Pasture Awareness

The Bottom Line: Poultry and eggs pasture raised taste better than those raised in confinement. 

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Pastured poultry (not referring to pasteurization process, that's for foods such as milk, cheese and beer) is a technique used for raising chickens or other poultry right on green pastures. The birds are always kept on fresh pasture by systematically moving them around every few days, which allows the birds to be raised in a cleaner, healthier environment. And fed the old fashioned way- on fresh green pasture grass and with wholesome grain. 

'Pastured living' is not only good for the chickens- but chickens managed correctly, are good for the pasture. Hens are brillant at finding and eating small seeds, insects, and tender grass and leaves. Their manure leaves behind a healthy shot of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. The trick is to move the hens before the pasture has been pecked and scratched to death.

Although there is nothing new here, since farmers have been raising poultry on pastures for centuries in this manner. In fact, most domesticated poultry was raised outdoors until the 1950s when large confinement egg and poultry operations found they could mass produce product confined in restricted conditions. Even though the majority of poultry is now produced in high-density factory farms, the good news is a rising number of growers have chosen to raise their poultry in outdoor free range pastures instead of indoor confinement to produce a high quality, farm-fresh, all-natural product. Which brings us back to quality, quality, quality. That's good stuff.

The pastured poultry movement has found great support among consumers, chefs and restaurateurs because of the high quality and unsurpassed flavor of such products. And so, local farmers continue to see growth with demand for premium-priced pasture-raised poultry and eggs. 

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Nutritional Benefit: Deep-yellow-yolked eggs, the sign of natural chock full of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids.

In Season: Pastured eggs are seasonal, hens lay less as the days get shorter. In industrial confined egg operations they use artificial lights. However, while the ladies are resting and not earning their keep, they are eating even more expensive grain because of shorter daylight and colder days. Just one of the reasons why pastured eggs will cost more.

Inspiration: See what hard work, dedication, and pride in what the natural earth creates. Chris and Holly of Browder's Birds Mattituck, on the North Fork LI are career changers who run Long Islands's only organic & pastured poultry farm. On the west coast Soul Food Farm owners Alexis and Eric Koefoed raise pastured chickens for both eggs and meat. They turn sunlight, grass, bugs, and high-quality domestic feed into animals that live a healthy and humane life --free to roam in fresh air and peck and take dust baths — and then into delicious and healthy food. They are driven by the belief that "You are what you eat, and what you eat, eats." Soul Food Farm, Vacaville, CA.

Resources: For more information on where to find pasture eggs near you:

American Pastured Poultry Producers Association

Rodale Institute

When eggs are this good they need to take center stage, or center of the plate. So here's my Eggs Benedict Recipe, taken from Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco.

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Know Your Fire cookbook by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco

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