Society has begun to navigate back towards a slower food, farm to table movement in recent years. People are becoming more aware of their health, and of the role that diet and nutrition play in their health. “Superfoods” are constantly evolving, and it can sometimes seem impossible to keep up with the latest health fads and today’s “eat this, not that” advice. It has people wondering what does pasture raised mean?
Don’t get us wrong, we think it’s fantastic that people are paying more attention to their health and wellness these days. The whole reason we started this company was as a result of our own quest to eat more healthful and nutritious food. But it can be difficult to separate the facts from the fads. If you’re not familiar with pasture raised meat and the concept behind it, it’s easy to see pasture raised chicken as just another trendy superfood in the cycle.
Raising Animals on Pasture Is How Farming Began
As a matter of fact, raising animals on pasture is anything but trendy. Pasture raised farming has been around for much longer than industrial-based agriculture. In fact, raising animals on pasture is just how farming used to be done. Animals were raised foraging on pastures, led by humans as they wandered from homesite to homesite. Nowadays, we call this rotational grazing, but back then it was just life.
According to an article on foraging from Oregon State University, “early in human civilization, grasslands were not intensively managed in the sense that they are today. They were utilized by wandering animals and by people who used those animals for food and other products.” So, long before farming was industrialized or even popular, animals grazed on pasture prior to being consumed. Nowadays, our “paleo” diet tries to get back to these hunter-gatherer roots of consuming pasture raised meat, both because it’s more ethical to do so, and because the foraging diet provides ample vitamins, minerals, and nutrition that isn’t available to barn-raised or factory farmed animals.
What does Pasture Raised Mean?
In the modern sense, when we talk about “pasture raised” chickens, this means that the chickens are given at least 108 square feet each of roaming space, and allowed ample access to the outdoors, fresh air, sunlight, and a steady diet of grass, worms, insects, nuts and seeds. This nutritious fodder is obtained from pecking, scratching and foraging - natural chicken behaviors that unfortunately, their barn-raised counterparts aren’t allowed to practice.
Happier Chickens, Healthier Meat
So, now you know the definition and the background of what pasture raised means...but what does it really mean for the chickens, and for you? What makes pasture raised poultry so different from conventionally raised meat?
Is life really that different for a pasture raised chicken?
The answer is YES.
For starters, much like their ancient counterparts, the process of wandering and foraging for food is how these animals were meant to live. Chickens weren’t made to live in a space smaller than a piece of paper, and to be denied access to natural behaviors such as dust bathing (digging a hole and covering themselves with dry dust and dirt), pecking, foraging, and scratching. Dust bathing helps keep their feathers healthy and reduces parasites, and pecking, scratching, and foraging allow the chickens to obtain a nutrient-rich supplemental diet of bugs, grasses, nuts, seeds, and worms naturally found in the ground. If you’ve ever seen eggs or meat from “chickens fed a vegetarian diet” advertised in the grocery store, you should know: chickens are not vegetarians! All that this clever marketing tactic means is that the chickens were fed solely a grain-based feed diet, and not allowed to forage outdoors for the supplemental food that they are meant to eat. This access to nutrient dense foraging material makes the chickens and the resulting meat healthier. Pasture raised chicken has been shown to have higher levels of omega 3s, vitamins, and lower levels of saturated fat. Simply put, happy chickens make healthy (and delicious) meat!
Raising Healthier Chickens, Naturally
Because of the cramped and unsanitary living conditions of factory chicken farms, conventionally raised chickens are fed a steady diet of antibiotics and other medicine to keep disease and parasites at bay. At Pasturebird, we keep our chickens healthy, naturally, by allowing them constant access to the outdoors. Our phrase “Always Outside” means that our chickens aren’t just allowed “access to the outdoors”, but actually live on pasture all the time. That means that our chickens are on pasture 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, protected from the elements and predators in a floorless, mobile coop. Fresh air, sunshine, and lots of living space mean that diseases that can move quickly through a flock of cramped, unhealthy industrially-raised chickens, just don’t when it comes to our birds. At Pasturebird, we provide our chickens with a lifestyle that builds a healthy and functioning immune system, so that we don’t have to feed them a steady diet of drugs to keep them healthy.
Our chickens obtain a nutrient rich, wholesome diet of insects, worms, seeds, nuts, and grasses, which provides them with a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and in turn, a healthy immune system that makes them resistant to illness and disease. They obtain this nutritious diet by pecking, scratching, and foraging; natural chicken behaviors that keep them active. We all know that a nutritiously-fed, active human is inherently healthier than a sedentary person who eats a poor diet, and the same is true for our animals! Animals that are allowed constant access to fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and healthy food are healthier animals, full stop. We pride ourselves on allowing our chickens to live their best lives and in the process, this allows us to provide healthy, antibiotic-free meat to our consumers.
So, pasture raised, by definition, means that animals were allowed to graze on pasture. At Pasturebird, we take it a few steps further and define it as just a better way to raise animals - focusing on regenerative agricultural practices, animal welfare, ethical farming practices, and raising a product that is healthier and better for our customers.