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By Stephanie McKay
Small family farms like Primal Pastures are changing the food system. Where does your food come from? On a warm February morning, Temecula’s own Primal Pastures hosted a farm tour where customers actually see how their food is living; and understand the process of raising pastured chicken and lamb.
We were greeted by Farmer Rob and welcomed to have a cup of organic and fair trade coffee provided by E.A.T. Marketplace in Temecula. The kids could run around and look at the baby chicks in their warm incubation coop and explore the grounds. The tour began with Farmer Paul welcoming everyone and encouraging us to mingle with other like minded locavore’s; a locavore is a person who is interested in eating food that is grown locally and avoids eating food that travels a long distance and/or is factory farmed.
Farmer Paul passionately explained the reason for creating this magical farm; his own mysterious arthritis at a young age and how changing his eating habits eliminated his health problems. The entire family contributes in some way to running the farm!
Small family farms like Primal Pastures are essential to changing the food system in America. Farmer Paul explained, “More farms like ours that pop up in America are what is going to eliminate factory farming; government legislation is not going to change things.” First, a look into how conventional chickens are raised:
Conventional chickens-those in the meat case at your local supermarket-are living indoors with thousands of other chickens; they are so cramped that they can’t move at all. In order to keep the chickens from pecking each other to death; they are de-beaked with a soldering iron as chicks. These chickens are fattened up as quickly as possible to make a fast profit. They are fattened up by “feed”, a mixture of genetically modified (GMO) corn and soy, antibiotics, and other nutrients that scientists deem healthy for chickens. They are picked up for slaughter mechanically by a large machine, not by hand.
At Primal Pastures the chickens are “pastured” which means that they are free to roam around on dirt in the sunshine. Pastured chickens do not need to be de-beaked because they can peck at bugs and organic food scraps all day long. The chickens at Primal Pastures also dine on organic waste from E.A.T. Marketplace. The coop is portable and moved each day to fresh pasture where they peck at the ground and eat bugs to their heart’s content! In turn, they leave behind nitrogen rich fertilizer and the pasture is naturally fertilized without chemicals. Primal chickens take twice as long to raise as conventional chickens.
When it is time for processing, the chickens are moved just a few feet and picked up by hand- by the farmers who care for them each day-and peacefully go to slaughter. This process is important and one that the average consumer is unaware of. Farmer Rob said it best, “when we process our chickens they have no idea what is about to happen.”
That statement moved me. How many millions of people each day simply order a meat lover’s pizza without one thought of the animal’s who gave their lives for it. I am confident that if more people learned about the food system in America, they would be compelled to seek out places like Primal Pastures; it is satisfying to know that the animals your family consumes were raised humanely.
Farmer Paul pointed out an important fact; the laws regarding labeling are very confusing and it is unfortunate that a consumer can think they are making a more humane choice by purchasing a product labeled “cage
free” but in reality, there is no law stating what cage free actually means. Producers have taken advantage of this by cutting a hole in that same indoor building that houses thousands of chickens, and can now label them cage free. Remember, the chickens are so cramped they can’t move so very few of those chickens actually go outside in the sunshine. Look for the term “pastured” to ensure that you are getting truly cage free animals.
The tour was not only informational, but fun! The kids held baby chicks and people of all ages loved seeing the four day old baby lamb! For more information about the farm and to see what is available in the Farm Shop, log onto www.primalpastures.com. There is a wait-list for their chicken and eggs…yes they are that good!
To be informed of the next Farm Tour, find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/primalpastures