Free Range v. Pasture-raised
Ag industry buzz words can get overwhelming for consumers who are looking for healthier, locally produced food options for their families. We sometimes find it overwhelming, too, everything from free range, pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed, carbon footprint, sustainability, organic, local, and the list goes on... We have also found what the US Department of Agriculture defines and what consumers believe may sometimes leave some wiggle room for interpretation.
We offer our broiler chickens as pasture-raised because we never believed they fit the definition of "free-range." The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) defines free range or free roaming for labeling purposes as, "Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside." Technically, by that definition, we are free-range; however, we believe a better description of our final product is pasture-raised as our broiler chickens are raised in chicken tractors out on pastures (as pictured). The 10'x12' tractors allow the chickens access to the outdoors without threat from predators. They are moved daily and given fresh water and supplemented with feed, although they prefer the fresh grass and bugs. The back section of the tractor is covered to protect the chickens from the elements, and the front is covered with hardware cloth to allow sunlight and breezes, but protect from predators, such as raccoons. An added benefit is the tractors are placed in our cattle pastures, allowing chickens to eat bugs, insects and larvae which cut down on flies during the summer that are bothersome to our cattle. Plus, our pastures reap the benefit of chicken manure, creating lush grass ultimately for our cattle. Sustainability... not just a buzz word.
Our 150-acre farm is located in southeastern Ohio, and hosts a variety of livestock AND wildlife. The deer and turkey in this area are beautiful, but we also have predators, such as coyotes, bobcats (pictured from a trail cam), raccoons who aren't as cute as you'd imagine, mink, hawks, etc. We work hard to give all of our animals a good quality of life while they are here. In this case, we believe the chicken's safety outside is paramount rather than being able to say free-range in terms most people understand and believe. With that said, first rounds of chicks are ordered, processing dates secured, and additional tractors are being built as we prepare for another season. As always, we are happy to answer any questions you may have about our products, our farm or our methods.
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