Chicken: fried, BBQ’d, roasted, on a burger, in a salad, curried, à la King— chicken has become one of the most ubiquitous components of The North American diet. Canadians eat an average of almost 76 lbs of chicken each per year, with Canadian farmers producing almost 1.3 billion kilograms of chicken annually for domestic and foreign consumption.
Almost 100% of that 1.3 billion kg of chicken is from birds that have no access to sunlight, no ability to forage for insects or worms or for other fresh foods such as green plants in the way that chickens, omnivores as they are, would normally do. This is the dramatic difference between pastured poultry and all industrially produced chicken, organic, free range, or conventional.
Most industrially produced chicken is fed a diet of grains such as corn, barley and wheat enhanced with higher protein ingredients such as soy. Their feed is generally supplemented with medications, vitamins and minerals to compensate for the impoverished diet and living conditions the birds endure in their brief experience of our meat processing industry.
Theirs is not a healthy or pleasant existence.
Large scale organic and so-called free range chicken is arguably better off, requiring producers to provide more space and access to outdoor areas. But with food and water located indoors, and outdoor areas limited, chicken raised in these modestly improved circumstances still see few of the benefits of true free-range living.
Consequently, while industrially produced chicken may be a good source of protein, its nutritional value is a reflection of its diet and environment. Industrially produced chicken is higher in many of the unhealthy saturated fats we are advised to avoid and it has lower vitamin D and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Compare this to pastured poultry where birds are raised outdoors. They have unlimited access to fresh air and the plants, animals and beneficial soil organism that come with foraging on new ground every day. The meat from pastured birds has much higher levels of vitamin D and a far healthier ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. It should come as no surprise then that not only is this meat healthier, it tastes notably better. Unless you are a fan of the profoundly bland, pasture-raised chicken is a revelation. It has flavour, flavour that speaks of the fresh air, green grass, soil and sun; flavour that comes from happy and healthy chickens. Try it and we promise you will find it hard to go back to your regular run-of-the-mill chicken.
At Edwin County Farms our small flock of pastured hens forage around the perimeter of our market garden, their manure helping fertilize the soil. They work alongside us helping to regenerate the soil. In addition to the fresh forage, insects and soil organisms they consume, they are fed a combination of organic grain meal and fermented grains to promote optimal gut health. These are healthy, happy birds and we are confident that you will be able to taste the difference that makes.
You can try it for yourself by reserving your pasture-raised chicken on our online store at edwincountyfarms.ca. Whole chickens are priced at $7 per pound with each bird weighing approximately 5-8 pounds.
Fresh chicken will be available June 17, July 29, and September 30. Pre-order for pick-up at the farm or the Picton Farmers Market. After this date we will have whole frozen chickens for sale until we run out.