On the Difficulty of Finding Pastured Animal Products

chickens on pasture

Chickens on pasture. Image by MentalMasala.

I was hoping to bring some good news this morning, specifically about a non-profit animal welfare rating service that I found out about at the National Products Expo. There were two animal welfare rating organizations at the Expo, one I decided not to write about because I considered their standards too loose–specifically they do not mandate pasture. The other requires pasture and I was looking forward to recommending them.

This morning, however, I decided to look at some of the farms they have certified and was surprised to come across one that I’ve actually visited. By no stretch of the imagination does the farm in question give their livestock the access to pasture that I was under the impression the rating organization required. Now I’m fully aware that my own backyard chickens would not meet these standards–my yard is simply not big enough and my hens are in a coop/run arrangement all day. But I was hoping for a higher standard from this non-profit rating organization–specifically eggs and meat from a farm that looks like the one in the picture above.

I’m hugely disappointed. And I wish I could be more specific but I don’t want to end up in a lawsuit. Let’s just say that at this point I’m not aware of any animal welfare rating service that I consider adequate. Let’s not even talk about the joke that is the USDA.

I do think there is a entrepreneurial opportunity here for someone to start a reliable third party rating organization. How about we use some 21st century technology?  Just think about how cool it would be to make use of webcams so you could trace and see the farm your food came from.

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21 Comments

  1. I can’t find the article anymore, but I remember reading about a turkey farm that gave adequate room to its birds, but had to use a conventional slaughterhouse* to process them. The article said it was a common problem for small meat producers trying to be humane. Argh I wish I could find the link.

    (*Why is a conventional slaughterhouse bad? They move too fast to make clean kills. Animals will go down the line being cut up as they are still conscious. Or birds will be dipped in boiling water to de-feather while still alive. Also the human workers have a bad working environment and will often get injured or repetitive stress.)

  2. Where did you find the ‘official’ standards by which you judge whether chickens receive adequate pasture or pasture time? My hens are allowed ‘pasture/yard’ time for 3 to 12 hours each day and never eat commercial chicken food or have medications. I decided on my own that this is absolutely the best. However,I want to compare/judge using a set of standards. I hope I am not deluded when I eat the eggs and feel I am eating superior food.

  3. Ugh! That’s incredibly disappointing to hear.. :( I’ve been getting ‘humane certified’ eggs thinking the same that you did, and now that I hear it’s just another load of bunk along with other egg labels, it’s just all the more reason to just get them from the farmers market.. though unless I visit the actual farm that could be another toss up. I visited an organic farm once and their pastured chickens in their chicken tractors were far too overcrowded! Many were plucked nearly bald, and I even saw one chicken chasing and bullying another, and the tractor just wasn’t big enough for the bullied to get away.. My chickens live in paradise compared to these birds.

  4. Hi Ya’ll,
    I love this website and visit everyday. On the web cams so you can watch your food. I am pretty sure that is a segment on the Portlandia show! Ha Ha. Watch out for that cult leader on the chicken farm. Keep up the good work. Fred

    • Our whole website is a Portlandia parody waiting to happen.

      That cult leader routine was pure genius and based on reality!

  5. I think you are all discovering that its about business. and to compete – whether its for shelf space in the store, to have adequate income to do the appropriate advertising, for the marketing of your product – you have to play the game. For upcoming businesses, its about $$$. If you expect small quality operations to show up in your big market, it ain’t gonna happen. Especially in this day and age of the Federal rules and regs being determined by the big Agribusiness! Its one of the reasons we have to go back to the community plan of small farms, growers, supplying their small local market. Word of mouth is the best advertising, as well as shooting you down if you don’t deliver the quality. Once you get past your community, you’re playing with the big boys. and then the rules change

  6. Well, when it comes down to brass tacks, I think there’s a level of uncertainty in everything we did not grow ourselves, and who grows everything they consume? Even food that is certified USDA organic may not be, because there are so few inspectors out there and people are not always ethical when there’s a profit to be had. The odds are it’s fine, but it’s just not 100 percent a sure thing, you know? But even if it’s only an 90 percent certainty, that’s still better odds than something NOT labeled organic. And so goes it for humanely-raised animal products as well. The odds are it’s better than factory-farmed, although possibly still not ideal.

  7. Be careful with that filming of farms . . . a couple of states, including Pennsylvania, are mulling over laws to make it a felony (!) to film any animal agricultural business. Here’s a link to an article about the push in state legislatures for these ag bills; the article also contains links to other related articles:
    http://www.democraticunderground.com/10743405

    For a whole host of reasons these laws are awful. If you live in one of the affected states, you might want to contact your lawmakers, not that that always makes any difference.

  8. I just saw that fat bald guy’s show in Travel channel featuring Wisconsin of fella dubbed as the Zen butcher (Black Earth Meats).

    “These are not CAFO/feedlot operations using sub-therapeutic antibiotics, but the type of farming our grandparents knew.”

    Question:

    Are there butchers like that in the L.A. area? I found Al-Salam Polleria on Whittier Blvd. in East. L.A. BUT that’s it.

    • Thanks, Mrs. Homegrown!

      ” All of our meats are coming from within 150 miles of Los Angeles, except our lamb which is raised in Northern California, in Santa Rosa. ”

      Exactly what I was looking for. Wish there were more of these, will definitely see them. Looks hip too.

    • Yes, Lindy and Grundy are very hip. They’re the darlings of the sustainable meat scene in LA. (And if that’s not a ridiculous sentence, I don’t know what is!) I hope their success will encourage other local butchers to start up.

  9. I can sympathize with not wanting to get dragged into court, and would not say that the USDA has a stellar record, but it’s kinda sad that in this country, we have the freedom to criticize only the government, and not the corporations that have the power, for example, to have the USDA do their bidding.

    • The only reason why the big corporations have the power to boss around the USDA is because they have the money to hide behind an army of lawyers.

  10. I buy all my meat and animal products from suppliers (buthers, poultry shops) that only deal with happy farms. This requires a certain amount of trust, I guess, but to see them talking about visiting the farms or changing suppliers because a farm dropped its standards keeps me believing.

  11. what about eatwild.com – ???
    not a rating system i dont suppose but here is what their description of their site is:
    “Your source for safe, healthy, natural and nutritious grass-fed beef, lamb, goats, bison, poultry, pork, dairy and other wild edibles. ”
    you can search by state.

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