Greener Pastures Chicken, Texas
Know Your Farmer | Greener Pastures Chicken, Texas
We are really proud to be part of the real organic project for multiple reasons. First is that the Real Organic Project stands for the true intent of what the National Organic Program should have been.
Over the years, the standards have become watered down, the enforcement has become watered down, and there's really a disparity between the written law and what the consumer gets.
It's important for us to draw the line in the sand somewhere, and we're proud to be part of this organization and join forces with hundreds of other farmers across the United States who feel the same way.
Organic Farming in Texas
We're located in Elgin, Texas. I've been raising pastured poultry for over 10 years now. I was really drawn to organic agriculture as a college student in West Texas. My grandparents, though they weren't farmers, always gardened organically; never used synthetic substances. It was really important to them that they provided their families with good food. That's something that was passed down to me that I really appreciated.
When I was in college, organic agriculture really didn't have much of a following.
In some ways, I took my agriculture education and did quite the opposite. Everything that I was taught in school, I did pretty much a 180 with it. So instead of confining chickens, we give them ample amount of space; instead of putting them in dark houses closed off, we give them sunshine and grass and access to bugs and grubs, and everything that's out in their natural environment.
Keeping Birds Comfortable & Pastures Healthy
One thing that's very important to us is moving the houses. The birds are never in one spot for more than three days, and this helps mitigate nitrogenation of the soil.
We want to make sure that the soil is healthy and can rebound quickly. We also don't want the chickens to be in a dirty environment.
Minimizing Off-Farm Inputs
One of the most efficient ways to improve the soil is to have your livestock in direct contact with the soil. They're depositing their manure, which is a fertilizer. So that's a really low-impact way of monitoring and maintaining the viability of your farm.
The organic system is not about having multiple off-farm inputs. The ideal organic system is a closed circle, where everything serves a purpose. Everything has a benefit. That's what we're really trying to promote, and that's why we are excited to be part of the Real Organic Project.
The Two Sides of Organic
I think that consumers are expecting a product that is Real Organic Project certified. This is what the organic system or National Organics Program should have been. But unfortunately, corporate influence and the lobbyists have now made their way into the organics program, so the Real Organic Project is critically important.
When it comes to organics, there's two different types. There is the Purists, then there's the Corporate Side.
What the consumer thinks is happening is that these birds have outdoor access. For me, outdoor access means being in the sunshine, being on grass, directly connected to the soil. The birds at Greener Pastures have plenty of space to move around. They're able to exhibit their natural behaviors.
In a factory organic operation, the birds only get about the size of a sheet of paper to roam around for their entire life.
A lot of these egg operations may have 40,000 square foot buildings with little doors that are, oh, I don't know, just a couple square feet. Then they'll open up a few of them around the house. And those birds won't go outside, because it's a behavioral thing — they can't see outside. They don't know if there's a predator out there, and they're not going to step outside without knowing what's out there and how to protect themselves. Furthermore, the farmers don't put feed or water outside. There may be grass, but typically there isn't. It's typically just dirt. So the birds aren't getting any benefit in that scenario.
Everything wants to exhibit their natural behaviors, and in this factory farmed organic operations, the birds aren't given the enrichments, and they're not given the environment to really flourish.
Scaling Up Without Compromise
The birds have to come first. At the end of the day, if the birds aren't healthy, if they aren't happy, then they're not going to grow correctly, they're not going to be as productive, and they're not going to be producing all the benefits that we see in pasture-raised birds (the meat quality, the vitamins and minerals that are far superior in pasture birds). With a stress-free environment, we're able to ensure that the quality of our bird is top-notch.
I often hear is that this isn't scalable. “You can't raise 1,000 chickens or 10,000 chickens a week in this type of production system,” — which is false! The reason why industry says that is simply because it protects the bottom line. They don't have to adjust to better welfare standards.
So the believe that you can't scale-up without compromising standards really is a myth.
We want the consumer to know what we're all about. We want the consumer to know there's a difference in the industry. And you know the Real Organic Project is one effective way of doing that.
Bonus: Visit minute 7 of the video above for “The Life of a Bird at Greener Pastures Chicken”