As society begins to inch back to a slow-food and farm-to-table movement, sustainable agriculture practices are becoming more mainstream. You’ve likely heard the term “pasture raised” before, but if you’re wondering exactly what it means, you’re probably not alone. There are so many trendy food labels these days that it can sometimes be hard to keep them all straight - and even harder to know which labels are just a clever marketing scheme and which are actually better for you.
Far from being a savvy new advertising ploy, raising animals on pasture is a sustainable method of agriculture that has been around for much longer than industrial-based farming.
What is Pasture Raised Chicken?
Simply put, pasture raised chicken is chicken that was raised on a pasture (crazy, right?) Dictionary.com defines a pasture as “an area covered with grass or other plants used or suitable for the grazing of livestock”. At Pasturebird, we define pasture as a better way to raise our chickens. Our company was born out of a desire to make humanely and sustainably raised poultry accessible to everyone. As consumers, we were tired of feeling misled by companies who used catchy greenwashed labeling but didn’t practice what they preached. We discovered that many companies market their chickens as “free range” even though they rarely go outside, or “antibiotic-free” despite their poultry being riddled with antibiotics. We wanted to trust that the chicken we consumed was raised sustainably and with a focus on the welfare of the bird, and we thought the best way to ensure that was to raise our own chickens!
Why Pasture Raised Chicken is Better
Pasture raised chicken is not only healthier to consume, it’s healthier for the planet, and healthier for the chickens. When chickens are allowed ample time outside, they are able to forage by scratching, pecking at the ground, eating insects, worms, grains, and grass from the soil, and harvesting seeds. Basically, they are allowed to live exactly as nature intended them to. In return, their droppings give back to the soil’s natural biome and create a cycle of regenerative agriculture that just isn’t found in factory farming.
Regenerative agriculture is a cyclical method of farming that not only gives back to the natural ecosystem, but actually conserves and improves it. This agricultural process really does depend on the cycle of life, and not surprisingly, results in a healthier product due to the nutrient biodiversity found in the soil - whether the product be crops or poultry and livestock..
Humanely Treated Animals
If you believe at all in the interconnectedness of the planet and its inhabitants, it’s easy to see why pasture raised chicken is a better choice. Not only is the practice of allowing chickens to forage and live freely a more sustainable agricultural practice, but it’s simply a more humane way to raise animals. It is possible to consume meat and still advocate for the animal - a practice known as ethical omnivorism or compassionate carnivorism.
While the goal of factory or industrial farming is to produce as much product as possible for as little cost, sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices believe that the welfare of the animals and the land should be just as much a priority as the profit margin. At Pasturebird, we make sure that our chickens have access to fresh pasture on a daily basis, allowing them to obtain optimal nutrition - and as a result our chickens have never needed antibiotics, drugs, or synthetic materials.
Not only is raising chickens on pasture healthier for the animal, but it’s healthier for consumers, too. Pasture raised chickens are given access to plenty of nutrients in the form of insects, worms, seeds, grains, and grass. The rich nutrient-density of their diet translates to a more nutritious and better tasting final product.
Compared to barn-raised and conventionally-raised chickens, Pasturebird poultry has been shown to have three times the omega-3s, 50 percent more vitamin A, D, and E, and 21 percent less saturated fat. Simply put, healthier chickens make for healthier chicken. You can even order Pasturebird to be delivered directly to your doorstep by clicking HERE.
Aside from being healthier due to access to a more nutritious diet and plenty of fresh air, pasture raised poultry is generally free from the pesticides, antibiotics, and other drugs that are routinely given to factory-farmed chickens due to their close proximity to each other. When hundreds or thousands of birds are crammed right next to each other in a confined space, diseases and parasites spread rapidly. As a result, the chickens are consistently given drugs to kill the parasites and fight disease - drugs that wind up in their meat and eggs.
Is Pasture Raised the Same as Free Range?
Chances are you’ve heard the term “free range” before, and you might wonder if free range and pasture raised are synonymous. Not exactly. While in theory, free range means that the chickens are afforded continuous access to the outdoors during their lifetime, there really is no regulating whether or not the chickens are actually free to roam outside. As long as there is a door, somewhere, that provides them access to the outdoors (even if it’s a screened-slab of concrete), the chickens are technically free range.
Unlike free range, pasture raised poultry must have access to at least 108 square feet of actual outdoor space, ensuring that they have plenty of space to roam and forage, as chickens were meant to do. The result is happier chickens, and healthier, tastier meat and eggs.
Healthier for You, Healthier for the Planet
As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat.” The same is true of us, and of our food sources. Simply put, when you consume meat that is raised in a healthy environment, given access to fresh air, water, and sunlight, and fed a nutrient dense diet (including those obtained from natural foraging), you’re consuming a final product that is much healthier than its industrially-raised counterpart. It’s easy to see why. Chickens raised in a dark, confined space with no room to move, and fed a steady diet of pharmaceuticals and pesticide-laden grain are simply not healthy animals. If you’re lucky enough to have access to pasture raised poultry, which companies like Pasturebird are helping to make readily-accessible to anyone, the choice is simple. Choose the sustainably-grown, humanely raised option.