buying from a small farm that doesn't dose their chickens with medicated feed.

But don't be fooled. The USDA is trying to figure out a new way to leave chickens in huge confinement barns and not have to dose them with antibiotics. Granted it is better to have confinement poultry that is antibiotic free than what is available now.

I wonder if they can come up with something besides Roxarsone (an organic version of arsenic) as a growth promoter? I seem to do fine without putting it in my chicken feed.

To me this whole thing is just proof that you can't rely on regulations and inspectors to make sure your food is healthy and safe.

Buy from a local farm. Visit the farmer and ask questions. A good local farmer has no secrets about what they feed their stock and how it's raised.

At Spring Hill Farms I have been growing good bacteria for our animals to ingest for a long time. Maybe that's one reason why I never have a need for a veterinarian.

Until next time...


 

 
 

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....

 
 

A Secret Ingredient for your Water Trough

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Clean Water

Water. A crucial element of life. We spend hundreds even thousands of dollars to ensure we have clean pure water for ourselves and our families. It makes up 75% of our bodies.

What about our livestock?  How clean is the water you provide for your animals?

In the past I've been guilty of looking into a water trough and thinking "wow that might need a good cleaning!"



Hogs are constantly washing their noses off in the water and dropping feed into the trough. If left unattended it's not long before you'll have some sort of anaerobic bacteria growing in the water.

This spells trouble for livestock. A good question to ask yourself is "would I drink out of that?"  

One of the major battles in keeping any type of farm animal healthy and growing is managing the "bad bacteria" levels in the animals system.  This is one of the reasons that sub-therapeutic antibiotics are used so heavily in modern agriculture. They help keep the animal healthy and promote growth through the reduced bacterial load in the animal's gut.

Of course antibiotic over-use is fraught with side effects. Two that come to mind are residues in the meat and manure and they wipe out most of the good bacteria with the bad.

I posted about how we introduce good bacteria into our animal's system here.  In this post I only gave a part of our system to manage bacteria...how to introduce new good bacteria.

Let me pause here and say I'm not a veterinarian nor am I a chemist. Please study out these concepts for yourself and make your own conclusions based on your study of the facts.

If all we ever do is kill bad bacteria, as in the case of antibiotics, we end up with a very compromised immune system. So much so that if the antibiotics are stopped there is a huge risk of illness until the good bacteria is re-established. If you are taking antibiotics personally you might want read the previous post.

Aerobic versus Anaerobic

Good bacteria is aerobic. In other words, they flourish in high oxygen environments.

Bad bacteria is anaerobic and cannot survive in the presence of oxygen.

So, when we study the natural order of things we find laws at work to to help us keep our animals healthy. The closer we can mimic nature the better. That's the essence of natural farming.


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Food Grade Peroxide

I was first introduced to the idea of using hydrogen peroxide (H202) for something other than dumping it on a superficial wound more than 20 years ago.

Peroxide is water with an extra oxygen molecule attached to it. H202 - notice the extra 2? Now think back to our aerobic vs anaerobic bacterias.

What if we could foster an environment that encourages the growth of good oxygen loving bacteria and discourage bad oxygen hating bacteria?

Hydrogen peroxide has been touted to cure almost everything known to man. Does it work? I have no idea. I encourage you to study for your self and draw your own conclusions.

Remember the watering trough way back in the beginning of this post? Let's go back there.

When we need to clean and disinfect things around here such as watering and feeding equipment we wash it with a solution of peroxide.

Most folks would stop there. It's clean, now put some fresh water in and go about your business.

We hopefully killed all the bad bacteria in the watering trough but what if we could encourage it to stay dead and encourage the growth of good bacteria if there is any present?

That's where hydrogen peroxide comes in. We use a solution of 35% food grade and add a tiny amount to all our watering troughs on a regular basis. (Roughly 25-30 ppm)

A word of caution here: peroxide in concentrated amounts is caustic and will take the hide off your fingers on anything else you dump/spill it on.

Using peroxide as a water treatment is not new and you can find studies around the net on both poultry and swine.

Here's a link to a site about well water and hydrogen peroxide.

Other sites have information about health benefits from hydrogen peroxide.

Here are some of the claims.

When hydrogen peroxide has been used for cattle, an increase in milk production and an increase in butterfat content have been reported. Farmers have also reported less mastitis in their herds. Hog farmers have reported their hogs using less feed and a shorter growing time (as much as 30 days less). Turkey and chicken growers reported increased weight per bird using less feed. A man in Wisconsin said he has had the best reproduction rate of his buffalo by using hydrogen peroxide in their drinking water.

Some animal research indicates that when hydrogen peroxide is given orally, it combines with iron and small amounts of vitamin C in the stomach and creates hydroxyl radicals. The rule of thumb is adding 8 oz. to 10 oz. of 35% hydrogen peroxide to 1000 gallons water. Chickens and cows have remained healthy by using 8 ounces of 35% Food Grade hydrogen peroxide in 1,000 gallons of drinking water @ 30 ppm. Hydrogen peroxide application into well water, or city water can best be accomplished by a metering device / injector, which keeps the application more constant and thorough, although manual application works just as well. If you do not have an metering device, start out by using 1 teaspoon of 35% hydrogen peroxide in the animal's drinking water. This same ratio is used for all farm animals: cows, pigs, poultry, sheep, goats, rabbits, birds, etc. http://www.drinkh2o2.com

While I believe hydrogen peroxide is working on our farm as another way to keep all our livestock healthy, I can only tell you our experiences here at Spring Hill Farms.

Study it, try it, and make your own judgment.

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.

 

 
 

Are pastured chickens better for you than their supermarket counterparts?

This is a great video showing the nutritional profile of pastured vs conventional chickens. I will be ordering our last batch of birds next week. If you were thinking of ordering now is the time...

 

Video


 

 

 
 

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...

 

 


 
 

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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