We’ve all heard of free-range chickens! For many that name conjures up images of chickens freely roaming around pecking and living as freely as possible (after all, have to keep them safe from predators). But did you know that the definition of “free-range” by the USDA is that the chickens do not live in cages and that they have access to the outdoors. It does not specify how much space they have or even how long the chickens can be outside nor what that outside area is like. An example of how many free-range chicken producers interpret this is to house the thousands of chickens in a huge warehouse type metal barn with small “yards” available for the chickens to go into if they can make their way through the hundreds of birds around them to find the exit to the outdoors.
With pasture-raised chickens, the chickens LIVE outdoors. Typically mobile chicken coops (chicken tractors) are used along with temporary predator-proof fencing. What makes this method better and healthier is the fact that it’s mobile. Each day our chickens are moved to a new pasture so that they are feeding on fresh fields with new growth, insects and clean dirt. Because the chickens are not in one place too long they do not peck the ground to the point where plants (and insects) cannot grow providing the chickens with more nutrients and a happier life then when in traditional free-range environments.
Yes, this does mean that it takes more effort and work to raise the chickens but we’re not out to produce quickly, we’re striving to produce the healthiest most nutrient-rich food that’s cruelty and stress-free for our animals.