What is Life Like on a Chicken Farm?
Pasture raised chicken has many benefits. Among those benefits, pasture raised chicken is more nutrient dense than chicken that has been conventionally-raised, including higher quantities of vitamins A, D, & E and omega fatty acids. It also boasts a much more intense and savory taste, owing to the varied diet that a pasture raised chicken consumes during its lifetime.
Another benefit of raising chickens on pasture is the improved quality of life that pasture raised chickens enjoy, compared to their conventionally-raised counterparts. As humans, we understand and enjoy the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, healthy food, and exercise. Well, chickens appreciate these things too! At Pasturebird, we’re strong proponents of animal welfare. We recognize that chickens are a food source, but they’re also living beings that deserve a good quality of life. Since day one, it has been one of our most important goals to make sure that our chickens live the lives that they deserve. So what exactly is life like for a chicken raised on pasture?
The Day to Day Life of a Pasture Raised Chicken
You might be surprised to learn that many of the labels you read at the grocery store can be pretty misleading. Catchy buzzwords like “free range” and “organic” make consumers think that they are supporting conscientious agriculture, but upon further examination into what these buzzwords actually mean, many consumers are disappointed to learn that those “free range” chickens may not ever see the outdoors! In order to be called “free range”. Can you believe a chicken need only have hypothetical access to the outdoors to be labeled as free range? So, if there’s a door in the permanently fixed barn that leads to a concrete slab, those chickens are technically free range. An “organic” label merely means that the chickens were fed an organic feed during their short and confined lifetime.
Conventional chickens are raised in grow houses, tightly packed with tens of thousands of chickens who rarely, if ever, see the outdoors or breathe fresh air. That crowded confinement results in rampant illness, meaning that in addition to having no quality of life, these chickens are pumped full of antibiotics and vaccines to ward off illness.
Pasture raised birds, on the other hand, must have at least 108 square feet of actual outdoor space and access to land where they can forage. For visualization purposes, this is between the size of a double mattress and a one car garage, which may not seem very large to a human, but it’s pretty spacious for a chicken! While most producers claiming "pasture raised" merely give access to the outdoors, similar to the free range folks, we actually let the birds live on pasture their entire lives. Our Pasturebird chickens enjoy constant access to the outdoors, in the form of a moveable coop. This allows them to enjoy fresh air and sunshine 24/7, while still being protected from predators and inclement weather. Our coops are tall enough for a grown human to stand in, and are moved to a new area each day, allowing our chickens new land to forage on, and allowing the previous foraging area to regenerate prior to being used again, in keeping with our commitment to regenerative agriculture. Our chickens are always outside, constantly allowed to forage, peck, and scratch on pasture as chickens are meant to do.
As we’ve outlined in previous blog posts, our chickens receive a varied and nutritious diet from this foraging that includes chicken favorites like insects, worms, seeds, and plants. We supplement that natural chicken diet with a supplemental feed that’s certified organic, non-GMO, and non-vegetarian. While you may be used to seeing labels in the grocery store boasting “from chickens fed a vegetarian diet” chickens are actually NOT vegetarians! By feeding our chickens a supplemental, high-quality, non-vegetarian feed, we’re ensuring that their supplemental feed is made up of ingredients that optimize their health, and is free of low-quality fillers and additives.
While our birds are fed a diet that contains corn and soy, their feed is non-GMO and produced from a local mill. Because chickens are monogastric animals, they have a special organ called a gizzard which sprouts and stone grinds grains prior to consumption to make them nutritionally available. This gives the birds the most nutritionally robust diet available and also our bodies the ability to consume the most nutritionally robust chicken - even for those who have gut sensitivities to these grains. In the same way we can’t eat grass but we can eat grass fed beef, chicken is almost universally ok for people with grain aversions, and oftentimes even grain allergies.
A nutritious diet, access to fresh air and sunshine, and plenty of room to move around every day ensures that our Pasturebird chickens enjoy a pretty great quality of life on the farm.
What is Life Like for the Humans on a Pasture Raised Chicken Farm?
Life is pretty great for the Pasturebird humans, too. Because we began as a small, family owned farm, we get to call the shots! When we started Pasturebird, we were able to focus on building a company that reflected what was important to us - animal welfare, regenerative agriculture, and practicing what we preach to supply our customers with a product that they can believe in. While we’ve grown a lot over the past few years, becoming the largest pastured poultry producer in the U.S., we’ve maintained those core principles. Our company may have grown, but our values have stayed the same.
We started this business with a personal mission - to humanely raise chickens that not only live healthier lives but are healthier to consume. We still take our business personally, which means that everyone here at Pasturebird is committed to these same values. Our focus is on producing a product that we all can be proud of, and adhering to these principles of animal welfare and regenerative agriculture. Agriculture is an integral part of our society, but there are a lot of changes that could and should be made in order to make sure that we’re not doing more harm than good to the environment in the process of growing and harvesting our food.
We work hard at Pasturebird, but we’re passionate about what we do and committed to making a difference, which makes that day to day hard work so much easier. We wake up each day excited to make a difference, and we end each workday knowing that we’ve achieved that goal. In the few years that we’ve been in business we’ve expanded to ship nationwide, including to retail and wholesale suppliers, and restaurants. We’re so proud to be bringing our wholesome, nutrient-rich, humanely produced pasture raised chicken to kitchens and stores across the United States. I don’t think we ever could have imagined that our vision would reach so far when we sat around our kitchen table a few years ago and placed an order for our very first chickens. By putting our focus on the welfare of our animals, the planet, and our consumers, we consistently produce a high quality product that we, and our customers, can feel good about. Happy birds, happy planet, happy humans.