Let’s just get it out there. Conscientiously grown, farm-raised chicken is not the least expensive you can buy. Big-box grocers usually are the cheapest (in every sense of the word). But at what cost comes that price? Why is it so much more worthwhile for you to eat chicken from your local chicken farm?
Accountability In Your Local Chicken Supply
Your local big-box grocery store gets their chickens from multiple vendors, warehouses, and distribution centers. These are birds often coming from faceless large-scale producers all over the country and even outside the country, with varying degrees of animal care and varying practices.
Now consider that many large farms own multiple farms in multiple states and locations, and that point-of-origin labelling requirements are confusing and undergoing seemingly constant repeal and reenactment. These conditions make it very difficult to know where your chicken was grown, by whom, and under what conditions. If you care about how your food was grown, what you put in your body, that alone matters a lot.
If you care about how your food was grown, what you put in your body, that alone matters a lot.
This is not the case when you buy from your local chicken farmer. Locally-grown, farm-raised chickens offer you an easy opportunity to know exactly who is growing your bird, more often than not right down to the first, middle, and last name!
Clean, Healthy Conscientious Eating
Being able to directly contact the source of your local chicken means that you can eat better for yourself while being able to hand-pick the best-fit farming practices that matter to you. Organic chicken? Pastured chicken? Antibiotic-free chicken? Cage-free chicken? Free-range chicken?
Locally-grown chicken gives you the opportunity to select chickens that are:
- Less traveled
- Less handled
- Less processed
- Less injected
This leads to less incidence of food-borne illness which is a very real consideration. With a focus on clean, health-conscious eating, all these things are easy to find on local chicken farms.
Local chicken farmers choose their growing and feed practices very carefully and with intent. We strive harder to minimize losses through good management and humane farming practices because we have to, but more importantly because we want to. Large flock losses and low-quality hurt our bottom line (an already fine one), but they hurt our hearts, too. This is our livelihood and our lives–we eat this food too, and we insist on the healthiest and best quality meats!
Diet Matters in Real and Measurable Ways
When we say that our selected farming practices–local organic pastured poultry, free-range chicken–we mean that first in terms of humane living for our animals, but we also adopt these practices for a superior product. What our farm-raised chickens eat truly does make a difference in the nutritional profile of the meat that is produced as a result of those practices.
…And that’s not to mention the taste! The taste…there’s nothing to it but to try it and taste the difference for yourself. That diverse diet and nutritionally compact chicken delivers a superior flavor profile that no sodium-injected big-box bird can match.
Better Breeding for Better Birds
Here’s an interesting reason that farm-raised chicken is so much better, and it’s not something people would necessarily think about. Breed selection and diversity make a big difference in both health and quality over big-box store chicken.
Throughout the twentieth century, certain chickens were selectively bred for commercial traits which included fast growth-rate, feed conversion efficiency, and double-breasting and meat development. These are largely the Cornish Cross birds grown commercially for meat production. And while small local chicken farmers and even backyard farmers grow them, too, the difference in the level of care and the growing environment impacts the quality of life of the birds as well as the quality of meat produced.
Those traits that have been selected for breeding have come at some cost and under stressful growing conditions, injury and losses with these birds can be high. Birds are much more well-managed and easier to minimize when the growing environment is one of early and ongoing clean open “personal” bird space, air, fresh water access, and protection from environmental highs and lows through a combination of good housing and outside access. These are not the conditions that commercial poultry are typically grown under, and anyway, you could never tell those that were from those that were not.
Those selectively-bred birds, though, are not the only breed option. Nature had already provided us with a wealth of even better-tasting, better-suited birds (now considered “heritage breeds”). It is for this reason that you find local chicken farmers diversifying their flocks and offering customers different options. These breeds are often better-suited to maximize the forage and pasture options that lend the best taste and nutritional characteristics to pastured poultry. The distribution of the type of meat (light vs. dark) over the body can be different, so there are often ideal uses for select breeds of birds, depending on what you like and what you want to cook.
One Grower, One Practice, One Guarantee–Let’s Chat!
The best way to decide the best chicken for you is to buy from the source and have the conversations that matter. Local chicken farmers love to talk to consumers and love to share their knowledge, their practices, and their farming philosophies (not to mention some favorite cut selection and cooking tips and tricks). It’s a benefit you’ll never find in a chain store, and there’s no better way to feel good about the food you feed to you and yours.
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