With regards our family sustainable farm (being built by our daughter and son-in-law), it’s been a year of lessons learned and values instilled. One lesson I’ve learned is to know the difference between what you think is great and what really is.
Many of you have witnessed first-hand, life on the farm. As we have watched the “chicken process” I have mussed over the phrases that we often repeat as I have witnessed where they came from:
Running around like a chicken with its head cut off
Looks like they have egg on their face
He’s hen pecked
Building a nest egg
All cooped up
Quit your squaking
Scratching out a living
Fly the coop
Cock ‘o the walk
And so on…
Truly, without knowing the origination of the phrases, we speak an agrarian talk while living a metropolitan walk.
We have participated in “evisceration day” a few times now. We gather as family and friends, say a prayer of gratitude for the birds we are about to harvest, and put up store for the winter. From raising the chicks, to harvesting the birds, every care is taken to be good stewards of the earth and that which lives upon it. It’s a great feeling to know the animals have been happy during their sojourn, and didn’t live out their lives in a small square, with no life at all, to be artificially prepared for maximum use at the lowest cost.
Before we started this family adventure, I actually thought when I bought a free range bird from the store, that it had a life of freedom and frolicked in the high pasture grass. But did you know that
the USDA’s (and industry standard) definition for “Free Range” is that birds must have “outdoor access”
or “access to the outdoors.” In some cases, this can mean access only through a “pop hole,” with no full-body access to the outdoors and no minimum space requirement. Creating a higher standard,
HFAC’s (HFAC is Human Farm Animal Care—dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals; recognized as the gold standard for certifying animal welfare from birth to slaughter) Certified Humane® “Free Range” requirement is 2 square feet per bird. The hens must be outdoors, weather permitting (seasonal in some areas of the country), and when they are outdoors they must be outdoors for at least 6 hours per day. All other standards must be met.
HFAC’s Certified Humane® “Pasture Raised” requirement is 1000 birds per 2.5 acres (108 square feet per bird) and the fields must be rotated. The hens must be outdoors year-round, with mobile or fixed housing where the hens can go inside at night to protect themselves from predators, or for up to two weeks out of the year- due only to very inclement weather. All additional standards must be met.
The process used on our farm is significantly more liberal than HFAC’s pasture raised standards; but can you imagine actually calling “Free Range” a bird who is limited to two square feet or much less by USDA standards. It pays to scratch below the surface in understanding these things.
In the pasture rotation of the animals, the land itself also is revitalized and enriches the soil and production of pasture. It’s amazing to me how everything is better in farming when you focus on being a good steward of the land and animals and not on the production and profit.
Here is the end result of the pasture raised product. Never had anything better-it’s real and authentic in every way. It’s not better because a label said so; it is better because it really is.
Now that’s something to crow about.