Misty Meadows Farm, Washington
Mark and Melissa Moeller raise organic poultry on pasture with love at Misty Meadows Farm, Washington. Read more about the struggles they and other real organic poultry farmers face in our November 2019 newsletter, Organic AND Pastured Eggs.
Misty Meadows Farm, Washington
Melissa Moeller: I've been inside some large organic operations and seen the organic colorants that they add to their feed to get a more orange yolk because there are people choosing for that which is really sad.
Mark Moeller: And that's a great example of… that stuff should not be in the organic standard.
Melissa Moeller: The other thing that people find with our eggs is that the yolk color will change. And to me, honestly, that's the best indicator of what you should be looking for, because the yolk is going to represent the state of the grass that [the chickens] are eating. Right?
So a yolk from a chicken laid today is going to look different from an egg laid in April or in November – right? It's going to reflect how much chlorophyll is in the grass and the other things that they are eating.
Using the Outdoors to Strengthen Immune Systems at Misty Meadows Farm
Mark Moeller: We start our babies right over here in our brooder, but once they get past a certain age, we actually open our outside doors. They can start wandering out into the dirt and into the grass and slowly begin to get acclimated to the sunlight and the natural environment and also natural bacteria.
Soil has a number of bacteria that live in it regardless that in a confined operation, if the chickens aren't closely cared for that bacteria could really cause a problem.
Here, we let their immune systems develop naturally, and what that does is prepares them for when they move out of the brooder out into our colony houses to have a more robust immune system.
Organic Nutrition Beyond Standard Feed
That really helps us raise birds that are pretty rugged and have learned to eat what's on the ground, not just what is in the feeders. That, of course, gives them a richer diet and makes a higher quality egg, because there's more nutrients going into those eggs that they wouldn't necessarily get in standard feed.
It takes taking care of your pastures and making sure that they've got the grass and the bugs. They get a good bit of protein out of this space!
And they are pest control as well as anything.
All of that goes into the eggs. It's pretty hard to feed them that way in a controlled environment.
Sanitizing Birds and Coops With Sunshine
Melissa Moeller: We feel like the best sanitizer isn't medications but sunshine.
We air sanitize all of our coops between flocks. We make sure that they are exposed to lots
of sunshine and fresh air, and that's how we keep the pastures clean and the coops clean rather than using chemicals.
I want organic to be meaningful.
When people see that organic label, I want them to know and believe in the integrity of the product that they are really getting — particularly with livestock — that they are getting animals that were treated well that were treated with the most natural methods possible for the animal.
I kinda see it as like the way we raised our kids! Right? Let them go play in the dirt and build your immune system.