The Weston A. Price Way

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Community Pastured Poultry...Something To Consider

I just got all excited thinking I'd found some great grass-fed chicken...NOT SOY-fed, to boot. But when I got to the pricing, it was $79.00, on sale, for two roasters. Yes, they are large roasters, (supposedly half the size of a turkey). Yes, they are top quality and from a reputable company. I say, "Yes, Yes!" BUT, my pocketbook says, "No way!"

I have recently had the opportunity to buy heirloom birds. These are smaller than the typical chicken and the meat is both darker and tougher. There are reasons, very good ones, for these differences from what we have become accustomed to eating. There are ways to cook them that render them tender as well, and their rich taste supposedly rivals manna. They are grass-fed, GMO-free, etc, etc. Everything good. But again, HAD TO PASS due to exorbitant costs.

Do the farmers deserve their wages? Absolutely. Do their butchers deserve their wages? Yes, again. But there has to be an answer for those of us living on down-sized incomes, and those trying to spread one bird between a large family who also wanting to eat food not poisoned by hormones, antibiotics and other additives.

I have spoken with several other moms recently about this issue. One of them broke down and bought one of the heirloom birds. She has six children and it barely made it around the table once. According to her, the taste did not outweigh the lack of meat. I know that's just one person's opinion on that particular part of the subject, but I've spoken with several others, and there is an undercurrent of dismay at the prices we're paying....or not paying when our finances won't allow. And that's sad because it means we're either making compromises to our health or not eating the meat at all.

This is not about whether or why it's good for us. It's not about the fact that eating well can save us in doctor's bills. It's about, it's about what's in the checking account.

In case any of you just waltzed in here not really knowing what I'm speaking of, it's important that you understand that in the circles I am associated with, eating pasture-grazed meat is not part of a competition to show others just how rich we are. We eat it for its greater nutritional value, its unsurpassed inner cleanliness, and its lack of all those things we know are detrimental to our families' health. We don't really care if it's stamped as or considered, 'gourmet'. Some farmers are into that...selling to 'gourmet' restaurants, etc. But we are about health.

This is a very good reason for people to get together on raising their OWN grass-fed, no-soy birds. We could call it, "Community Grazing". Yep. I think I want to start a movement. If we can have community gardens, what's the problem with community grazing? I know in urban areas, this will fly as far as most chickens...but WHAT IF?....

...Several urbanites got together, pooled financial and physical resources, found a like-minded friend(s) in the nearest rural area, and worked out a plan for raising pasture-grazed birds? Keeping in mind that this is a commitment of only 8-10 weeks, 'members' would need to raise enough to last through a specified period of time. There could be several methods considered: If moving pens, (my personal favorite way to raise them), they could take turns...6 people plus the land-owner gives one to move the pen every day. Depending on the number of birds and lushness of grass, it may be possible to move it every other day...but details would be ironed out during initial and subsequent meetings. It could be decided on whether a single pen would be used for consecutive batches or a few pens used at once. Perhaps, because he is there and may have to deal with unexpected issues alone, (animals trying to get in pens in the night, etc.), the land-owner would be given a break on start-up costs, or a larger dividend of meat at the end.

Another approach could be to have different members of the group perform specific tasks. Perhaps one is a carpenter, but no good at the other jobs entailed. He could make the pens. Another is knowledgeable in the area of feed and could manage that end. Since the landowner is already there, perhaps he would agree to daily moving. Some in the group may want the meat and not mind helping in any area except processing, while others in the group have experience or are willing to get the experience to take care of that aspect.

Where there is a will, there is a way and everything in me tells me this is an affordable, doable task that's worthy of consideration.

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