Category: Pastured Poultry
This Is Winter?, Cattle Breeds, & Chicken Palooza
This is winter?
Not exactly a snow scene for a February Newsletter, but perhaps it sparks a little excitement for upcoming spring time.
It is not the “winter for the ages” that we are used to, but I will take it. With our new hoop houses just nearly completion, I am personally happy that winter has not been harsh. Thanks to a handful of family relatives who are good at carpentry, I have some nice buildings to look at now & so do the animals! The cows are able to escape the wind, the pigs can burrow deeply into the straw pack, and the chickens get a whole building all to themselves. As nice as the barns are, the animals are equally excited for the grass to grow again so they can get out and roam. I can only imagine that they get the winter blues as well.
For those of you who are interested in our Beef Cattle and why we use the breeds we do, read on. For those who do not, skip a few paragraphs.
In a nutshell, we have the following breeds on our farm: Black Angus (refer to our farm name, example, Blackview), Horned Hereford, and Wagyu.
Our goal was to be always a purebred Angus farm because of the breed’s mothering ability, their popularity, and my familiarity with them growing up.
Hereford came into the mix when I read about them in Mark Schatzker’s Book, ” STEAK”. The Hereford cattle he speaks about is from a farm called Brae Arden (click to read more), and he refers to them as a “genetic jackpot” for grass fed genetics. We bred some of our cows to the “brae arden” line and this beef will be available mid-summer this year for the first time at Blackview, and Canada for that matter.
Trying to improve our cattle genetics has been fun. The genetic makeup of your herd has to work together with your farm environment and needs. Not all beef cattle are created equal. In fact, it is difficult to find cattle that “fit” a grass fed/finishing farm these days. For Grass finishing, you want a moderate frame, easy fleshing, easy doing cow. In simple terms, you want a type of cow that will convert grass to beef – efficiently. (I hate to use the word efficient because it sounds like a factory process). In other words, every bite of grass that cow eats goes to maintain it’s body. The sooner that her needs are met, she is able to put on fat – – & grass fed fat is amazingly great for flavour and nutrition.
Next is the wagyu. The famed Japanese breed that marbles magically. They take time to fatten on grass, because as a whole they don’t fit the “grass type” criteria, however, they do marble well and have a particularly active natural gene called SCD, which can translate more flavour when being cooked.
Every year we try to get better. And that is why we rely on your feedback and comments from emails and facebook comments. For my own knowledge of taste and quality, I sacrifice one ribeye from each steer we butcher….to my own plate…for testing and research.
Thanks to the Chicken Farmers of Ontario and groups like Practical Farmers of Ontario, we are now allowed to raise more chicken. Whoo Hoo!
It’s CHICKEN PALOOZA all year!
( Palooza – definition: a word describing an exciting, larger-than-life event, party, or celebration)
Heritage, Free Range, Pastured Reared Chicken will now be more available. In the past years, Chicken has done well for us. We will be raising only heritage and slow growth breeds (no big breasted, young birds). They will be hatched here, or brought in as day old chicks. As soon as the chicks are old enough they go out to the pastures to forage for bugs and grasses and supplemented with flax seeds and non-gmo grains. Each bird, depending on breed, will live on the farm from 12 to 18 weeks. The breeds will be Nova Brown, Frey Dual Purpose, Barred Rock, New Hampshire and Jersey Giant. The breasts are small, the meat may even be a bit dark, but boy are they super tasty.
Here is Dr. Richard Bazinet regarding our chicken and Omega 6:3 ratio:
“Often chicken comes in at 30 or 40:1. Bill’s chicken leg is 11.5:1 and the breast is 30:1. Both I would say are better than conventional. However, chicken does something interesting the beef doesn’t with the alpha-linolenic acid. Chicken turns this omega-3 into the omega-3s we would find in fish (EPA and DHA). EPA and DHA are not found in plants. So whereas these fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are pretty much not detectable in commercial chicken Bill’s samples have about 0.5 percent as EPA and 1 percent as DHA. For a reference, beef is less than 0.1% (usually) for DHA and wild sockeye salmon is 10%. Farmed salmon is 6%. So, while chicken is not salmon, it is a step in that direction. The simple omega-6:omega-3 ratio is a bit misleading and one has to look at the EPA and DHA here. Nutritionally speaking, this is, again, a solid product.”
There will be 300 /month available, starting in late June. Keep that in mind please. We have never raised this many and would like to sell every one of them fresh if we can. It will be a great learning experience, I am sure.
On that note, enjoy the rest of your winter. And may spring come soon!
Polyface Farms & Springtime
When you attempt to do something extraordinary, outlandish, and outside a paradigm, you look around to see who else is also attempting similar things. When I saw the documentary FOOD INC, I was watching agriculture as I knew it- perhaps from a “darker” side of the business. But undoubtedly my favorite part in the movie is when a unique farmer is showcased and he is Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.
In the documentary, Polyface is featured as the pastured poultry, grassfed beef, pastured pork guru and is interviewed in contrast to modern day agriculture and ideals. I have always wanted to see how this farm looked since I have only read the books and listened to him speak in Guelph. What could I learn from Polyface?
Last week I had that chance while driving through Virginia. We made our way through the snake-like roads bordered by ranch-like pastures with wide open, hilly spaces. When we arrived at Polyface, which is 100 acres pasture and 400+ acres of woods, the farm was bustling with working interns. Spring work has begun and nothing energizes a winter-worn farmer more!
We saw on their website that walk-in visits were encouraged, so when we got there we started snooping around. We got to meet Joel, son Daniel and we talked with some of their interns- all of which were very friendly and happy we stopped in. “Make yourself at home” was Joel’s welcome.
We saw the infamous “Eggmobile”, “Pigerator Pork” (in action) and the “salad bar beef” were already on the hill’s grazing. Seeing all this made me anxious to get home and let my cows out to pasture!
The farm is transparent in it’s values, methods of animal husbandry and customer satisfaction. It is no secret that their #1 goal is to produce “Clean Food”. You sense it as you walk around, un-bothered and with no, “no tresspassing” signs. Their store is filled with Joel’s Books, t-shirts proclaiming “Grassfed” and information on where the animals are on the farm so that you can go find them. It was so inspiring to see first hand. If you haven’t seen or heard about Joel Salatin, or the movie Food Inc or Fresh or American Meat, I encourage you to take the time and educate yourself with what other farmers are doing to produce “clean meat” and produce. Another great film which is based in Ontario is To Make a Farm which is yet another refreshing documentary about food and farming.
Springtime at Blackview
With the thoughts of Spring comes grazing, calving, hatching, and farrowing…but it hasn’t fully arrived yet.
But until then, there are two things we are doing here at Blackview – we are clearing our freezers to make room for 2015 produce & we are wondering what the level of interest is for Beef, Pork, Duck, Chicken, eggs, and turkey. Send us an email and let us know what you and your family would like to try!
Rest assured that our beef is only fed grass…100%. Feel good about our proven Omega 6 & 3 Raio (3:1) and taste the delicious flavour that a grass fed and finished beef tastes like!
Our pork and poultry are also pastured and are as free-range as possible. They are heritage based breeds that are fed a varied diet of non-gmo grains, grass, sprouts and apples (all when they are seasonably available). Nutritionally speaking, our pork and poultry are showing really good levels/ratio of Omega’s, as well as finding 0.5% EPA and 1% DHA in the chicken (higher levels found in Fish, but none is found in grocery store chicken).
May we be your “clean meat” connection this year?
Are All Chickens Equal? The Lowdown on Pastured Poultry
While growing up on a mixed farm I was able learn about raising meat Chickens. At the beginning of the year, you would begin to see the “chick” catalog’s at the local feed store and if you bought chicks the year before, you then received a catalog in the mail. You peruse through it much like a Sear’s Catalog before Christmas and you make your list. Decisions to be made are: What type of chicken do you want? How long do they take to grow? How much do they cost? And for me, what breed are they?
The breed of most Chicken (99.99%) raised today are Cornish. Some call them “White Rock” and others call them by the bullish name of “Meat Kings”. These birds are yellow as chicks, then after a week they start to sprout white feathers. In a matter of 8-12 weeks they are ready for your freezer. These are what you buy at the grocery store as well as many farm gates.
I have raised these birds before and they are packed with meat; predominately lots of white meat. But even still I never really liked eating it unless it had that Shake n Bake coating. I just thought that it was dry & flavourless all the time.
However, when you receive that chick catalog, you are presented with a CHOICE. Some company’s, like Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs, have done something very beneficial for the consumer: they offer a slow growing meat bird. It’s called a Dual-purpose. This bird takes a nice 16 -18 week to grow & mature. If the dual purpose chicken is allowed to forage, it develop’s a beautiful taste profile. Other Chicken that fall into this category are any Heritage meat breeds like Barred Rock or New Hampshire. They are harder to get a hold of, but it’s nothing a google search can’t help with.
So why do we settle for a large, fast growing, big breasted but flavourless chicken, when we could have a smaller, flavourful and nutritious chicken?
Perhaps it’s cost (you get more bang for your buck with a large bird). Maybe it’s prestige of having that “LARGE” chicken in the roasting pan. Maybe because it’s the way our mom’s have always done it? Maybe we just didn’t know any better? One of the problems with raising a slower growing chicken is that many farmers would have to feed it more, keep it longer, work more and get paid later. It doesn’t make sense.
Mark Schatzker has done some good research and writing on flavour and taste. Chicken is one of those meats where IT CAN taste better, way better. Click on the link to read an article about a special kind of chicken.
For the past two years, we have raised the Dual Purpose breed, along with some Barred Rock and New Hampshire and we have found it to be very delicious and flavourful, unlike it’s fast growing counterparts. Richard Bazinet, professor at U of T says, “We have to give it another name, it’s not fair to call it chicken!” A slow growing, pastured bird is one of such high quality, that it barely makes it off the carving board because I’m picking meat off the carcass like berries on a bush. When a chicken is allowed to roam and forage, it just packs on the flavours.
Cafe Boulud in Toronto, recently had an article done about the attributes of free range Heritage Chickens in Maclean’s Magazine. Click on the link to learn about what we are missing out on.
Next time you are buying Chicken for supper, I challenge you to ask about the breed, the age, what it was fed, where & how was it raised. See how many answers you get. Compare your answers with how it tastes. You should never just be satisfied with a mediocre chicken again!