As we apporach our final chicken harvest I have been thinking about the incredibly short season that we have to raise our broiler chickens here in New England. Many of you have asked why we don't just raise more broilers inside during the colder months so we can provide fresh (not frozen) chickens all year long. In this blog post I aim to answer that question and help you to understand why, during the colder months, frozen is better.
Well the answer is an important one and one for you to ponder when you think about the seasonality of your food. First let's recognize that chickens are omnivores so they need animal protein and love to eat copious amounts of bugs, grubs and worms. Guess what else chickens love? Grass. Fortunately (in my opinion) we have four distinctly different seasons here in New Hampshire but unfortunately we don't have green grass, bugs and worms in the middle of winter.
The chickens that we raise are moved daily onto fresh grass giving them the best of the best all season (May to September) and they never touch the same plot of ground more than once during those months (much cleaner than an indoor chicken house). So these chickens are eating less grain than chickens raised inside during the colder months since they have access to the grasses and bugs that they love so much. We feel that this diet is superior to an all-grain diet, not to mention the lower cost to the farmer and consumer. The health benefits of eating a chicken that has been pasture-raised during the buggy months are also an important factor in choosing a frozen bird in the winter over a "farm fresh" one from the grocery store. I'll be willing to bet those "fresh" chickens haven't seen a pasture.
I'm pretty sure that when many of you think about your vegetables you think about seasonality, eating strawberries only in June, snap peas in the early summer, etc. We have to think about our meat this way as well and a great way to preserve the flavor of the season is to the freeze the meat right after slaughter to ensure that all the vitamins and minerals from the pastures go directly to you through your meat. This is why we raise our chickens only in the warmer weather. So in this case frozen is better.
We have our final chicken harvest this weekend so if you haven't pre-ordered your chickens for this Saturday, we have some left so come on by the farm store between 4 and 6 pm and pick up a fresh chicken or two. We will continue to have frozen chickens all year in our farm store. When you pick up fresh chickens on the harvest date you save money off of the regualar price!
Hope to see you on the farm!