Editor’s note: Part of planning to be self-sufficient should include a method of raising your own groceries – meats, veggies, and fruits. With each step, however large or small, we become less dependent and more resilient.
Today’s post highlights the Sustainable Poultry Network in a post which was originally published on Durable Faith. SPN offers workshops on raising heritage poultry for profit and pleasure. Be sure to check out the practical tips for achieving food freedom.
BY CLEOPAS | APRIL 5, 2013 · 6:30 AM
Today, I attended the Sustainable Poultry Workshop at Full Circle Farm in Suwannee County, FL. Full Circle Farm is operated by a family who glorifies God through their stewardship of the land and their Christian family life. They are a grassfed dairy farm that uses silvopasture and intensive grazing; and raises beef, lamb and poultry. Full Circle Farm’s mission is to provide nutrient dense food for maximum health and to educate producers and consumers. Their food and their network of other family run local farm produce is delivered around the state of FL. Dennis, the proprietor, became frustrated with poultry after having Cornish Cross broilers (the modern industry standard) turn their nose up at kitchen scraps. After hearing, Jim Adkins speak at an Acres USA conference, he invited Jim to come speak at his farm about sustainable poultry. I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend!
Jim established the Sustainable Poultry Network after becoming dissatisfied with a lucrative career in the conventional chicken industry. Many people are not aware that chicken bought in a store or restaurant and labeled “family farm”, “natural”, “free range”, “organic”, “antibiotic free”, “hormone free”, and “vegetarian fed” are almost always raised in chicken houses with thousands of other birds. The birds are of a genetically engineered stock that cannot reproduce naturally and grows to full weight in 37 days (most likely suffers pain of growth and exhibits health problems due to undersize legs and organs). Due to their close confinement, the birds have to be protected by biosecurity measures that include wearing hazmat type suits and limiting exposure to essential staff. All conventional birds are fed GMO soy and GMO corn based feed, typically with antibiotics, sometimes arsenic. Industry whistle blowers say that often “natural” or “organic” birds often get drugs as well when they become sick due to their conditions and consumers are none the wiser. As Full Circle’s proprietor said, Publix GreenWise chicken is produced just down the road from his farm and is neither “green” nor “wise!”
Jim Adkins, of the Sustainable Poultry Network, went back to his roots of raising standard bred poultry. Jim said he grew up raising chickens in 4H and dreamed of becoming a chicken show judge as a child. The man loves chickens! Standard bred poultry must meet 3 criteria: The bird must be able to mate naturally; Live a long, outdoor, productive lifespan (5-7 years for hens); And, grow at a slow growth rate (112 days). The Standard of Perfection for standard bred poultry is governed by theAmerican Poultry Association. Standard birds, such as the Barred Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, and New Hampshire, were once the production birds of the industry. These are vigorous chickens that forage for much of their diet, produce longer and with less inputs. The characteristics of these chickens make not only a healthier bird, but a better tasting bird as well. The foraging ability results in a greater variety in the animal’s diet enhancing the taste of meat and eggs and the nutrient profile of same.
Once the modern frankenchicken was developed, farmers stopped breeding these standard breeds. Though some of the breeds are near extinction, many have been kept alive by poultry fanciers in small numbers. Hatcheries still provide the breeds to backyard and small farm egg producers, and though the birds may resemble their once great predecessors in feather color, non-selective breeding by the hatcheries produce birds unfit for table meat and lacking the qualities of the standard. Half of the chicks produced by hatcheries are male chicks, upwards of 90% which get trashed because the hatcheries serve an egg market and their genetic lines no longer meet the dual purpose of the standard. The hatchery system is dependent on the financial beleaguered postal service to continue shipping live chicks by mail. Experts believe it is a question of not if, but when, live chick shipments will end. Small farmers, homesteaders and backyard chicken lovers will then be left with only frankenchickens produced by multinational companies of which 3 own the rights to over 80% of all the chicken genetics globally. Have we allowed the merchants in the temple to own creation?
The mission of the Center for Sustainable Poultry is to provide education, resources and training to equip people around the world to raise standard bred poultry for sustainable farming, marketing, exhibition and preservation. The center does this through the Sustainable Poultry Network, which is a network of farmers developing standard bred poultry for meat and egg production once again. It is the development of these old breeds that will allow production of sustainably raised chickens that meet the demands of consumers and don’t enslave us to the government-industrial agriculture food complex. The network consists of breeders, growers, processors, feed producers, marketers, chefs and mentors and seeks to duplicate the model in small communities around the world that will be able to feed themselves. And, its already doing so from its home base in Western North Carolina to Montana and beyond. These are small scale family farms, with low capital input, creating a vastly superior product and are not dependent on GMO feeds, genetically engineered chickens from three producers shipped by mail and are building the value of their community. The network will certify flocks so that consumers and producers know the standard at which the chicken was bred and raised. And, unlike the industry farms, the network farms are open at all times for visitors, ensuring trust among the community. I highly encourage you to attend a workshop and learn how you can achieve food freedom!
Hot tip!: If you’re looking for a book on raising chickens, try to find one published before 1950.
Now let’s hear from you. Do you purchase or raise heritage poultry? If so, could you tell us why you choose heritage poultry vs. conventional industrial poultry? Leave your feedback in the comments below!