Primal Pastures :: What We Learned on the Farm
Do you know where baby chickens come from? Have you ever seen a chicken eat grass? How about a chicken house on the move?
Primal Pastures is doing everything right in order to raise chickens that are among the purest, healthiest, highest quality chickens raised in SoCal, and I have so much to tell you about it!
That said, this could easily become the longest article ever, and I'd be giving you important information that already exists… on the Primal Pastures website and in “The Omnivore's Dilemma” by Michael Pollen – both of which we strongly urge you to read.
Instead, I've decided to give you the highlights of the trip. The info, images, and video-worthy moments that made me say, “Wow!” and “I’ve never seen that before!” because odds are if I hadn’t seen it, you may not have seen it either.
Where Do Baby Chicks Come From?
Baby chicks arrive to Primal Pastures each Wednesday at just two days old, and believe it or not, they are shipped from Iowa via the United States Postal Service! And it’s totally normal.
The tiny chicks are packed carefully into a ventilated box just like this one, with a soft tray and padding on the bottom. There are roughly 20 teeny tiny chicks per square that stay huddled together for warmth, mimicking how they would spend their first days with their mother.
It’s uncommon for chicken farms of any size to hatch their own birds so they work with hatcheries that raise the breed of chicken they are looking for. In the case of Primal Pastures, it's heritage birds that have not been bred for quick growth, or large breasts, or any of the other weird stuff that industrial farmers look for in a chicken.
Upon arrival to the farm the chicks are placed in the brooder; a small barn-like structure with indoor/outdoor access, heat lamps, food and water. Chicks need one another and lots of heat to stay warm and healthy in their few days of life. Once they are strong enough, they move outside to live on pasture until they are 11 weeks old. Nearly 5 weeks longer than an industrially raised bird.
Chickens Really Do Eat Grass!
Given the chance to live free in the wild, chickens would choose to eat grass, bugs and worms. They would be following their primal instincts… see where I’m going with this? At Primal Pastures the goal is for chickens to live as closely as possible to how they would in the wild, but without the risk of predatory animals and with the end goal of feeding humans who choose to eat meat.
I had read and been told about chickens eating grass and bugs but I'd never actually seen it until I visited Primal Pastures for the first time.
Check out this video I captured of chickens who have just been moved to fresh pasture, chowing down on grass and bugs! (hint: when it looks like they’re eating but you can’t see anything, they’re eating tiny bugs!)
(A Wes Anderson Worthy) Chicken House on the Move
Primal Pastures follows the Joel Salatin method of raising chickens. 75-90 heritage breed birds live in several “chicken tractors” and upwards of 520 chickens live in a large coop on the farm.
Both styles of housing allow for the same amount of ‘personal’ space and room to move around for each bird, and has a supply of fresh water and certified organic feed that is free of soy and antibiotics of any kind. In fact, if there are signs of a cold or illness going around apple cider vinegar is added to the water supply to help keep the birds healthy.
The tractors and coops are moved every morning, even Christmas day, to ensure fresh pasture for the chickens and proper manure deposit to each plot of land. (read Omnivore's Dilemma… manure is very important)
I scored this Wes Anderson worthy video of one of the larger chicken houses on the move during my visit.
Pasture-raised, Beyond Organic, Meats for Sale
Paul Greive and his family are raising 7,000 chickens, six pigs, two cows and a small herd of sheep all on pasture in Murrieta, CA. They do it so that we have a resource, a farm, a company, to spend our money with and to cast our votes with.
Those of us who purchase their meats, and meats from similar farms, do so to let big ag and huge corporations know that we are demanding something better than what they have to offer, and that we know it’s possible to achieve.
Primal Pastures is a quiet, peaceful, really beautiful farm. There are no smells other than fresh air, there is a lot of open space, and they welcome visitors. From what I know, and all that I've read, this is just what a great farm should be like.
If you’re a Home Cook and would like to support Primal Pastures and purchase their pasture-raised, beyond organic meats, visit their Farm Shop. Delivery is currently available in CA, AZ and NV.
Chefs, Restaurants + Retail businesses in California can purchase Pasture Bird chickens, Primal Pasture's sister company, direct from a distributor. You can Contact Sarah for more info and to be connected with a representative.