How Do You Pick the Best Chicken?
With all of the choices available today when it comes to food (both good and bad), how do you know when you are making the right decision? Labels can be so confusing, and often misleading, and it’s tough to know whether you can trust what you’re being told, particularly when it comes to the food you eat. The truth is, a lot of the catchy slogans and labels you are exposed to at the supermarket were thought up by marketing teams that get paid to boost sales and to make their product seem like the better choice - and sometimes it’s this cost, and not the quality of the product, that affects what you pay for with your groceries.
So how do you know which companies to trust, and how do you pick the best and healthiest food for your family? This is a question that is near and dear to our hearts, because it quite literally is the inspiration that lead us to start raising our own chickens ten years ago - a decision that evolved into the Pasturebird you know and love today. We became so jaded by the choices available to us once we really started to educate ourselves about our food choices, and we asked ourselves: with so much misleading labeling out there, how do we pick the best chicken?
To answer this question it helps to ask yourself what you’re looking for when it comes to the chicken you eat. Does it matter to you how the chickens were raised, and the conditions in which they lived before they became nourishment for you? Is the environmental impact of the farming operation something that affects your food choices? And does superior taste and nutrient density add value to your choice?
These are all questions that we asked ourselves years ago, and the answer to all of them was a resounding "yes". When we began to educate ourselves on the various food choices we had available to us, we found them sorely lacking. Since we follow a Paleo lifestyle, meat is a large part of our diet and we wanted to make sure we were eating the healthiest option.
What’s in a Label?
During our Paleo journey, we did some research about the different labels in our supermarkets - namely organic and free range, as we anticipated that was the healthiest type of chicken to buy. Unfortunately, we weren’t impressed with our findings.
For example, “free range” chickens must be given continuous “access” to the outdoors during their lifetime. This sounds great, but when you think about what the word “access” really means, it paints quite a different picture. Technically, we all have “access” to a castle in the majestic fjords of Iceland - but whether or not most of us can actually get there or have the means to enjoy it is another story. Similarly, free range chickens can be given “access” to the outdoors with no actual means to forage on pastureland. A farmer can simply place a small door in the barn that leads to a fenced-in concrete slab. Sure, the chickens have access to the outdoors, but they still don’t have the ability to roam freely or forage for their nutrient-dense natural food sources. The result is a supermarket label that sounds catchy, but the result is neither healthier (nor more humane) for the animal, nor healthier for the consumer.
We found the “organic” label to be similarly misleading. While great in theory - “organic” means that the chickens must be fed a certified organic chicken feed, containing no animal byproducts - once again the reality of this label falls short. For example, because certified organic feed can contain no animal byproducts, it is by extension vegetarian. But guess what? Chickens are not vegetarians. Chicken are omnivorous animals that are meant to get a portion of their nutrition from animal products. While the organic label aims to keep undesirable and unhealthy byproducts out of their food, legally this means that the food can contain no animal products, even if they are high quality and sustainably sourced. If a chicken is able to forage on pasture for insects, worms, and small animals in addition to being fed certified organic feed, then chances are they are obtaining a nutrient-dense and high quality diet. But for most of the chickens labeled “organic” in the grocery store, this was not the case. Most likely, they were still kept confined indoors in close quarters, fed a vegetarian chicken feed, and supplemented with certain nutrients due to the deficiency of these nutrients in their feed. As you likely know from your own human experience, supplements just don’t cut it if they aren’t paired with a wholesome and nutrient rich diet.
We Wanted to Eat the Best Chicken - So We Raised It Ourselves!
At the time we dove headlong into our food education, pasture raised chicken wasn’t readily available in most supermarkets. We knew from our research that it was the best option, but we weren’t sure how to find it. So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and start raising our own birds! At first we just planned on feeding our own family, but we soon realized that WE could be the void in the market that we had been searching for, and Pasturebird was born. When we started Pasturebird, we wanted to become the exact type of farm and company that we had searched for in vain - one that focused on animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and optimal nutrition. Obviously, profit is important to any business, but we were determined to be more than our bottom line and we believed we could do it without sacrificing the core values that had inspired us in the first place.
Because it had been so hard for us to find ethically-produced pasture raised chicken where we lived, we wanted to make that option available to our consumers no matter where they are! By shipping our products frozen nationwide, we strive to be a convenient, accessible, and affordable option for our consumers to have access to the absolute best chicken - nutrient dense, humanely raised, and ethically produced.