In a world of fast food joints and super-sized grocery stores, the quality of the food we eat has diminished.
We trade quality and nutrition for speed and convenience. But in recent years, we’ve started to see a resurgence of simpler times; farmer’s markets, farm-to-table restaurants and small businesses honing their craft, bringing back quality.
Our Farmer Girl family farm has been operating for close to 100 years, with four generations of farmer girls and boys. We use old-fashioned, artisan meat production methods, borne from our family’s long and rich history of small farming. That means our meat is hand-raised, in very small herds, on carefully-curated native pasture grasses, with hardy heritage breeds whenever possible.
Our small-scale production methods are at the heart of our flavorful, healthy and clean meat.
Factory Farmed Chicken
Let’s go on a visit, shall we? First let’s stop by a place where chickens see brown mostly… brown flooring, brownish food, and artificial light with a brown glow. Welcome to the life of a mass-produced chicken, destined for the grocery store aisle. These chickens spend the entirety of their life in commercial chicken houses, along with anywhere from 2,500 to 50,000 other chickens. Talk about close quarters!
Now, in contrast, let’s visit the chicken farm of Farmer Girl Meat’s Bauman Cedar Valley Farm.
Pasture Raised Chicken
Bauman’s is a small family farm, just a hop down the road from Leslie’s family farm. When the Bauman’s purchased Cedar Valley farmstead over 10 years ago, they didn’t mince words with their children, “this is your inheritance… make it work.”
We call that country motivational-speaking, folks! And so, the Bauman children did make it work, the natural way. On the Baumann farm, chickens are on the pasture the duration of their life, after spending about three weeks in the brooder until they grow their feathers. Hunting bugs, eating grass and frolicking in the field is just another day for these fowl.
They are watched from afar by Anatolian Shepherd guard dogs, raised from puppyhood with the flock. These doggies think they are part of the chicken brood – literally… and fiercely protect their fowl family from roaming predators. At night, the dogs and Roseanna Bauman tuck the entire flock to bed… again, literally. in their moveable hoop houses (shown above with Roseanna).
The contrast in the quality of life of mass-produced raised chickens versus chickens raised on a small, craft farm is apparent, isn’t it? The contrast in the quality of the product is apparent, also.
At Farmer Girl Meats, we believe that high quality meat goes hand-in-hand with high-quality living conditions and production methods. You just can’t have one without the other. High quality, delicious meat comes from small, craft farms dedicated to quality and integrity in all that they do. And that’s what makes the Bauman Farm the perfect fit for Farmer Girl Meats!
Pasture Makes Perfect
As a small farmer, animals are our babies, “and that’s the way we treat them,” says Roseanna, Chief Chicken Officer. “Giving our animals a great quality of life makes me feel good. I can tell that they enjoy life, in the fresh air and sunshine, stretching their wings.”
While being pastured doesn’t always protect animals, the alternative of housing them indoors all of their life is not an option for Roseanna.
“I’m willing to trade the slight risk of weather or predators rather than giving them a stress-filled life day in and day out,” She says.
Outside, Roseanna’s chickens are allowed to express their natural behaviors, like scratching, pecking, wing flapping and perching.
Unlike cows, poultry require a little bit of grain; they don’t do well on pasture forage alone. Commercially-raised birds often eat grain that contains antibiotics to prevent disease and promote growth. As in the chicken feed is packaged with antibiotics already in it. In contrast, the Bauman’s flock are fed specially formulated, antibiotic-free grain once a day. And commercially-raised birds sure don’t get to roam the fields for grass and bugs. Nope–it’s a crowded industrial chicken house for those guys day and night.
Raised on pasture and allowed to roam the range at will, Roseanna’s birds don’t require routine antibiotics. That’s because they aren’t crowded together, pooping on each other and spreading disease (yuck!).
But raising her flock naturally comes at a price–Roseanna’s birds grow more slowly, eat more food, and cost more money for Roseanna to raise. And that, friends, is the reason raising high-quality meat is more expensive–it just takes more time and money to raise livestock the old-fashioned way. And remember, Roseanna’s sick animals aren’t medicated with antibiotics and funneled into the human food supply. Rather, sick animals do what happens naturally–they pass. And that means Roseanna has one less chicken to sell.
Besides just tasting better, pastured-raised poultry is higher in healthy omega-3 acids and conjugated linoleic acids, and lower in omega-6 (saturated fats) than confined birds. Because omega-3 comes from the chlorophyll in green plants, while omega 6 comes from grains, animals with a naturally balanced diet possess these nutrients in the natural balance that has been turned upside down in grain only confinement diets.
One thing the Bauman’s knew they would do when they started farming was to follow clean and organic principles. Using sustainable farming methods is also a priority. From the beginning of the chick’s life, they are giving back to the farm. New bedding is spread for the chicks in the brooder and is then reused in the Bauman’s garden as mulch.
Allowing the chickens to roam on the pasture eliminates a huge manure load–It’s spread out on the pasture where it should be. “Very little waste comes off our farm–the feathers, the pens, the poop–it is all adaptable and can be composted, reused or recycled.” Roseanna says.
Roseanna says she also owns the only on-farm USDA-certified processing plant for her chickens. “We used to take our chickens to another plant, but we couldn’t control how they treated our birds. We care so much about our birds and raise them to our high standards. It seemed silly to not be in charge of that final step.”
Roseanna herself is in charge of the processing of the birds, humanely and to her high standards. her artisan skills approach to the well-being of her chickens adds a depth of flavor and, we think, a noticeable taste of love. Running a craft operation like the Bauman Farm isn’t easy or cheap. But for Roseanna and the Farmer Girl family, quality will always trump quantity.
Happy & Healthy Eating,