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Talking Chicken and Eggs

Posted by Niti Bali on 4/14/2011 to Regenerative Farming

I think it is interesting when I open magazines or go online to find a good recipe and everything goes back to chicken. I find it more interesting that all the recipes call for one chicken breast per person! Nobody needs to eat that much chicken; especially just the breast pieces. I know most of my members know that a whole chicken is more sustainable and affordable than the pieces. It really does not make sense to cut the bird up. Cooking it all together brings out the most flavors and textures that everyone can enjoy in a meal. The only reason I offer cut up chicken is for what Americans love the most- convenience. At what expense does this convenience arrive?

To raise a chicken successfully you need sunshine, lots of grass with bugs and preferably cow manure everywhere to help the birds find loads of worms, crickets and other proteins. These dinosaur birds need about a 40-50% protein feed. Propaganda has everyone convinced that these birds are supposed to be vegetarians. Yet, if a chicken dies on the farm, what do the other birds do? Birds are the clean up crew on the farm so they will naturally start to work on the dead bird. Imagine what happens in those giant chicken houses?!? Yes, the organic ones too! Birds are all vultures and if there is a dead carcass around they will eat it. 

In those organic egg barns- the free range, cage free ones- how do the birds live? Are they keeping those 20,000 birds out on a prairie somewhere and if they did, how long would these birds live? Between the hawks and foxes and some of these birds own stupidity- 1/8 of the flock would disappear everyday. Snakes kill birds too. In a matter of 8 -10 days the flock would be practically gone. So how do the farms keep these birds alive? The grocery store has to have thousands of dozens of eggs and chicken every day because everyone looking at a recipe needs one breast per person if they are making dinner at home tonight. What about the restaurants? Lots of people order chicken because they are trying to watch their weight and they believe the red meat will either kill them or make them fat!

If you gave everyone a chicken breast for every meal, every day you would need a heck of a lot of chickens. Yet, there are other parts on a chicken and we still need some alive to lay the eggs! A real farm can only reasonably manage about 200-300 hens safely each day. Remember, each bird only lays one egg a day! That is only 200-300 eggs which is only 16-25 dozen eggs a day! Our farms generally have around 150-200 birds laying eggs for us and we use between 35-40 dozen eggs each week and I am feeding less than 70 families. Keep these numbers fresh in your minds. 

ONE Wal-Mart feeds 10,000 households each week and everyone does not buy food at Wal-Mart! How many chickens would that be? That is about 120,000 eggs if everyone just wanted one dozen eggs and that would require 20,000 chickens each lying one egg every day to fill that order each week. Interesting because one chicken house holds 20,000 chickens! How would these 20,000 “cage free”, “free range”, “organic” birds be housed? There would be a house which is 60,000 square feet. This would allow the chickens 3 square feet of space each and they get a small doggie door to let them out if they want to go out. Did you know that if you put a bunch of baby chicks in a house and it had a door for them to go in and out as they pleased, the chances of them actually going out on their own is about zero? You could open a garage door to this chicken house and still none of the birds would escape. In fact they would run toward the back wall out of sheer fright and may trample other birds injuring and even killing them. The access to the outdoors is laughable when we are talking about chickens because a chicken that walks into the corner of an outdoor fence is likely to remain stuck in that corner for a while before he realizes he can turn around and move to another spot! So much for “free range”. 

Let’s discuss the feed in the house. How do you feed these birds because they aren’t on a pasture and they don’t have grass and bugs to eat? I guess they might have some bugs to eat, but I am sure they will definitely have rodents trying to eat their “organic all vegetarian feed” along with other pests. The farmer now has to put out arsenic to keep the rodents out of the chicken feed. They are still eating organic feed so they are still fine and healthy right? So when the rodents die does the farmer find the bodies before the omnivore chickens on a vegetarian diet do? Hahaha! We are talking about expensive organic vegetarian feed- the farmers are not planning to let the rats and mice eat the feed. I guess it is ok for the hen to eat the arsenic poisoned rat though? That hen is constantly laying eggs also, so she needs a lot of water which is provided down the line which runs down the center of the house. They get plenty of water. This is not an exaggeration; she really needs a lot of water! 

So what is the atmosphere like in a house filled with 20,000 hens drinking tons of water because they are giving birth everyday? I would say the air is quite toxic; so much in fact that it wears out the walls of the structure and the maintenance on these buildings is expensive. They practically have to replace the walls every 3 years or so when the old flock dies or is processed for roasting hens before they replace them with new hens for eggs. These poor birds live in this ammonia filled house for 2-3 years when they might otherwise live to be 8-9 years old in their natural habitat. But their eggs are ORGANIC CERTIFIED by the USDA! They have got to be the best eggs ever, right? If the mom is living in a toxic atmosphere without clean air or sunlight, why should her eggs be “organic and healthy” for you? Those are also the “organic” roasting hens that earn top dollar in the grocery store. 

This is how many birds you have to have to yield $2.49 eggs. We charge $5 a dozen but our birds are on pasture, cleaning the cow patties and breathing clean fresh air. Our birds live 8-9 years unless they stop laying sooner and then they are dinner. Otherwise, they live a long healthy life and produce eggs with nice hard shells which is a sign of the high levels of minerals the mama is passing off to her newborn and a rich orange yolk which sets the flavor of the eggs and the vitamins and nourishing proteins in these eggs well above organic free-range grocery store egg standards. 

What about the meat birds?! Our birds take longer to grow and we have to take better care to keep them alive since they are out in the open air. The farmers move them to new pasture every 10-24 hours and they clean the pastures for our cattle. Conventional birds grow in those houses without any sunlight or fresh air and they are genetically modified to grow in 12 weeks. Our birds take 18-24 weeks to grow out so they are on feed longer which costs more than conventional birds and all that effort goes into 60-75 birds rather than 20,000 so the yield is lower and the cost is higher for each bird. So the farmer has to charge more per pound and even then our farmers are only making a 30% profit where conventional farmers make a 200-250% profit per animal and that is a wholesale price for them. Our chickens are medicinal so when we have them we can feel good knowing that they are nourishing our bodies. We do not produce enough chicken to live off of in the way the conventional market place suggests. No one should eat chicken that often. Our red meat is filled with omega 3 fatty acids vs. the omega 6 acids of conventional red meat. Our chickens and eggs are worth every penny. If eaten in moderation and balanced with all the other pasture raised meats that are offered, everyone can enjoy a variety of healthful foods with a balanced food budget. 

We currently received a new batch of chickens. Our winter birds that we felt weren’t growing because it was so cold suddenly started growing at a very rapid rate when the warm weather hit! Next thing you know we had 7-8# birds! The boneless breasts currently on the menu are like roasts, averaging 2# each! Pay attention to the weight when you look at the prices on the birds and then remind yourself that these birds are cut up at a processing plant and individually vacuum sealed. The processing is where the money is spent and that is another reason why cut up chickens are so expensive. These are premium convenience foods packaged in top notch vacuum sealed packaging for ultimate freshness and preservation. I must say, it is nice to have some convenience food of this quality on hand when my days are running together so I will continue to provide it. Later in the year the birds will probably not grow to be as big as these winter birds did!

 
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This page is where I want to share my passion for REAL food with you. Please check back often for updates or subscribe to receive them automatically via email, facebook, or twitter. I am looking forward to building the community and sharing my thoughts and experiences with you. 

- Niti Bali, owner Farm to Fork Meat

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