Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our First Batch of Free Range Chicken!

I Know I've been sparse with the news lately but lots of things have been happening as you will soon see. I wanted to start with the latest bit of news first. I'll get onto all the other stuff later

Yesterday morning I took our first batch of 44 Broiler chickens to the abattoir to go and get...processed. It's been an experience to observe what is accepted practice by the chicken industry.

These chickens arrive as day old chicks of about 40 grams. Within about 40-50 days have reached weights of 2 kgs!(4.4lbs) They are able to do this because they have been selected and cross bred to have the genetic predisposition to grow at an accelerated rate.

They have about 400 square metres of range but I'm starting to wonder if they would actually do better to have their movement considerably restricted because as they grow so fast they have begun to have trouble supporting their weight. I had a gentleman visit the farm who used to keep racing pigeons and suggested that the reclining position they take when they are sitting down indicated to him that they may be experiencing joint pain.

These are chickens that, if you were an environmentally responsible shopper, you might buy under the label of 'free range'. To get around, they flap their wings while they run to ease the pressure on their legs but because the bones grow so fast, they are weak and the wing tips get damaged which was pointed out to me by the Foreman at the abattoir.

If you buy free range, these are the types of chickens you eat. and if you don't buy free range you don't even want to know the kind of lives those chickens are forced to live. We eat them too and unless everyone radically changes their eating habits, this is what the average chicken has to go through especially if we want to keep chicken prices under R20per kg.

I don't intend on stopping our broiler production very soon but with the facility we have available and a little imagination I'm sure I can come up with a solution where the chickens we eat get to have lived happy chicken lives before they end up on our plate. If I or anyone else can't do that in a viable way then I think we should all start thinking about the real cost of a piece of meat.

I did read an article recently about some breeders trying to breed slower growing broilers. It's a step in the right direction but most people want to be able to buy what they want at the lowest price, regardless of the pain and suffering of any creature or individual along the way. Those things are out of sight and out of mind.

At least in TLC's little corner of the earth, we can minimise the suffering our human presence causes and teach our children about the real price is of what they put on their plate. If they decide to become a vegetarian we'll definitely support them. Now that I'm beginning to see, practically, what it takes to produce different types of food I think it's not unreasonable for us to at least look at slightly scaling down our use of meat products and consider alternative, more sustainable options.   

On the upside. Everyone is very happy with our 44 chickens in the freezer!!! That's going to be four meals for TLC! The biggest one was just under 2.5 kg(about 5.5lbs) My workers are looking forward to the heads, feet, intestines and kidneys and actually right now just pulled me away so I can dispense it to them :o)

  Lastly, While I was at the Abattoir the week before to make arrangements for yesterday I happened to run into a gentleman who makes pies (which I have also happened to try) and sells them at the local farmers market. He grows all his own chickens for the pies ORGANICALLY! So with the money I saved with these chickens I offered to buy 9 dozen of his delicious pies ( to make it worth his while ;o) and he is coming tomorrow to deliver them and give me a few pointers on growing happier, healthier chickens that are healthier to eat. He also gets his chicken food for less than I do so I'm sure his input will be valuable!

Sorry if the post was a little depressing but it's because the situation is unsatisfactory and we are just beginning down a road to come up with a solution.


1 comment:

  1. By the way... just want you to know I am proud of all your hard work and ingenuity... You have a whole ball park to play in and you keep hitting home runs! Keep on!