Pastured Poultry Profit$ – A Book Review

In Book Reviews, Joel Salatin, Livestock & Pasture, POULTRY by James4 Comments

Pastured Poultry Profit$: Net $25,000 in 6 Months on 20 Acres is one of Joel Salatin’s most read and referred to books for wannabe farmers and established farmers alike. Joel shares with the reader his experience of raising and processing chickens which spans back into his own childhood. The methods he describes in the book are constantly being refined (by Joel and his family) and even though the original book was published in 1993 it includes a 2010 addendum. Joel’s techniques for raising pastured poultry have been emulated by hundreds of farmers throughout the country, and even overseas. Joel does not produce organic chicken, he produces something much tastier and healthier, although he’ll let you call it organic if you like. This book is more than anything a manual to produce exactly what the title suggests. But it’s not written without heart and personal stories so even for someone who’s not interested in starting a chicken business, but perhaps is just interested in good food and how it’s produced, this book will entertain and enlighten.

I think one of the biggest questions and rightfully so is – why? Why is it better? What is so different about pastured poultry compared to factory or even organic “free range” chicken? To understand why you must know what the chicken ate, how it lived, and how it was processed. These are the key ingredients for making the best chicken on earth.

Diet or Ration

The first question anybody should ask about their protein is – what is it eating? We are what we eat, and the same goes for animals. If humans eat a diet rich in carbohydrates and sugars, low in vitamins and minerals, low in healthy fats, our bodies will accumulate fat and disease will take hold. One of the big differences between us and industrial chicken is we wait until our bodies break down before we start medicating, but the end results are pretty much the same: disease and early death. Industrial chickens don’t even have the option to “get sick.” It’s already assumed it will happen. Right away industrial chickens are fed a heavy dose of antibiotics to repress any disease that’s trying to take hold due to diet and environmental factors. Their ration (feed) lacks diversity and is designed to put on the greatest amount of weight (mostly saturated fat and water) in the shortest amount of time. It usually involves GMO grains- either soy or corn or both. In addition they are fed a steady diet of hormones to trigger rapid growth. The only thing keeping these birds from killing over in a matter of days is the antibiotics. But don’t think only the birds are receiving the antibiotics. The antibiotics accumulate in the bird’s meat (its biomass) along with whatever else they’re consuming, and when you eat it you are ingesting the same thing. It enters your blood stream as your body digests the meat. You’ve effectively become an industrial chicken.

Pastured Poultry’s diet

Pastured birds are antibiotic free. No vaccines. No hormones. They eat GMO free grains. And they range. This means they eat grass, which contains chlorophyll, one of nature’s greatest detoxifiers. In addition they’re eating one of nature’s best designed proteins (bugs). They still must eat a mixed ration, but this ration includes non synthetic vitamins, minerals, and everything these birds need to reach their potential without antibiotics masking disease. The key component aside from the ration is as I mentioned earlier – the grass. Birds that forage produce a more fat balanced egg with a darker orange yolk packed with more nutrients – and best of all you can taste the difference. Your tongue and your body benefit. Who said good food tastes bad?

Housing

The second thing you should ask is – what kind of living conditions did my chicken experience before it found its way to my dinner plate? Why should you ask this? Environment plays a big role in determining the health of the bird, and the second reason is you might not want to support buying an animal that lived in miserable conditions when there is an alternative. Some might call it a moral dilemma. I’d have to agree with that. So how does the industrial chicken spend it’s days? The industrial chicken lives in a massive chicken house with thousands of other chickens. It’s beak is removed so it will not peck at other chickens (industrial chickens become cannibalized due to the stress of limited space). The biggest obstacle for industrial birds is avoiding respiratory problems due to the severely polluted air quality. They literally live in a fog of fecal particulates and ammonia- from urine. Farmers who tend to these chickens spend most of their time administering medicine to combat respiratory disease. To enter one of these houses one would need a respiratory mask or would risk serious harm from the polluted air. And most of the birds gain weight so fast that their legs can no longer support their frames. Busted legs, no beak, and sitting in a fecal fog – not the bird I want to eat, and not the system I want to support. 

Pastured Poultry’s housing

If the birds are being raised for their meat, they will be put in a range pen which is out on pasture. They do not roam around doing whatever they feel because these birds are farmed for eating, and they are genetically designed to not exercise too much. But with that said, a pastured bird will have a beak, will have plenty of space to move within the pen (enough room to prevent cannibalism), will be protected from predators within the pen, and will be moved to a new fresh square of grass daily to provide fresh forage and a clean place to live. They breath fresh air and eat fresh forage. They are happy and healthy birds with no need for antibiotics. And they gain weight at such a pace that allows their legs to support their frames! Layers, or chickens used for eggs have a little more freedom and range around outside of a portable chicken mobile that follows the cows. The birds debug the fields and forage on grass producing the best egg possible.

 Processing

I’m sure like most people you’ve never thought about how your food is processed. You probably assumed it’s processed in the most economical and efficient way. Let’s take a look at the industrial chicken and how it’s processed. First producers must drive the birds 20 miles or more to the processing facility which takes a heavy toll on the birds’ stress. Chickens have high metabolisms and being deprived of food and water for this amount of time causes them to tighten their muscles and they start shutting down vital functions to conserve body moisture and stay alive. Once they arrive they will be executed. I’m going to quote from the book because I think Joel explains it better than I can, and this is perhaps the most important aspect in understanding where your food comes from:

Conventional processing electrocutes the birds, then slits the throat. This procedure reduces muscle contractions and reduces the ability of the carcass to bleed. We put the birds in a cone and slit the throat so that the autonomic nervous system keeps functioning and the heart actually pumps the blood right out of the body.

Industrial “evisceration is done, conventionally, with a stainless steel loop that exerts pressure as it scoops our the entrails, or by vacuum. Often the intestines tear apart and the feces splash all over the inside and outside of the bird, contaminating the meat. Some processors put the birds through as many as 40 separate chlorine water baths to kill the germs caused by all this fecal contamination.

The large refrigerated cooling vats in which the birds are placed after processing accumulate as much as a foot of fecal sludge in the bottom after a day of processing. In fact, some reports say that 10 percent of broiler weight in the meat counter is composed of this fecal soup. The muscle tissue, lacking tone due to production methods, is highly absorptive and soaks up this fecal soup.

The point of all this is that production model merits nothing unless it is consummated with a complementary processing model. A very small processing facility can stay much cleaner than big ones. For example, we only process about 4 days every 3 weeks. In between ties the sun sterilizes our shed, rains wash away bits of blood and feathers, and anything else gets eaten or decomposed by microscopic critters. We eviscerate by hand so we don’t tear the intestines and rarely spill feces anywhere on the bird.

In addition small scale on farm processing helps to reduce the damage highly concentrated industrial processing does to the environment, particularly when dealing with the disposal of waste after processing. Small scale processors can compost all of the waste, while industrial models have too much volume and end up contributing to environmental damage in a major way.

To recap, industrial processing produces a bird that’s 10% fecal soup along with a healthy dose of chlorine. In addition industrial processing is actually not more efficient that small scale processing as it requires more water per bird – 5 gallons as apposed to 2.5 gallons, and it also requires numerous chlorine baths as mentioned. Processing is perhaps the most important aspect of pastured poultry because even if you did everything “right” when it comes to feed and housing  then used the industrial model of processing you’d compromise the product in very serious way.

Now that I’ve talked about some of the key differences between pastured poultry and industrial I want to give the reader an idea of what he or she can learn from this book, which is very much a manual.

Section 1: Why Pastured Poultry?

Section 2: In the Beginning

  1. Getting started
  2. Choosing a Breed
  3. The Brooder
  4. Starting the Chicks
  5. Ration

Section 3: Out to Pasture

  1. The Pen
  2. Moving the chickens out to Pasture
  3. Pasture Logistics
  4. What kind of Pasture?

Section 4: Processing

  1. On farm slaughter: The advantages
  2. Slaughter Mechanics
  3. Composting slaughter wastes
  4. Inspection

Section 5: Problems

  1. The Learning Curve
  2. Sickness and Disease
  3. Predators
  4. Weather
  5. Stress
  6. Troubleshooting Poor Performance
  7. Shortcuts
  8. Seasonality
  9. Solving your own problems

Section 6: Marketing

  1. Marketing
  2. Relationship marketing
  3. advertising
  4. liability
  5. is it organic?

Section 7: Possibilities

  1. Vision
  2. Laying Hens: Three options
  3. Turkeys
  4. Exotics

Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer

Again, if you’re interested in raising chickens, this is the book for you. If you’re interested in knowing where your food (chicken) comes from this is the book for you. I want to touch on one more thing that’s very important to understand when thinking about your food, and it’s the word “organic.” Organic is always better than industrialized, and the main reason is it’s chemical and GMO free. There is no doubt about that. But when it comes to buying protein (chicken, beef, pork) the word “organic” doesn’t mean it’s actually the best option available. It simply means whatever that animal ate was organic. Don’t think you’ve reached the pinnacle of healthy food choices because everything in your basket says organic. In addition “free range” doesn’t mean the chickens are running around on fresh pasture. Free range requirements are just a step above keeping animals in pens. The space is still limited and it’s usually on barren ground void of nutrients because farmers aren’t moving their birds to fresh ground on a rotation. Or they’re caged 23 hours and are allowed 1 hour of “free range.” With that said “free range” and organic are much better options than industrial proteins because you are getting an antibiotic free, hormone free, GMO free protein. That goes a long way, but it’s not the best. There is always good, better, and best. And when it comes to your health which is the determining factor for your productivity and overall joy in life why would you not choose “best” every time? Especially when choosing “best” does so much more for the world we live in aside from yourself. If you choose “best” for yourself, you are choosing “best” for the world you live in, and that’s admirable.

The chart below can be found in the Appendix of the book. It’s a comparison between Joel’s Pastured Chickens and the industrial chicken. This really puts it into perspective.

DIFFERENCE-PasturedvConventionalChicken

Buy the book via Amazon by clicking HERE (It’s an affiliate link so I get a little kickback if you buy. Thanks!)

 

Finally here is Joel on Pasture with his birds

Comments

  1. Addye Thole

    Enjoyed this book review. Informative, eye opening, detailed information for healthy human survival in my opinion. Thanks!!

  2. Gabriel

    There’s a kilo of chicken breast sitting in my freezer. Chlorinated, fecal-soup soaked, antibiotic-ridden protein. So much for stir-fry tonight.
    Excellent review. Thank you.

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