There are so many reasons that we decided to start Pasturebird. First and foremost, we wanted a way to ensure that our family was truly getting what we paid for when it came to our search for nutritious, antibiotic-free, high quality chicken. We had recently changed our eating habits and begun focusing on eating a diet containing lots of grass fed meats, organic vegetables, and healthy fats - but we had concerns that the “high quality” meat that we were buying wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
We decided to investigate for ourselves, and found that our antibiotic-free chicken wasn’t free of antibiotics after all, and all the fancy labels in the grocery store could be misleading. We were pretty annoyed to learn that the “free range” chickens that we were paying more for may not have ever even gone outside! By definition, for a chicken to be labeled “free range” it has to have access to a door that leads outside, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the chickens are allowed to use it! At first we weren’t sure what we could do to really make sure that we were supporting the types of ethical companies that we wanted to - companies that put their customers’ health and their animals’ welfare on par with their profit margin. Then we thought...why don’t WE become one of those ethical companies?
What began as a joking conversation over a family dinner has turned into a successful business that has made Pasturebird the largest pastured poultry producer in the United States.
Why We Raise Animals on Pasture
You may wonder what it is about raising animals on pasture that made us quit our day jobs and become farmers in our 30s. What’s the big deal? Are pasture raised chickens really any different from regular chickens? Is the extra work really worth it? After all, chicken is the most popular meat in the country, and most chicken in the grocery store is barn-raised in an industrial agricultural factory setting.
Why choose to raise animals on pasture? So. Many. Reasons.
Regenerative Agriculture and The Benefits of Raising Animals on Pasture
First of all, raising animals on pasture is not only better for the environment, but it can actually regenerate the soil on which the chickens are raised. At Pasturebird, we go beyond sustainability to actually replenish and enrich our pastureland. We do this through a process known as regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is becoming more popular with conscientious farmers, as we try to lessen the environmental impact of an industry that is responsible for almost 25% of human created greenhouse gas emissions .
When it comes to raising chickens, our approach to regenerative agriculture means that we rotate the pasture that our chickens graze on on a daily basis, and the chickens don’t go back to grazing in the same spot until the land has had a chance to regrow and rejuvenate. As the chickens peck, scratch, and forage, they are effectively naturally tilling the soil, and working their manure into the ground. Once the flock has moved to a different section of pasture, the manure they left behind has a chance to work its way into the soil, helping to replenish the nutrients lost from grazing, and aiding in plant growth.
Not only is raising chickens on pasture better for the environment, but it is so much healthier for the animals themselves. It doesn’t take an experienced farmer, or even a particularly intelligent human being, to realize that chickens weren’t meant to live the way they do in factory-farm settings. We don’t believe in cramming as many chickens as we can into a barn, pumping them full of antibiotics to reduce the spread of disease due to overcrowding, and letting them sit there and await their fate.
We believe strongly in ethical omnivorism. You can consume animal products and still care about animal welfare. Yes, we raise chickens for human consumption, but we also believe that our chickens deserve to live their best possible life prior to that consumption. When chickens are raised on pasture, they are given ample access to the outdoors, and a steady diet of fresh air, sunshine, clean water, and nutrient dense food that they obtain by exercising their natural instincts to peck, scratch, and forage in the ground.
Because guess what? Despite what the fancy labels from the grocery store try to tell you, touting eggs or chicken “fed a vegetarian diet” - chickens are not vegetarians! Chickens are meant to scrounge around for insects, worms, and other edible materials in the ground; the practice of hunting for these nutrients is called foraging, and it not only makes for happier chickens, but it makes for healthier meat.
Healthier for Our Chickens, Healthier for Our Customers
If you’ve followed our blog at all, you’ve likely read about the nutritional statistics of pasture raised chicken. Our chicken has been lab tested and shown to have three times the omega 3s of conventional chicken, as well as fifty percent more vitamin A, D, and E, and twenty one percent less saturated fat. There’s no big secret to these impressive nutritional statistics - our chickens eat a nutrient rich diet on pasture, rather than just the grain-based feed fed to barn-raised chickens. Since they eat a more wholesome diet during their lifetime, those nutrients are passed along in their meat, and we’re able to offer our consumers a more nutritious product.
The more you learn about raising animals on pasture, the more you realize what an asset it is for the environment, for the animals, and for the farmers as well. We take great pride in knowing that what we do for a living not only contributes to the welfare of our animals, but it also gives back to the land we farm on rather than taking away from it. We love to share our passion with our community and our consumers, which is why we offer farm tours and events to spread the word about raising animals on pasture and educate others about the benefits of our regenerative agriculture practices. We started Pasturebird to make pasture raised chicken more accessible to everyone, and we run our farm transparently to make education about pasture raised meat more accessible as well. Not only do we practice what we preach, but we love to spread the word about it too - the more people that know about the benefits of raising animals on pasture, and choose to support responsible farming practices, the better for all of us.