Chickens should eat bugs…
A sustainable agriculture is one which depletes neither the people nor the land— Wendell Berry.
Pasture-raised, organic-fed whole broiler chickens: $6/lb
We raise our broiler chickens in Joel Salatin style “chicken tractors” as shown in the above photo. This allows us to move our chickens to fresh grass one to three times a day while protecting them from predators. We are experimenting with fully free-range pastured broilers, but we are not there yet.
Our chickens eat a number of food items each day. Commercial organic chicken feed, fresh grass, insects, worms, and other pasture creatures that chickens enjoy eating. The feed we use is produced by New Country Organics in Waynesboro, Virginia. It takes us 8 hours to go pick up this feed for our birds, but we feel strongly that the right feed is important for our poultry. The feed we use is Certified Organic, Soy-Free, and contains no GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). Our feed contains Organic Kelp (a large species of seaweed) that contains over 70 different minerals. In addition, our feed also contains a number of fermentation products; these are beneficial bacteria that help the birds absorb and utilize all the vitamins and minerals in their diet. Here is the list of ingredients for the feed we use:
INGREDIENTS: Organic Field Peas, Organic Corn, Organic Wheat, Organic Oats, Organic Barley, Fish Meal, Organic Rice Bran, Organic Alfalfa Meal, Organic Flaxseed, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Dried Organic Kelp, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, DL Methionine, Yeast Culture, Roughage Product (organic wheat middlings), Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Choline Chloride, Menadione Nicotinamide Bisulfite Complex, D-Calcium Pantothenic Acid, Niacin Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Extract, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Dried fermentation product of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Dried fermentation product of Lactobacillus casei, Dried fermentation product of Lactobacillus plantarum, Dried fermentation product of Enterococcus faecium, Dried fermentation product of Bacillus coagulans, Dried fermentation product of Bacillus licheniformis, and Dried fermentation product of Bacillus subtilis.
Despite the deceptive marketing of some poultry and egg producers, chickens and turkeys are not vegetarians; they are omnivores. They eat fresh grass, insects, worms, grubs, and any other bug or crawling thing that may cross their path. When chickens and turkeys eat a wide variety of food, like they were designed to do, and they eat food that is full of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, then their meat is significantly more nutrient dense than what you could ever find in a factory farm.
Older people will often remark how our chicken tastes how they remember it tasting when they grew up on a farm as a child. Not everyone has as refined a palate to say that this meat has a superior taste to a store bought chicken, although I think many do. If the meat is prepared in a curry or barbecue dish, it may be hard to differentiate, but almost everyone will remark how filling it is. There is a real reason for this. I believe a significant factor for the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is that our food is nutrient poor. Our bodies crave many nutrients, and so we end up taking in more calories to fill the nutrient deficit. We are nutrient deprived while being calorically overloaded. When our food is nutrient dense, our bodies don’t crave more calories, and we feel full sooner. Not a bad side effect for something that tastes so good!
We also think that animal welfare is not something we can ignore when it comes to butchering (aka “processing”) our animals. Humans are omnivores. We eat meat. There is no getting around the fact that an animal must die to when we choose to eat meat. I don’t think this is something we need to shy away from or try to talk our way around it. Our animals live an incredibly enjoyable life, and we strive to only let them have one bad moment in their lives. This obligation we have placed upon ourselves means that we decided to process our chickens on our farm. Legally, we are not allowed to process our sheep (or any other mammal) on our farm and then sell the meat. Fortunately, we are allowed to do this with poultry, and we are glad about this. We are able to verify ethical and humane treatment of our animals from day 3 of life (when we are able to get the chicks from the hatchery) until processing day. We believe that when we are intimately involved with the life, growth, and the death of an animal, we will treat the animals with greater respect, and we will develop a deeper appreciation of every meal we eat.