Free Range vs. Pasture Raised
At Pasturebird, we do things differently, and we’re proud of it. As consumers, the more we learned about how the majority of animals are raised for consumption, the more disillusioned we became. We were shocked to learn that over 99% of U.S. poultry raised for meat lives on factory farms, and even more shocked to learn the deplorable conditions that are usually present in those farms. Warning, the descriptions are pretty gruesome, and we won’t link to them here, but a quick internet search for “factory farmed poultry” will tell you everything you need to know about why this industry needs to change. Even if you’re not an animal welfare activist, it’s tough to read about how most chickens live and continue to support the factory farmed poultry industry in good conscience. Here’s one example: A chicken’s natural life span is several years. Factory farmed chickens live an average of 42 days. Their entire life’s purpose is to be raised for food, with no regard to the welfare or quality of life of the animal. Now, we don’t want to mislead you into thinking that our Pasturebirds live for years before becoming nourishment for our consumers - that’s not possible for any poultry farm. But we can guarantee that during their lifetime, our chickens are treated with kindness, respect, and care.
At Pasturebird, the way we raise our chickens is quite different from the philosophy of factory farming that’s so prevalent today. We believe that our chickens are worth more than just the profit they create for the company, and they deserve to be treated as such. We believe that the consumption of animal protein and animal welfare don’t have to be adverse to each other. While most factory farms subject animals to horrific cruelty, and breed them for the express purposes of being butchered for their meat, we recognize that our chickens are living beings that deserve quality of life during their lifetime. That’s why we house our chickens in an open air moveable coop where they are given ample access to fresh air and sunshine. This allows them to peck and forage on pasture, as chickens were meant to do, and obtain a wholesome, nutrient rich diet of insects, plants, small mammals, worms, nuts, and seeds. We supplement that diet with a non-GMO, high quality feed, to ensure that they’re receiving optimal nutrition. They get plenty of exercise, a healthy diet, and fresh air while being protected from inclement weather and predators.
So How are Pasturebird’s Practices Different?
The truth is, even farms that breed “organic” or “free range” chickens aren’t necessarily focused on animal welfare. The free range label can be pretty misleading, because while free range birds are required by law to have “access” to the “outdoors”, those terms aren’t defined in the legislation. That means that free range chickens can live indoors their whole lives, packed tightly together, with a small door in the corner of a barn leading out to an outdoor pad of fenced in concrete, and those chickens are still considered “free range.”
By contrast, our chickens are truly pasture raised. Pasturebird chickens are outside 24/7/365 and the “outdoors” for them is not manufactured turf or concrete. While “free range” chickens are given as little as 2 square feet of roaming space, pasture raised chickens must have at least 108 square feet of pastureland to roam and graze. For context, 108 square feet is about the size of a medium sized bedroom. 2 square feet is….well, take a couple of steps and you’re pretty much there.
The Benefits of Pasture Raised
Because our chickens have unlimited access to fresh air, nutritious food, and exercise, they not only live a more comfortable life, but the meat from a pasture raised chicken is healthier for our customers. Pasture raised chicken has been proven to contain more nutrients and less fat than factory farmed chicken. Our chickens also live such a healthy lifestyle that they don’t need constant antibiotics, unlike factory farmed chickens who are constantly pumped full of medicine to ward off infection and disease from unsanitary living conditions.
While Pasturebird chickens are ultimately raised for meat, we strive to make their lives as comfortable as possible. The moveable open air coop where they spend their days has ample space for them to roam comfortably. In fact, the coop is tall enough for a grown human to stand in! Our chickens have plenty of space to move around, peck, scratch, and forage. Not to mention, they are given constant access to fresh air and fresh pasture, and are rotated daily to new pastureland. By rotating our chickens on a daily basis, we allow the land to regenerate after foraging, and ensure that our birds are receiving ultimate nutrition and not attempting to find nourishment on overforaged land.
In fact, by allowing the land to regenerate before being grazed upon again, we’re not only practicing sustainability in agriculture, but going beyond that to a method called regenerative agriculture. We aim to not only conserve the land, but to leave it better than we found it. The relationship between our farm and our land is just one more example of how Pasturebird’s pasture raised chicken is different than the conventional farms that slap fancy labels like “free range” on chicken that has been raised in a barn. Our chickens have a relationship with the land, and so do we, and since we recognize that it’s the land that sustains us, we treat it with respect and care as well. Far from being a new philosophy, this is how farming was done for thousands of years. We’re just hoping to help this type of farming see the comeback it deserves, as customers become more educated and demand a higher standard of environmental responsibility from their farmers.
Call it good karma, or call it good farming; but our happy chickens make happy consumers - just read a few of the reviews on our website to find out just how different our pasture raised chicken is.