MEAT MATTERS pastured poultry
ention of “free-range organic birds” conjures up bucolic images of farm
country, high blue skies and puffy white clouds. But that’s not the whole story.
“We’re told a free-range organic bird was more than likely raised in a confinement barn,”
says Mike Badger, executive director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association
(APPPA), Hughesville, Pennsylvania. “But from the perspective of the USDA and the chicken
industry, free-range just means ‘outside of cages,’ plus, the birds have access to the outdoors.”
The organic certification attests to the fact that a bird ate seeds of non-GMO grain, was raised
without antibiotics and could go outdoors—all well and good. However, there are no requirements
for the amount of time spent outdoors and the roaming space provided.
Meanwhile, chefs and consumers are steadily increasing the demand for pasture-raised poultry.
In fact, many APPPA members are in growth mode, scaling up flocks in response to strong consumer
demand. “For some, it’s taste, and for others, it’s the health aspect. But it’s also concern for the
welfare of the chickens,” Badger says.
Aside from subjective reports that “it tastes better,” just what does “pasture raised” or “pastured
poultry” really mean—and why should you care? Pastured implies the bird is raised on rotated
pasture, foraging and scratching for food during its lifetime.
Badger purchases custom-made feed to his specifications that is free of bakery byproducts
and other waste materials. “How you raise the bird and what you feed it (roasted soybeans, for
example) comes through in the quality and taste of the final product,” he says.
Farmers and chefs agree—
it’s worth the price. BY KAREN WEISBERG
OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP
LEFT: 1) Freedom ranger chickens
at stone Barns Center for Food &
2) Jidori chicken wings,
strawberry and aromatic herbs on the
menu at FT33.
3) isabell Buckeye, an
apprentice at stone Barns Center for
Food & agriculture, tends chickens
on the farm. 4) matt mcCallister’s
chicken, coconut, tomatoes, papaya
and chilies features marinated
boneless chicken thighs.