Free Range or Pasture Raised

Free Range versus Pasture Raised

 In the market today we see a lot more “Free Range” chicken and eggs available.  After all, we are more and more familiar with battery raised chickens in cramped and dark quarters.   I ran across “Pasture Raised” chickens and thought Id inquire what that means in todays market.  We asked Melissa Moeller from Misty Meadows Farm about their small operation of pasture raised chickens.

This is how the questions were laid out and how they were answered.  On seeing this written out it seemed like a good choice as far as how to publich the questions and answers. 

DIY Seattle:   How do free range chickens compare to battery caged chickens nutritionally?  Are your chickens more nutritional than battery raised chickens? (Battery chickens raised inside in darkness with nominal floorspace)

Misty Meadows Farm:  We consider our eggs pasture raised, not free range.  The term free range has lost all meaning.  In conventional agriculture, it now means that the barn door is opened a crack and the 50,000 chickens crammed into the barn could get out into the small yard if they could fight their way through the crowd.  In contrast, pasture raised means chickens raised on pasture.  They are on the ground, with grass, whenever they want to be.  They can go inside to escape the heat or cold, but are not stuck there.

Eggs from chickens raised on pasture are significantly healthier.  In 2007, our eggs were tested by a nutritionally testing lab as part of a study sponsored by Mother Earth News magazine.  Misty Meadows Farm eggs had 3 1/2 times the vitamin E, four times the heart healthy Omega-3s, a third less cholesterol, and a third less saturated fat than eggs from factory farmed birds.  Across the board, pasture raised eggs are nutritionally superior to eggs from confined birds.  The full text of the Mother Earth News article is available here:  http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-Healthier-Eggs.aspx

We also raise chickens and turkeys for meat.  As with the eggs, there is ample evidence showing that chickens raised on pasture are significantly healthier than those raised in barns, or even those raised outside on cement and mud.  We began raising our own chicken in 2005 years ago and have not purchased a factory farmed chicken since.  His whole life Mark has been allergic to chicken and turkey.  Years ago, he had allergy testing done and he was highly allergic to poultry.  We decided to try raising our own.  Mark has never had a single allergic reaction to our chicken or turkey.  We haven’t tested our birds to understand what is different, but it just makes sense to us that by raising birds naturally with full access to sunshine, fresh air and grass will produce healthier meat.  For more information on the health benefits of meat raised on pasture, see www.eatwild.com .

DIYSeattle:  You raise a different breed of chickens than most large commercial operations.  Why did you choose the breed you did?

Misty Meadows Farm:  This year we will only be raising Red Rangers, the more flavorful Poulet Nu breed.  We came to the conviction last year that we needed to be raising a bird that was bred to live a comfortable life.  The Cornish crosses are a hybrid that have been created to grow quickly in confinement, but they cannot reproduce on their own and frequently die from heart attacks or broken legs from their rapid growth.  It was painful to do everything we could to raise them well, yet still see them struggling to walk and even survive. 

Red Rangers on the other hand are beautiful birds who grow well but much more slowly and naturally.  We raised both last year and are happy to say that we think you will be pleased with the taste as well. 

DIYSeattle:  Organic free range chicken is more expensive than the cheap battery raised chicken.  Why does organic free range foods cost more than the large operations? 

Misty Meadows Farm:    There are many hidden costs associated with cheap food.  For the last 50 years, people have paid that price through their own health, the suffering of the animals involved, the health of the farmworks and at a cost to our environment.  We have no delusions that we will make millions off of selling chickens.  On the other hand, we do not have the means or desire to supplement other people’s food budgets.  This is the price we have determined we can live with to make the meat we love so much available to you

DIYSeattle:
  How are your chickens fed compared to the large commercial farm operations?

Misty Meadows Farm:   Our chickens eat grasses, bugs, and organic whole grains.  They never receive antibiotics or chemicals to make them grow faster.  Their environment is also free of harmful chemicals and they don’t have to stand around in their own waste.

Farming chickens on coat hangers seems like it is the most economical way to raise chickens.  Is economics what drives our dinnertime sit down?  How have our priorities changed about what we spend our money on?  More and more people are starting to question where their priorities are. Is it in the food that we eat, or in the consumer goods that we can’t seem to do without.

I know lots of people that won’t eat a chicken or egg if it wasn’t free ranged.  I know a lot of people that don’t question what “free range” means.  I think that you should know your food.  If you can’t know your food, know who grows it.  Support local small farm operations.

“For more information about ordering chicken from Misty Meadows Farm or any other information about our farm, see www.mistymeadowsfarm.com  .  “

You can also follow along on our on-going farm adventure on Facebook: Misty Meadows Farm (Everson).

Melissa Moeller  – Misty Meadows Farm  -  360-312-3554 -   www.mistymeadowsfarm.com