Have you ever compared the differences between a store-bought chicken egg and one fresh from a small farm? We have, and there is a clear winner. The store-bought egg has a thin shell and banana-peel-colored yolk. The egg from the pasture-raised chicken may take a few tries to crack, and when it does the yolk is vibrant, more orange than yellow. Why is there such a difference? One chicken received a standard vegetarian diet of corn and soy, the other had a nutrient-dense omnivorous diet.
It is a commonly held belief that poultry and eggs are healthier if the animal was fed a vegetarian diet. Watch our birds outside and you will see that–like any bird– they freely choose worms and insects along with seeds, grass, and grain. The egg from the chicken on a small farm did NOT eat a strictly vegetarian diet of mashed corn and soybeans and was not confined indoors with thousands of other birds. It probably had grain, too, but was allowed to fly, run, forage and be an omnivore. If these differences are so apparent in eggs, imagine the differences between grown birds who have been shaped by either a life in a cage or crowded room, given medicated mash feed, or by one outdoors given the freedom to soak up sunshine and eat its natural diet.
Just as our larger animals provide an ecosystem service by rotating through our pastures, birds serve their purpose, too. While they do not have nearly the impact on shaping the landscape that the larger animals do, their subtle influence has wide-reaching effects. In addition to improving soil quality by adding manure and working it into the ground, they help control flies and parasites in the whole pasture. How? By picking parasites and fly larvae out of the livestock manure. It sounds gross, but the birds love it and it helps the rest of the animals stay healthier.
Our poultry flock consists of free-range chickens, turkeys, and the occasional ducks. While we love heritage breeds and breed diversity, heritage meat birds don’t make sense for us to raise because of cost and customer preference. After much trial-and-error we came to the perfect compromise: our layer flock consists of heritage breeds since they are hardier and more flighty, while our meat birds are now conventional breeds. Even though we have switched breeds, you can still expect the same pasture-raised quality as always.
In addition to their foraged diets of insects, seeds, berries, and plants, we supplement our poultry with a blend of organic, soy-free grains and sometimes vegetable scraps. At TWF we think the formula for delicious poultry and eggs is pretty similar to that for any other animal: space + outdoors & sunshine + nutrient-dense diet + love= high-quality food that you can taste and see the difference in! It may require a bit more planning and work, but it is worth the healthy, antibiotic-free chicken, turkey, and eggs that–in our opinion–are the best we have tasted yet. Need tips on how to maximize the flavor and juiciness of your poultry meat? We will periodically post recipes and cooking tips on our blog, or visit the product pages in our online store for recipe ideas!