What is Pastured Poultry?
The difference from Organic, Free Range, All-Natural, & Pastured
The terms "free-range poultry" and "pastured poultry" are commonly used among both consumers and producers of eggs and poultry meat. But these terms carry different connotations depending on who is doing the talking and who is doing the listening. With the exception of the term "free-range", there are no legal definitions of any term relating to the methods of rearing of poultry in the United States. This has resulted in the creation of numerous terms and subsets of terms that have brought confusion to the producer, the marketer and the consumer of poultry.
Problems with the term "Free Range" and "Organic"
The USDA definition of "free-range" is rather vague. In order to label their meat and poultry "free-range or free-roaming", "Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside." (1) No mention of vegetation (pasture) is made. Poultry producers themselves seem to have no common standards on what the term means. Some producers interpret "access to the outside" as a small pop-door (chicken door) on an end-wall of a 100 ft. long shed filled with un-caged birds moving about freely on a litter-covered floor. Others feel they are compliant with the spirit of free-range if their birds are outside in the open air and under the sun; even if their "range" is bare dirt.
When it comes to the consumer's perception of "free-range", arguably the vision that "free-range" most often conjures is of a bird happily hunting and pecking in the grass in an open field. Because of the wholesomeness associated with the term "organic", many consumers take for granted that all certified organic poultry raised for meat and eggs are raised outside on green pasture. Sadly, this is not so. The term "free-range" is not even listed in the NOP (National Organic Program) "terms defined."(2) They do give guidelines that say: "All organically raised animals must have access to the outdoors..."(3) So when someone purchases poultry products labeled "free range" or "organic", the birds may never have actually seen the light of day or green grass its entire life. Technically, they simply have to have a door out of their confinement, but they don't have to necessarily walk through that door to meet the requirements.
Modern conventional chicken production for meat (broilers) typically takes place in windowless buildings that house tens of thousands of birds. For egg production, the largest farms have millions of chickens stacked in cages three high. Feed is taken to the birds on conveyor belts and the eggs brought back the same way. The birds are debeaked so that they do not cannibalize each other. Once a day a human being has to walk through to remove dead birds.
What does pastured mean?
Another term in popular usage within the United States is "pastured poultry". This term is highly associated with Joel Salatin, author of the popular book, Pastured Poultry Profits (8). Pastured does not seem to be a term applied to poultry outside of North America but in the U.S., the term as used among poultry producers generally conveys the use of Salatin's methods. Floorless pens of 10 X 12 X 2 foot high are moved (once or twice daily) around a green pasture. The birds have access to fresh air, grass and insects but are also protected from predators. Many producers have modified the pen size and configuration to better suit their own needs, but the basic method involved in raising "pastured poultry" remains.
What "Pastured Poultry" means to us?
Because of the loose definition of "free range," we prefer to use the term "pastured poultry". So our definition would be: "Birds are kept outside, utilizing a movable or stationary house for shelter, and they have constant access to fresh-growing palatable vegetation."
We go beyond the organic standards and provide our chickens access to our lush pastures the way nature intended. Here the birds have plenty of room to move around as well as access to fresh air, sunshine and grass. We start our chicks out as day old hatchlings in our brooder where they spend the first three weeks of their life until they are old enough to go outdoors safely. Once out, they are moved each day in one of our portable “chicken huts” to a fresh spot of pasture where they will obtain about 15% of their food from forage and insects. The balance of their diet is a custom mix of Non-GMO, soy and chemical free feed grown locally on Texas Farms. This results in a healthy, locally grown, great tasting chicken, that you can proudly feed your family.
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Deposit will be deducted from total price of chicken.
Whole chickens are $5.19 lb average weight is 4.0lbs
(1) From the USDA site on meat and poultry labeling:http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/lablterm.htm
(2) NOP terms defined: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/DefineReg.html
(3) From the USDA website on the National Organic Program: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/FactSheets/ProdHandE.html
(4) The American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition copyright 2004, 2002 Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)
(5) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003, Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, All rights reserved.
(6) Beck-Chenoweth, Herman. Free-Range Poultry Production & Marketing: A Guide to Raising, Processing, and Marketing Premium Quality Chicken, Turkey & Eggs, copyright 1996, BACK FORTY BOOKS, Creola, Ohio 45622.
(7) Lee, Andy and Patricia Foreman. Day Range Poultry, 2002. Good Earth Publications, Buena Vista, Virginia, p. 308
(8) Salatin, Joel. Pastured Poultry Profits copyright 1993 by Joel Salatin, Second printing 2004, Third printing 1996, Polyface, Inc., Swoope, Virginia, p. 334