PASTURED POULTRY - WHY IT'S DIFFERENT
I grew up on a farm, but that doesn’t mean I knew how chicken was supposed to taste. We ate chicken from the store – sponge-like breast meat and frozen chicken fingers (we all know chickens don’t have fingers…). Some can remember when grandma and grandpa had chickens; how fresh the meat was, and just how good it tasted. But most of us, myself included, have come to terms with the fact that chicken doesn’t have much flavour at all. And by buying chicken from conventional producers, we’re supporting a food industry that’s neither sustainable nor healthy – for us and the environment. Pastured chicken, however, can solve all of these problems!
Brett and I understand that food labelling can be overwhelming, so we’ve come up with some definitions to help you through it. When we use the word pastured, what we mean is the animal has been raised outdoors in a small mobile pen, with shelter, that is moved onto new grass daily. Free-range means our laying hens are not confined and have free rein to go where they please and eat all the goodies they can scratch up. Both our layers and our broilers (meat chickens) are supplied with shelter, fresh water, and nutrient-dense, ecologically grown grain. The difference between pastured and free-range is that the pastured animals have a fence to keep them in and predators out. In the industrial chicken model, there is no green grass, no fresh air, no sunshine, and no space for the chickens to dust bathe (which is how they cool down and control any itchy bugs) and scratch for worms.
THREE REASONS TO SWITCH TO PASTURED POULTRY:
When animals are raised in a way that nature intended, in a way that allows a chicken to be a chicken, the health benefits can be incredible. Chickens, unlike cows, don’t have the digestive ability to live solely on pasture, but the inclusion of grass in their diet naturally boosts the nutritional content (vitamins and omega-3s) of the poultry. Our chicks are fed a non-medicated starter and are not given antibiotics unless there is an illness. Their feed is grown ecologically (not certified organic but grown to organic standards), and also grown locally – plus they’re eating up the nutrients from the fresh pasture and bugs.
Another added health bonus is bone broth from your pastured chicken! In our house, this is our go-to superfood. Bone broth is great for healing the gut, boosting the immune system to help recover from a cold or flu, and is full of nutrients vital to our health. If you are not familiar with broth and how to make it, here is a link to recipes and everything else you need to know about this wonderful superfood.
Not only do we raise chickens on pasture for our benefit, there is also a huge benefit for the land. As the chickens graze, they spread their manure – which is high in nitrogen. We graze cows in the same pasture, allowing these two animals to symbiotically interact with then land. The chickens spread the nitrogen from their manure which helps the grass grow for the cows and the cows leave behind their manure that the chickens love to peck through. Chickens, which are omnivores, do an amazing job of going through the cow manure to find seeds and bugs.
If you have never tried meat from a pastured animal, you will be amazed by how much flavour a chicken can actually have. Don’t worry, it’s not gamey like some wild meat. A lot of this taste difference can be traced to the fat, which on a pastured animal, is usually quite yellow – a sign the animal has been raised on grass, and that the fat is high in carotenoids AKA FULL OF NUTRIENTS!