When it comes to food choices, people have many reasons for choosing to abide by a certain lifestyle. Some eat certain foods for health reasons, others out of simple preference, and some people choose a certain diet out of a sense of moral obligation.
We believe in all of these reasons, and they are part of the reasons we think that eating pasture raised meat is so important. Simply put, pasture raised is better, for all of the reasons mentioned above, and then some.
Why is Pasture Raised Better?
When compared with conventional chicken, pasture raised chicken scores higher across the board. Pasture raised chicken has three times the omega-3s, a whopping fifty percent more vitamin A, D, and E, and twenty one percent less saturated fat than barn raised chicken, and that includes chicken that is labeled “free range” or “organic.” So, what makes pasture raised chicken so much more chock full of healthful vitamins and minerals than its conventional counterparts?
“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour”
-William Cowper, English nature poet
Chances are you’ve heard some version of the quote above. It’s an old adage that has been around for generations, but obviously ol’ William was really on to something. In life, as in cooking, variety really does add flavor!
Not only are chickens raised on pasture allowed to eat a varied diet of chicken feed supplemented with a natural diet of insects, worms, seeds, nuts, and legumes obtained from foraging, but they are given access to plenty of fresh air, sunlight, and movement. Compare this with the life of a chicken raised in a barn, with little or no access to the outdoors, not allowed to forage for the food sources that chickens were meant to eat, and housed in such close quarters with other birds that a steady diet of antibiotics is used to keep disease at bay, and it’s easy to see why pasture raised chicken is healthier.
As humans, we know that the more variety we have in our diet, the healthier and better we feel. “Eat the rainbow”, they say, to encourage us to eat a diverse mixture of fresh fruits and vegetables packed full of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants our bodies need. The same is true for animals, and a chicken who is allowed to forage on pasture, as chickens were meant to do, is going to maintain much greater health. Not only does the nutrient-dense diet a pasture raised chicken consumes increase the overall nutrient density of the resulting meat, but the more complex its diet, the more flavorful the meat will be. It may sound like a weird analogy, but just as wine gets some of its flavor from the terroir in which it’s produced, so does the food we eat. If vegetables are grown in soil that has been depleted of its nutrients or over-farmed, you’ll be able to taste the difference. Similarly, livestock and poultry that are pasture raised and allowed to forage and graze on a nutrient-dense plot of land will produce much more flavorful meat than those that are kept confined and fed only packaged feed.
Sustainability is Key
At Pasturebird, we understand making dietary choices that are also rooted in a sense of ethical accountability. That’s why we practice regenerative agriculture, which doesn’t just sustain the health of the soil and biome, but actually regenerates it. While raising animals on pasture has been around for centuries, we’re so fortunate to be able to apply modern farming technology to these ancient methods in an effort to move away from a man-made system of depletion back to a natural ecosystem of perpetual regeneration and replenishment.
When you purchase pasture raised meat, you know that you’re not only supporting a farm that believes in the importance of being responsible stewards for the animals that feed us, but that also has a reverent respect for the land that allows us to raise those animals. Raising chickens on pasture and complying with regenerative agriculture practices isn’t always easy, but when you purchase your meat from a farmer that subscribes to these practices, you know that you’re supporting a business that truly cares about giving back and making a difference.
Not Just Another Label
Thankfully, the last decade or so has seen society move slowly back to responsible practices, healthier food choices, and has seen many businesses recognize the importance of building a livelihood that puts importance on societal well-being, animal welfare, and environmental stewardship.
Unfortunately, for every well-meaning, hard-working company that really puts its money where its mouth is, there are still those that would rather capitalize on the trendy catch-phrases and for whom this environmental and societal shift is just a label. Grocery stores are full of products labeled “all natural”, “free range” and “organic”, but some companies do just enough to comply with the FDA fine print and slap a catchy greenwashed label on their products that are sometimes neither healthier for the animal, or the consumer.
For example, to be labeled “free range”, chickens must be given continuous access to the outdoors during their lifetime. This sounds fantastic, but to legally comply with this provision, a farmer can simply place a small door in the barn that leads to a fenced-in concrete slab. Technically, the chickens have “access” to the outdoors, but no ability to roam freely or forage for their nutrient-dense natural food sources. Sure, they are labeled “free range,” but the result is neither healthier (nor more humane) for the animal, nor healthier for the consumer.
That’s not to say that every free range or organic label you see is just a clever marketing ploy, but it does happen. That was the catalyst behind Pasturebird. We were tired of thinking that we were making responsible food choices only to find that the meat we were purchasing wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We started this company so we would always know that our pasture raised chicken was truly treated humanely, given access to proper nutrition and fresh air, raised in a way that benefits the environment, and would result in food that we felt good about consuming, both ethically and nutritionally.