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From the News Archives...

Why pay more for pastured poultry?

Recently, one of the suppliers in the Eatwild Directory wrote to say that she either had to stop raising broilers or raise her prices. I suggested that she poll her customers. She did, and her customers said, "Keep them coming!" She is now selling her chickens at $2.25 a pound and can't keep up with demand. Why does it cost more to raise chickens and turkeys on pasture? And why are some people willing to pay the added price?

To begin with, people who raise 500 or fewer birds cannot take advantage of the economy of scale. Unlike people who run large confinement operations, they don't get price breaks on their chicks, feed, or equipment. Also, raising 200 birds on pasture requires a lot more labor than raising 10,000 birds in a building outfitted with automatic feeders and waterers and where the chickens never have to be moved daily to fresh pasture. In those enormous buildings, the birds spend all their lives on the same litter, breathing in air that becomes more and more polluted with ammonia as they grow.

Finally, people who raise pastured poultry don't take shortcuts like the large confinement operators. For example, they do not put arsenic or antibiotics in the birds' feed to stimulate their growth. They don't use special lighting to force the birds to grow faster. They don't feed ground up chicken or chicken litter to their chickens just because it's cheap and available. The supplier mentioned above finds that she makes very little profit even though she now charges 50 cents more per pound than she did before. She considers the poultry a "loss leader" for the other grassfed products she offers.

Although it takes an educated consumer to understand all of the benefits of pastured poultry, a quick glance at the two photos below tells much of the story. (Click on images to enlarge.)

commercial poultry operationAn Oregon commercial poultry operation. pastured poultry operationAn Oregon pastured poultry operation.


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