For the past three years, my husband and I have purchased a chicken share from an awesome local family farm, Ledamete Grass Farm. We selected to get a share of five whole chickens once a month over the Summer and into the Fall. We picked up our first share last Thursday afternoon, and had chicken for dinner on Friday. It was so yummy after not having any of their chicken for a month (we stocked up to get us through the winter). Even buying them directly from the farmer is more expensive than those “organic chickens” for sale at the grocery store, but I don’t care. These chickens are worth every penny and then some to me. Here’s why:
- The taste is superior. We have had the “natural” chickens from another local provider. Please note, the word “natural” means nothing when it comes to your food. This label can contain GMO’s and other yucky chemicals. There is so much more flavor to these CSA chickens. Having them back on our kitchen table after a short hiatus was a celebration for our taste buds.
- The chicken has more nutrition. I know it sounds silly, but it is easy to tell the superiority of these chickens on their skin alone. The chicken’s skin is thicker and has a beautiful yellow hue. A range of feed, including forage and bugs leave the skin this color. I have to believe that this equates to a more nutritious meal. In fact, Joel Salatin, who raises animals on grass, had his chickens tested at a local university for their nutritional density. The scientists rechecked their equipment to make sure it was functioning properly since the nutrition in these chickens (in vitamins and minerals) was off the charts.
- The chickens live happy lives. These chickens are only raised during the warm months when they can eat, scratch and frolic outside like a chicken should. When fresh chicken is available in mass quantities during freezing months, it is not raised in a sustainable model. At that point, the chickens do not have grass, bugs and ample ground to scratch and are being raised mostly on grain. Please be aware, DO NOT buy any chickens or eggs that were feed 100% vegetarian diet. Chickens are omnivores. If there is a bug around they will eat it. If you see this on a package, you know this chicken was never allowed to see the world outside their chicken house.
- You are voting strongly with your dollar. I don’t like GMOs in my food. I don’t like chickens raised in battery cages with no access to the outdoors. But instead of focusing on all of these evils (and I do believe this is evil), I focus on the positive actions I can take to make sure I am supporting a food system I believe in. Not only does my money help to make this sustainable and healthy system stronger, it goes to local farmers who reinvest in our area. This makes our area a healthier, better place to live. When you buy from the big manufacturers, you are supporting a system that creates stinky, vile landscapes. When you visit the farm, the landscape is picturesque. The grass is green and their animals are happy. It doesn’t smell. It is a joy to pick up the chickens monthly. At which point, you can (at our treasured farm), purchase other items a la cart. You can buy things like homemade soap, pork products, and beef.
- You get to know the people raising your food. This has been a real bonus for me. I am so lucky that I found a farm that not only raises food in a way I can get behind, but also is run by amazing people. I pull up, and they know me and my husband by name. We are always greeted with a smile. They ask about my son, and we chat for bit. When we pick up our chickens, it feels more like visiting a friend than running an errand. They even gave me some advice about integrating my newest layers in with my older layers. The people who dedicate their lives to working the land and raising food sustainably are overwhelmingly awesome people. (NOTE: I have never met anything but great sustainable-type farmers, but I hate to say every single one is a certain way).
- It costs more to raise chickens right. My costs for raising my layers are a lot higher than I initially suspected they may be. A 50 lb bag of food is $15. If I want organic, to guarantee no GMO’s or yucky pesticides, it is $30. That’s twice the cost. (the price is lower on the yuck grain due to agricultural subsidies, which organic farmers are not as privy to. So you actually are paying a lot for the regular feed by way of tax dollars)
So, yes, I pay more for my chicken in dollars, but I pay far less in the long run. Because I eat their chicken, I know I am supporting a way of life, a landscape and a livelihood with which I agree. I love the chicken and so does my family. Buying our chickens from Ledamete Grass Farm is a good decision for me, my family, and my community.
In the coming weeks, I will outline how I easily cook a full chicken (with VERY little hands on time) and turn it into several meals including a nutrient dense chicken broth.