Pasture raised on Silvopasture, Heirloom, Slow-Growth
THE BREED: A cross between a Heritage Transylvanian Naked Neck, a Heritage Delaware, and a Peterson family line from the 1940s, these heirloom birds were selected for leg strength and bone density, immune health, propensity to explore outdoors, and gastrointestinal health. Unlike conventional cornish cross chickens who get too big, too fast, becoming immobile and susceptible to disease, these birds’ bones and organs develop first and gain weight naturally from their surrounding. As a result, they are robust & active which means a slower growth time, healthy development, & no need for antibiotics – ever!
THEIR HOME: Born, bred, and raised in Northwest Arkansas on 800+ acres of pasture and several smaller farms in Oklahoma which all include a silvopasture orchard program. Silvopasture incorporates pasture, animal impact, and trees within one system. Pastures with trees produce greater soil diversity and ecosystem health, provide more shade, roosting, protection, and forage options for these birds, and aid in sequestering carbon.
Our suppliers have planted over 20,000 hazelnuts across their ranches and have planted more than 3,000 fruit trees, including peaches, plums, pears, pawpaws (North America’s only native tropical fruit), and heirloom varieties of Arkansas apples.
Our birds are not confined. While their large, windowed coop doors close at night for safety from predation, they open every day weather permitting. If it is unsafe to open them, then they don't. When its safe, the birds always have the option to roam outdoors in the field and forest. This is very different than confinement-based systems where the doors are never open, but the coop may move to offer new dirt for the birds to stand on.
THEIR FEED: Some of their diet consists of foraged bugs, seeds, nuts, and fruits. They are also offered supplemental feed which is a diverse blend of Non-GMO grains and apple cider vinegar (for immune health) grown by regional farmers who are actively focused on soil health in their ranching methods. While this feed does include non-GMO corn and soy at this time, our suppliers are working hard to replace corn and soy with a blend of rotational crops.
This is really important because it requires patience and a ton of hard work as it involves the farmers, mills, and a lot of genetics to ensure the diet is one that can optimally satisfy the health needs of the birds. For our mission to regenerate land, this is key. The feed is the largest impact a poultry operation makes. It has been reported that the feed impact is sometimes 40X greater than the farm impact. And that means feed coming from chemical industrial mono-crop systems occupying 40 x more space than the birds on the land themselves. This must change.
ARE THESE CHICKENS REGENERATIVE?
The quick answer, by our regenerative standard, is no.
Chickens are monogastric animals that cannot get all the required nutrition for their diet from foraging alone (like ruminants can). The supplemental feed they need impacts the land and therefore must be taken into account. While our chicken suppliers and feed partners are true land stewards who are changing the chicken game in a big way, there is still work to be done.
So, why are we selling chicken? We are on a mission to change the meat industry and chicken is a big part of that. In fact, Americans eat more chicken than any other type of meat, despite having some of the worst raising and transparency standards in the industry. While there may not yet be a perfect large-scale system for raising chickens, we feel called to support the land stewards who are working hard to change that.