Monday, July 13, 2009

Pasture Raised Chicken and New Movie Preview

We would like to thank our customers for the strong support we have had so far. We have expanded our breeding stock (again) to help keep up with the demand for our All Natural, Humanely Treated, Pasture Raised, Berkshire Pork. This has been a little stressful as we are now feeding a lot more grower pigs and pregnant sows than in the past, raising our monthly operating costs and quickly draining cash flow. I think we will pull through and hopefully by the first of the year the pigs will be able to support themselves financially. (Maybe one day we will be able to pay ourselves! LOL) Once the pigs bring us into the positive, we are exploring the possibility of reinvesting the revenue to start raising All Natural, Humanely Treated, Pasture Raised Chicken. We haven’t decided exactly what we will be raising, but are looking at Poulet Rouge or something along those lines.

One obstacle we have come across is trying to find a facility to process the chickens. After an exhaustive search, we have concluded that no facility exists that can custom slaughter and is USDA certified. Therefore, if we pursue this, we are bravely going to set up our own little facility. We are in the process of acquiring the USDA certification as well as a license from the Utah Department of Agriculture. Once we have gone through all of the paperwork and saved enough money, we will purchase all of the processing equipment. We recently found a supplier for our chicks. They don’t use any antibiotics and don’t offer beak cutting etc… This attitude reflects our own. In order to not use antibiotics, this chick supplier must run a very clean operation. This is exactly the type of business we want to support. Their chickens are not the Cornish X’s hybrids that dominate the chicken market. Those chickens grow unnaturally fast and have serious health problems due to their skeletal system and organs not being able to keep up with their growth. This results in a very high mortality rate and a lot of suffering. The same is true for laying chickens that are now being bred with the goal of producing an egg per day or more. Their bodies just can’t keep up with that kind of production. Unless you have grown your own chickens, chances are you have never eaten chicken that wasn’t a Cornish X.

The more we learn about the chicken industry (both meat and egg production), the more convinced we are that chickens are the most abused production animal in our country. We would like for others who feel the same way to have an alternative source of chicken and eggs. Our dilemma is whether or not we are able and willing to take on chicken production. The most efficient way to raise chickens is to have a delivery of chicks delivered once a week. This means that after 11-12 weeks, we will be processing and delivering once a week as well. We may look at ways to ease into it like taking a delivery of chicks once a month or taking a delivery of chicks once a week for a few weeks rather than all year. We want to be able to have the time and resources to produce the highest quality products we can without compromise. However, where I still have a full time job and family to raise, we are left in a balancing act.

Current production methods disgust and offend us which is why we started raising our own pork and chicken. While looking into the different licenses required for chicken processing in Utah, we came across a license that blew us away. License #1601 Feed Garbage To Swine. Why anybody would want to eat pork raised on garbage is beyond me. Chances are the consumers don’t even know! The reason a license is needed is that if garbage isn’t processed properly before feeding it to pigs, it can quickly spread disease like Foot and Mouth. While I applaud resourcefulness, I do not want to consume meat associated with garbage and its potential diseases. Where Utah is not even that big of an "agricultural" state when compared to other states like those in the Midwest, I can't help but wonder what other types of licenses like this one are required. Since the vast majority of meat consumed in Utah is not raised in Utah, this is an issue that is very concerning. Rest assured that we are dedicated to providing our customers with pork raised on luscious grasses and legumes and fresh, wholesome grains. Absolutely no garbage or other shortcuts are allowed on our farm.

I recently read a post on Stoney Brook Farm’s blog. The post addressed the recent E. Coli outbreak in cookie dough. The strain of E. Coli that was in the cookie dough is found in the intestines of cows and their feces. The questions Bob the farmer raised are, “How does E. Coli 0157, which lives in the intestines of heavily grain fed cows, end up not only in a cookie factory, but inside the cookie dough? How messed up must the system be for such a thing to happen?” Very valid questions, Bob. My guess is having government agencies who issue “Feed Garbage to Swine” licenses might have something to do with it. It is time to become more aware of our food. Not to be overly dramatic, but the lives and health of our families depend on it.

There is a new movie out called “Food Inc.”. It is a documentary that shows the process that our food goes through. If you click on the link you can see a preview. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will be playing in theaters here in Utah. But look for it on DVD in a few months. From what I have seen and heard about it, it is very eye opening. I would love to hear your comments!