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Pastured Poultry: More on "Beyond Organic"

One of the things I asked Santa to bring me this year was a copy of Joel Salatin’s book Pastured Poultry Profits and after reading the first couple of chapters I decided right then that I would never again buy chicken from the local supermarket, and I promptly ordered 50 chicks.

So now we are also in the pastured poultry business, albeit small to start – offering pastured poultry for sale to the public.

Pastured poultry means that they are on FRESH pasture and moved EVERY DAY. This differs from “Free Range” in that Free Range means the chickens might have access to the outside mud yard for 10 – 15 minutes.

The main reason we are going in to the Pastured Poultry business is because of this excerpt from Joel’s book and I quote:

“Because the factory house has such inherent problems, productivity is maintained by feeding antibiotics and hormones, poisons to enhance the appetite (like arsenic), heavy metals and a host of other additives that increase meat toxins. The meat therefore becomes soft, water-absorbent, lacks muscle tone and is violently toxic to environmentally sensitive people. This environment stimulates drug-resistant Salmonella, which the human body was not made to handle. The medical community is publishing startling discoveries about R-factor disease strains. Dubbed “superbugs” by researchers, these organisms are resistant to traditional antibiotics and have come in to existence as a direct result of drug feeding on farms.

Now we move to the processing, which begins after the birds are loaded on trucks and driven for up to 3 hours to the processing plant. Mechanical killing requires a perfectly still bird so the cutting wheel will hit the jugular vein every time. When the birds hang upside down on shackles, they twist and turn – not conducive to mechanical killings. To get them still, an electrical current stuns them. This keeps the birds from bleeding well and accounts for much of the black clotted blood around the bones of conventional birds.

Mechanical evisceration breaks open intestines and pours fecal material over the carcass, inside the body cavity, and contaminates the birds. Large chill tanks often have several inches of fecal sludge in the bottom. In fact, about 9 percent of the weight on department – store chicken is fecal soup. The soft muscle tissue is more conducive to in-soaking, and the carcass sponges up the fecal-contaminated chill water. Of course, this adds to the carcass weight, but certainly does not contribute any to the health of consumers.

This filth is why birds receive as many as 40 chlorine baths – how much of that permeates the meat ? and now the Food and Drug Administration has approved irradiation of chicken to control Salmonella and other bacteria that are a direct result of high – speed automated processing. Irradiation reduces vitamin C levels and reduces nutrients in the meat.

So do you see now why we are so interested in starting a new program of raising pastured poultry in order to sell eggs and chickens for healthy eating?

Please read on: below are some excerpts (used by permission) from Jo Robinson’s www.eatwild.com website.

Pastured Poultry Get a Bounty of Vitamin E from Grass

Standard poultry feed is supplemented with small amounts of vitamin E. But as you can see by the graph below, it doesn't come close to the bounty of vitamin E that chickens glean from fresh pasture. This vitamin E gets passed on to the consumer. An egg from a pastured hen has 30 percent more vitamin E than the kind you buy in the supermarket. (Lopez-Bote et al, "Effect of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol content and oxidative stability of eggs." Animal Feed Science and Technology, 1998. 72:33-40.)

Eggs from free-range hens are higher in folic acid and vitamin B12

Now there's another good reason to purchase eggs from pastured poultry farmers: you may be getting more folic acid and vitamin B12, two very important vitamins. This information comes from a British study published in 1974. At the time, British consumers were concerned about the trend toward factory farming. Specifically, they thought factory eggs might not be as nutritious as eggs from free-ranging birds. An elaborate study confirmed their suspicions. The eggs from free-range hens contained significantly more folic acid and vitamin B12, as you can see by the graph below.


The researchers also looked for differences in the fatty acid content of the eggs but did not find any. Now we know why. In the 1970s, little was known about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, so the researchers didn't even bother to look for them in the eggs. (A. Tolan et al, "Studies on the Composition of Food, The chemical composition of eggs produced under battery, deep litter and free-range conditions." Br. J. Nutrition, (1974) 31:185.)

Consumers are searching for healthier eggs

Pastured poultry producers take heart: Consumers are finally getting the message that some eggs are better than others. In 1999, sales were up 50% for "all natural" eggs and 37.5% for "organic" eggs, according to Alan Andrews, an industry analyst. The fact that specialty eggs cost about twice as much as ordinary eggs ($2.20 versus $1.09 a dozen) has not been a deterrent. Andrews predicts that "this segment will see accelerated growth in 2000 and may hit 50MM units." ("Retail Fresh Eggs: Which Came First, Increased Consumption or Increased Sales?" by Alan Andrews, Pactiv Corporation.)

Chefs from fine restaurants pay a premium for grassfed poultry and meat

If people haven't tasted grassfed meat, they wonder how it's going to taste. "Terrific!" say a growing number of chefs. Kerry Engel, a rural development specialist, surveyed executive chefs from six, high-end hotels, restaurants and catering businesses. He reports that "a few meat products that the chefs specifically inquired about include free-range poultry and grassfed meats and ducks. They're especially interested in unusual, exciting and new specialty products." He found that the chefs were also committed to supporting local farmers. "They'll pay 10 per cent more for regional products if the supply meets their specifications."
Help spread the word. Ask for grassfed (range-fed) meat the next time you're dining out!

Egg yolks are the richest known source of lutein and zeaxanthin, essential vitamins not found in your multi-vitamin tablet

Eggs are gaining new respect from nutritionists, partly for their abundance of two carotenes --- lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidant vitamins are essential for the protection of the macula, an area of the retina that provides our best central vision. Eggs are the richest known source. "Macular degeneration," the term for damage to this area of the retina, is the leading cause of blindness in people over 55 years of age. Lutein and zeaxanthin protect the macula from the destructive effects of light. The deeper the yellow-orange color of yolks, the more lutein and zeaxanthin they contain and the more eye-protection they offer.

There is also new evidence linking lutein and zeaxanthin with a lower risk of colon cancer. According to a recent study, "Of all the carotenoids investigated, only lutein and zeaxanthin showed a protective effect against colon cancer, with an enhanced effect in younger people." (Slattery, M. L., Benson, J., Curtin, K., Ma, K. N., Schaeffer, D., and Potter, J. D. (2000). Am J Clin Nutr 71, 575-82.)

Medical "experts" promulgate the myth that eggs from pastured poultry are no better than supermarket eggs

Many people turn to internet websites for their health information, and few sites are as highly regarded as the Mayo Clinic Health Oasis site which professes to offer "Reliable information for a healthier life." (http://www.mayohealth.org/index.htm) In a recent posting, the Mayo Clinic experts proclaimed, "Whether hens are raised free-range or in cages has no effect on the nutrients in the eggs they lay," and, then later on in the same article, "Feed and yolk color don't alter the nutritive content of the egg."

The experts should be more thorough in their research. As you will see by the posts below and by reading Why Grassfed Is Best!, eggs from pastured poultry are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Meanwhile, they are lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. In addition, there is a direct relationship between feed, yolk color, and the nutrient content of the egg. The more orange the yolk, the higher the level of health-enhancing carotenoids. Compared to supermarket eggs, eggs from pastured poultry are a vivid yellow/orange—proof of a richer store of disease-fighting carotenes. (Bornstein, S. and I. Bartov (1966). "Studies on egg yolk pigmentation. I. A comparison between visual scoring of yolk color and colorimetric assay of yolk carotenoids." Poult Sci 45(2): 287-96.)

Eggs from pastured layers are higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E

In a recent study, one group of chickens was confined indoors (the conventional system) and another was allowed to free-range. Both groups were fed the same commercial mixed diet. The chickens that were able to add grass to the menu produced eggs that that were higher in omega-3s and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E.) Both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E have been linked with lower rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans. (Lopez-Bote et al, "Effect of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol content and oxidative stability of eggs." Animal Feed Science and Technology, 1998. 72:33-40.)

Consumers will pay more for omega-3 enriched eggs

In a survey of 500 Texans, 60% were willing to pay $1.00 more per dozen if the eggs were rich in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens have 2 to 20 times more omega-3s. (The amount varies depending on the quality of the pasture and the omega-3 content of the supplemental feed.) (Elswyk, M.E. et al, "Poultry-based alternatives for enhancing the omega-3 fatty acids content of American diets." World Rev Nutr Diet, 1998. 83:102-115.)

Wild turkeys thrive on grass, bugs, berries, seeds, and nuts

Turkeys raised on pasture have a diet that resembles their original diet. Zoologists studying wild turkeys found that "the youngsters instinctively peck at moving things - which are usually protein-rich bugs or larvae." While adult turkeys "prefer grass and other plant leaves, along with berries and bugs." For more information, read "Turkeys' Success Won't Trigger A Grouse Egress."

Eating eggs does not appear to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke

Cutting back on egg consumption has been widely recommended as a way to lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent coronary heart disease. Is this valid advice? Recently, researchers took a close look at the egg-eating habits and heart health of 118,000 men and women. The scientists reported that "we found no evidence of an overall significant association between egg consumption and risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] in either men or women." In fact, they found that people who ate from 5 to 6 eggs per week had a lower risk of heart disease than those who ate less than one egg per week. (Hu, F. B., M. J. Stampfer, et al (1999). "A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women." JAMA 281(15): 1387-94.)

One wonders what the scientists would find if they looked at the heart health of those lucky people who eat eggs from pastured hens?

Turkeys make CLA, too.

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is highest in products from grazing animals on a diet of fresh pasture, and it is very low in non-ruminants such as chickens and pigs. But turkeys appear to be an exception, having about 2.5 mg of CLA per gram of fat. (For comparison, chickens have 0.9 and pigs 0.6 mg. per gram of fat.) To date, no one has tested the CLA content of turkeys raised on pasture rather than in confinement, an experiment that begs to be done. It is possible that turkeys with a significant amount of greens in their diet will have even more CLA. (Chin, S. F. e. a. (1992). "Dietary Sources of Conjugated Dienoic Isomers of Linoleic Acid, a Newly Recognized Class of Anticarcinogens.)

Eating commercial chicken can make you test positive for illegal drug use

An athlete who failed a sports drug test complained that eating commercial meat was the reason for the drug residues found in his urine. To test his defense, eight men consumed meat from chickens that had been treated with a growth-promoting steroid (methenolone heptanoate) in amounts approved for use by the USDA. "Fifty percent of the samples collected 24 hours after consumption of the intramuscularly dosed chickens were confirmed positive. Hence, eating meat containing small amounts of injected hormone may constitute a serious liability to the athlete." (Kicman, A. T., D. A. Cowan, et al. (1994). "Effect on sports drug tests of ingesting meat from steroid (methenolone)-treated livestock." Clin Chem 40(11 Pt 1): 2084-7.) Yet another reason for switching to drug-free, pastured poultry.