Monday, July 11, 2016

Meat Chickens

If you have been around the local food scene in Georgia for a while, then your have probably noticed the very limited availability of pasture raised poultry. There are several reasons for this, and for some reason I seem to forget all of the challenges and keep trying to make it work. It always seems like we are swimming upstream with the meat chickens, mostly due to the processing restrictions. Many States (and the USDA) allow up to 20,000 to be processed on farm per year with no USDA inspection necessary. Georgia has struck the 20,000 exemption and currently only has a 1000 bird exemption. Even then, Georgia has issued minimum facility requirements to be able to use the 1000 bird exemption. That would be no problem, except there's no way to pay for those facilities and only process 1000 birds.  To further exacerbate the conundrum, Georgia does not have a poultry inspection division. They farm all of the poultry inspection out to the USDA, who says "if its up to us you can do 20,000 with no inspection." Now you know why this makes my head hurt every time I have to deal with it. 
Oh yeah, also  there is no custom processor in the state of GA, closest are 6 hours away in North Carolina and Kentucky.  It's not a very sustainable situation to drive them that far for processing.
The positive: We can produce some beautiful chickens. Our new pasture houses are working extremely well. The birds got moved to fresh grass daily and were well protected from predators. The survivability for this batch was 93.5% which is pretty good considering the heat. We strive to keep that number at least 95%.  
So when you are frustrated that there is limited pastured chicken in the marketplace, don't be upset with the farmers. We want to produce more pasture raised chickens. Share my frustrations with the political establishment that seeks to restrict small farmers and consumers in favor of corporate interest. 
I guess building a $500,000 inspected processing facility is the answer, but that makes my head hurt even worse.
Broiler Chickens on Pasture