Harvest Haven Certified Chicken
Perhaps one of the most offensive agricultural odors wafting across the countryside is the foul stench of industrial chicken barns. Tens of thousands of birds per operation are callously robbed of hygiene, health, and happiness. These hideous farms represent the peak of modern food production’s ignorance, arrogance, and stupidity.
Proponents of these gross stewardship failures justify stinking up the countryside with their moralistic “gotta feed the world” claims. Meanwhile, consumers of these abused, anemic, fecal-contaminated birds plug their noses and complain when the wind blows their way. They make no connection to the chemically saturated McNuggets they’ve made a weekly habit of consuming.
The hideous production system starts, continues, and ends with death. Dying farmers, dying birds, and dying people in a dying landscape. It’s no wonder sales of organic poultry have sky-rocketed in the past decade.
So, is organic chicken at Costco any better than conventional? Yes, but not by much.
In order to accommodate mass operations, compromised organic poultry standards are not nearly high enough. These organic birds are subjected to an environment similar to that of conventional birds. Only their feed is certified organic. The farms still stink. Visitors still need to wear Tyvek suits and masks.
These certified organic birds never get to scratch a certifiably organic piece of dirt. It’s all concrete floors and sterile wood shavings. No bugs, no worms, no grasshoppers, no grass, no sunshine, no breeze, no room. And no surprise that the meat has no colour, no moisture, and no flavour. Granted, these birds are pesticide and herbicide free, but so is most cardboard. That’s not much of a standard.
Here is where I need to share the most important thing you need to know about poultry and the associated food poisoning risks. The reason industrial (organic or otherwise) poultry is considered such a high-risk protein with a dangerously short shelf life is because of the air quality in these filthy, stinky barns. The high ammonia levels in these factory barns burn raw lesions into the birds’ lungs. These bloody pathogen portholes allow the E. coli and Salmonella contaminated manure dust of these sickly birds to gain easy access to their bloodstream.
Folks, if the smell is burning your nose, it’s burning those tender lungs. The soft mucous membranes on those chicken lungs stand guard between you and your risk of food poisoning.
Since the CFIA has banned me from telling you that our meat won’t give you food poisoning (which by the way, hasn’t happened in 24 years), I’ll have to leave it up to you to decide which meat is safer to eat.
Now, for the Harvest Haven Certified standard. Our chicks are started in a clean barn on a fresh layer of our best earthy smelling compost. Rather than wasting natural gas to heat the whole barn, we built “wooden hens.” These boxes, with only two light bulbs per 200-300 chicks, replicate the warmth of a mother hen, and the chicks can come and go as they please. Not only is this system energy efficient, the opportunity for the chicks to escape the warmth to exercise and eat in cooler temperatures strengthens their immune system.
We raise the chicks in the barn for about 3 weeks until they’ve grown enough feathers to survive cooler nights. At this point they’re ready for pasture. The birds are split up into 10-foot by 10-foot cages starting at one end of a pasture that’s been recently grazed by sheep. The shorter, trampled grass provides more suitable bedding and renders the bugs easier to catch. And the tender pasture regrowth is much easier for the birds to digest than mature grasses.
Every morning when the dew comes off, we move each cage ahead by a full ten feet, providing the birds with a fresh salad and a side of bugs, which they take full advantage of before resorting to their grain feeders. (It should go without saying that we provide exclusively organic grain and clean Grander Living Water.)
This system also moves the birds away from their manure which means they are never exposed to any pathogen load. Think about it like changing a diaper. It keeps everything and everybody healthy and clean. Our birds have full access to sunshine and fresh pasture breezes that are 100% free of ammonia. Our healthy pasture grasses make immediate use of the nitrogen in the manure to prevent any odors or runoff. The whole system is beautiful and clean, and produces meat that is beautiful and clean.
Remember, you can never be healthier than the plants or animals you eat. If you’re eating animals that need antibiotics to just stay upright, I assure you that you will be taking antibiotics soon enough. If you’re eating birds from barns that require you to wear special suits and masks, you’ll be in a room that requires people to wear suits and masks soon enough. They’re called intensive care units. Just think, industrial birds are so close to death’s door that they have to live their whole lives in the ICU.
It’s not rocket science. If you want health and vigor for you and your family, start by making sure your food has that same health and vigor. The adage, “You are what you eat” is certainly true.