Chicken Processing – Could You Do It? (Blog Post Round-Up)

A few years ago, chicken processing was just as foreign to me as it would be to most ordinary 20-something gals. But since my family started Primal Pastures, it’s become a very normal part of life/work for us.

I realize that 99% of people don’t see it that way, which is why we started offering Chicken Processing Workshops – to teach folks how to process a chicken while explaining the “why” behind every step. Although hands-on participation is not mandatory, workshop guests also have the opportunity to process and take home their very own bird.

Processing workshops are by FAR the most powerful and life-changing of all the events we hold at the farm. They’re challenging, emotional, and empowering all at once.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not chicken processing is something you want to learn and experience, I’d encourage you to check out the blog posts below. Each one offers a very real and personal account of what the process is like (physically and emotionally). Although no two experiences are ever the same, these posts will give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.


Clare from Flame to Fork

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“My heart was pounding leading up to this next moment. I placed my chicken into the cone and stepped back. Now don’t make fun of me, but I said a little prayer for this little chickie. I didn’t make a scene or say anything out loud, but I quietly took a moment to give thanks and to ask for strength. I just wanted to make sure that I was as thankful as possible for the sacrifice this bird was going to make in order to feed me. And I also wanted strength to be able to complete this task effectively and efficiently on the first try. I wanted to make sure I did it right and was super focused. I know what I am about to say sounds like an oxymoron… but I wanted to do it correctly so I didn’t hurt the bird in the process.”

Read Clare’s story.


Kathryn from Vivacious Dish

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“I have a whole new reverence for the process of bringing meat to my plate. I also have a lot of unanswered questions and feelings of remorse that will take some time to process fully. Regardless, if any of you meat eaters ever get the chance to be this close to your meat sourcing, I strongly recommend you do it.

It is no longer appropriate for any of us to be uninformed consumers. Our knowledge and our ability to vote with our dollars are the best tools we have to start fixing a food system that is destroying our environment and making so many of us chronically ill.”

Read Kathryn’s story.


My Guest Post on Mark’s Daily Apple

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“In the early 1900s, chicken keeping was extremely common. Processing the birds was simply a part of life — and most people not only knew how to do it, but also processed chickens themselves on a regular basis. It was even normal for young children to help out with the chore under mom or grandma’s supervision.

But today, the thought of killing anything has become so taboo that many would rather believe their meat was grown in a plastic package at the grocery store than associate it with a once living, breathing animal.”

Read my guest post on Mark’s Daily Apple.

What do you think? Could you process a chicken? Have you ever experienced anything like this? Share your thoughts, opinions, and questions in the comment section below! And if you’re ready to give chicken processing a shot, click here to check out our upcoming workshops!

Pasturebird: 2015 American Farm Bureau People’s Choice Award Winners

Farmer Paul presenting on The Pasturebird System

Farmer Paul presenting on The Pasturebird System

This past weekend, 3/4 of the Primal Pastures guys (Jeff, Paul, and Rob) had the opportunity to present on The Pasturebird System for the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge at the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention.

The idea behind Pasturebird is basically this: Take chickens out of the grow house and put them on grass.

Pasturebird offers a system to scale pastured poultry production globally by using rotational grazing to produce low-cost pasture-raised chicken, a system that’s good for land and good for the chickens.

Farmer Paul and Farmer Jeff

Farmer Paul and Farmer Jeff


To us, this is a pretty common-sense concept. But to the rest of the world, this method of farming is radically different from what people are used to and comfortable with (which usually involves packing 40,000 chickens together in a single grow house).

Pasturebird uses pastured poultry farming methods that are currently being utilized by Primal Pastures, but employs them on a much larger scale (so large that it would allow for pastured chicken to be available in Safeway, Albertson’s, etc.) with a few tweaks and adjustments.

With the current system, pastured poultry is much more expensive than the conventional stuff, mostly due to the amount of labor it takes to raise chickens outside. The Pasturebird System greatly reduces the amount of labor needed to raise birds on grass while still providing the same benefits (more space to roam, better for the environment & soil, etc.) by using updated & automated floorless chicken pens.

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Pastured poultry are able to grub on grass and bugs, thus requiring less feed than conventional chickens. We have done the math and are fully convinced that we can produce pastured poultry at a competitive price using The Pasturebird System. But in order to begin testing the tweaks needed to implement this system, we are in need of some funding…which is what led us to compete in the Farm Bureau’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge.

We were one of four teams selected out of 200 applicants to present on our idea at the 2015 American Farm Bureau Federation convention (and received an initial $15,000 for making it to the final four). Pasturebird then had the opportunity to present and compete against the three other teams for the chance to win the Entrepreneurs of the Year Award ($15,000; determined by a panel of judges) and the People’s Choice Award ($10,000; voted on by the people).

Farmer Rob playing around with big tractor toys at the American Farm Bureau Trade Show

Farmer Rob playing around with big tractor toys at the American Farm Bureau Trade Show

The audience at this convention wasn’t the typical pastured meat-eating, real-food loving crowd that we’re used to. In contrast, the convention center where the presentation took place was filled with Monsanto employees and many farmers who knew (or cared) very little about “alternative” farming methods. Needless to say, Pasturebird stood out.

Despite our differences with the majority of the people in attendance, Pasturebird’s presentation was very well-received by all. The judges asked thought-provoking and interesting questions, the last of which was something to the effect of whether or not a big chicken company would be able to steal and implement our idea — to which Paul and Jeff responded, “If the chicken industry changes for the better because of this idea, whether or not it’s us that ends up implementing it, we will have accomplished what we set out to do.”

That last sentence perfectly sums up our passion for pastured poultry farming. We know that the current model is broken and needs fixing. If it’s us who ends up being able to fix it, great. If it’s someone else, awesome. Our main concern is that it gets fixed. Period.

Farmers Rob, Jeff, and Paul anxiously waiting to her the contest results with Director Lisa Benson, PhD

Farmers Rob, Jeff, and Paul anxiously waiting to hear the contest results with Director Lisa Benson, PhD


On the last day of the conference, we were ecstatic to find out that we had won the People’s Choice Award! The judge’s choice for the American Farm Bureau’s Entrepreneurs of the Year was awarded to Scout Pro, a great couple of guys from Iowa who we became friends with over the course of the weekend.

Although we didn’t win the whole thing, we couldn’t have been more pleased with how the competition played out and are extremely grateful to all of the individuals who gave us a chance. After all, it’s not every day that a small, beyond-organic, GMO-free, pastured poultry farm wins a total of $25,000 at a conference sponsored by Monsanto.

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A huge THANK YOU to everyone who voted for us and supported us throughout this competition and beyond. Because of you guys, we are now able to continue the groundwork to eventually implement The Pasturebird System on a much larger scale (and are hoping to offer competitively-priced pastured chicken in stores and restaurants by 2016).

From Pasture to Plate — A Reformed Meat Eater’s Manifesto (Guest Post from Vivacious Dish)

This is a guest post from Kathryn of Vivacious Dish. Kathryn attended one of our chicken processing workshops awhile back and wrote a post about her experience. It was so good that we had to share it! Enjoy!

I had never killed an animal in my life. Until today.

At noon I was standing on a family farm in Temecula, California holding a live chicken in my arms. By 5 p.m. I was standing in my kitchen dunking a fresh whole chicken into a brown sugar brine solution to get it ready to slow roast. The process in between was both exciting and disconcerting – a true life lesson in what it really means to be a meat eater.

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Fair warning: this post and the photos below are graphic. But they are also really important for me to share as part of my journey to healing through the GAPS Diet and beyond. Because after all, fully coming to terms with a diet centered around drinking broth made from animal bones brings me, as a former vegetarian of more than 10 years, smack in the face with a moral dilemma.

On one hand, I feel the best I’ve felt in years (my whole adult life really) while following the Paleo/GAPS Diet over the past two months. I’ve eaten more animal products during this time period than in the first 20 years of my life combined – bone broth, bone marrow stew, organs, boiled meat, and lard. On the other hand, I became a vegetarian at age seven because I thought it was inhumane to kill and eat animals. With the exception of some fish and poultry on special occasions, I remained vegetarian until I studied abroad at age 20. Because let’s face it, who could fully immerse in Spanish culture for a semester without indulging in the glory that is Jamón Ibérico? I’d since gotten away from being so concerned with animal rights in exchange for being a foodie.That was, until I connected last fall with some experts in ancestral health. They introduced me to the Paleo/ancestral health movement and encouraged me to actually pick up and read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which had been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust since my early 20’s. I became quickly engrossed in sourcing of meats, eggs and raw dairy – pastured, grassfed, hormone-free, free-range, humanely raised, sustainable – first for the personal health benefits, then for the environmental/social impact.

The more I read Paleo, ancestral health and food justice articles and blogs, the more conscious of a consumer I became. I was soon having 30-minute conversations with my local farmers about how they source their meats – whether the feed is organic/non-GMO, if their animals get to graze on pastures, are their kill methods humane, how far the animal traveled from the farm before slaughter, etc. If you’ve ever seen the Portlandia episode where they grill the restaurant server about where their chicken comes from to the point of visiting the farm themselves, I had become “that girl.”

I felt good about my better-informed and more humane meat-eating, and for over a year, I didn’t experience any mental anguish eating animal products. However, in the past two months as I’ve become even more mindful in my eating, I have been thinking once again in stronger alignment with the moral dilemma of my youth. If I am not willing to kill an animal (even squashing spiders makes me feel pains of remorse), then how can I feel okay eating one?

Eating meat is inherently primal in nature. It brings up notions of the aggressive male hunter going out into the forest to flex his ego by bringing home the largest buck as a demonstration of his dominance over nature. And yet, the venison he cured would sustain and nourish his family throughout the cold winter months of scarce food. I am beginning to wonder if humans, as we evolve further from our primitive roots to a more enlightened (and physically light) reality, if we will also evolve to require less meat for proper nutrition and optimum health. Perhaps Ghandi and his followers, with their enlightened vegetarian ways, were on to something.

Americans’ separation from our food sources is one of the biggest problems with our current food system. We go to the grocery story and mindlessly pick up a plastic package of sterilized, hormone-packed chicken breasts that are about as far from a live chicken as you can get while still eating “chicken.” I bet that the majority of Americans, if they saw firsthand how a live chicken becomes a nugget, they would think twice about their next trip through the drive through.

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If I am going to eat meat, I want to be as close to the source as possible. It’s irresponsible for me, as a meat eater, to not fully understand what it takes to bring meat to my table. So when Primal Pastures sent out an invitation to attend a Chicken Processing Workshop, I jumped on the opportunity. Actually, I debated for about a month before committing to attending for fear that my blissfully unaware meat-eating world might come crashing down.

I arrived at Primal Pastures today with mixed emotions. I was proud of myself for taking the leap in becoming even more informed in my choice to eat meat, and also incredibly nervous for the experience of killing an animal for the first time.

The process itself was pretty straightforward, and Farmers Paul and Rob did an excellent job explaining both the how to and the why of each step along the way.

Step 1: Pick up a chicken off the pasture.

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The chickens we could select were two-year-old laying hens, past their prime in egg production. These hens had spent their entire lives grazing the pastures, scratching up bugs like all healthy, happy chickens do.

I wasn’t sure how to approach picking up a chicken that I knew I was going to kill, so I just walked out into the pasture and stood there calmly. A chicken walked over to me and stopped in front of me. This was the moment of truth. I picked her up without any struggle, and off we went to the killing station.

Step 2: Kill the chicken.

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Farmer Paul and his team explained that their killing cones are one of the most humane kill methods around. The chickens are being killed less than 20 yards from where they graze, so they experience minimal stress prior to the end of their lives. And the cones themselves allow for the chickens to be placed upside-down during the process, which puts them in a relaxed (similar to playing dead) state.

Awaiting the kill was one of the most difficult parts in the process for me. Because they only had four killing cones, I spent about 10 minutes prior to killing my bird waiting my turn while holding her feet up in my arms. I began feeling really nervous but tried to keep myself calm to minimize the stress on her as well. She got a little flustered at one point and gave me a nice scratch with her sharp feet, but otherwise we were both just together in that space trying to keep calm. I felt a bond with my bird doing those minutes – I could feel her warmth and her breath. I tried not to think about what I was going to do next.

When the time came, I placed my bird feet up in the metal cone and pulled her neck through the smaller hole in the bottom. Cradling her beak and head in my fingers, I took a deep slice to her carotid artery and watched as her deep red blood spilled out over my hand and onto the ground. The farmers told us that the lack of blood to the brain makes the bird go into a coma almost immediately, but it was hard to believe as my bird’s body flapped around for a few seconds in the cone. Apparently the nerves in the brain are still firing at this point so the bird is having involuntary spasms. They don’t use the expression “a chicken with it’s head cut off” for nothing. Eventually my bird stopped moving and it was done.

Step 3: Scald the bird.

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This part of the process was pretty straightforward. We dipped our birds in a hot water bath to loosen the feathers. The most notable thing about this step for me was how heavy the dead weight of the bird felt as I carried her by her feet to the scalding bath. After about a minute of scalding, the feathers were coming out easily.

Step 4: Pluck the bird.

Primal Pastures had a neat machine that looked like a big metal washing machine drum with 30+ short rubber dowels attached.

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When you turned the machine on, it would shake and the birds would bounce around off the rubber dowels until the feathers come loose.

We put our birds in the bottom of the drum, turned on the machine, and sprayed them down with a hose as their feathers came loose to keep the feathers from flying. After about a minute, our birds were completely naked. It was surprising to see just how small the birds were without their protective coats. For me, this was the step that transformed the bird from an animal into a potential food source.

Step 5: Trim and gut the bird.

Besides awaiting the kill, this was the worst part of the process. After completing the first series of trimming cuts (removing feet, head, oil gland and loosening the crop), I had to reach my entire hand inside the bird’s carcass to remove its innards. The bird was still warm to the touch inside. I was not prepared for this. My heart sank. Just fifteen minutes prior, that same bird was walking on the beautiful pasture. But the deed was done. All I could do was finish cleaning my bird and package up the organs and feet for making broth.

Step 6: Chill the bird.

Plain and simple. We placed our birds in an ice bath for 5 minutes to cool them down.

Step 7: Bag and shrink wrap.

The final step on the farm was to place the bird in a shrink wrap bag and dip it quickly in hot water to seal. Once I had my Primal Pastures sticker placed neatly on the package, my bird was ready for main-stream consumption. I felt a sent a pride in my work, and also a sense of grief.

Overall, there were many positive things about the experience:

  • The supportive community of like-minded people who attended made everything feel a little less barbaric. Maybe it’s the whole group think mentality. We were all in it together.
  • The knowledge of the farmers and their commitment to humane practices in the raising and killing of their birds made me feel a little better. I took comfort knowing that we were killing animals in the most humane way possible (and yes, that absolutely sounds like an oxymoron to me).
  • The excitement of being so close to my food source and doing manual labor on a farm. Hot sun on my face, sweat, the sweet smell of grass and manure. The happy animals grazing in their pens. This is how all meat should be sourced.
  • Dare I say fun? I have to admit that I enjoyed learning something new. I felt a sense of adventure and a rush of adrenaline as I prepared for the kill.

There were also many upsetting things about the experience:

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  • Holding a live chicken in my arms, waiting for our turn to use the killing cones. Trying to keep myself calm to in turn share that feeling to an animal facing a death sentence.
  • Grabbing my chicken by the neck and having my hand covered with her blood as I severed her artery, then seeing my chicken’s body shutter and shake from her reflexes as her blood slowly drained.
  • Feeling the weight of a freshly killed animal as I carried it by it’s feet to the scalder.
  • Reaching inside its carcass to clean out its guts and still feeling the warmth of recent life.
  • The creepy/sad feeling of driving home from the farm with a dead animal in the car seat next to me, perfectly wrapped up in a shrink-wrapped bag.

This is what it takes to eat an animal in the most sustainable way possible. And even with the attention to treating the animal with dignity and respect throughout its life to its death and my meal, I’m not sure it’s worth it. What did the chicken feel as it died at my hands? Is the life of a sentient being worth the flavor of good meat? Is my health worth it? Who am I to say that I deserve to live a healthy life over the life of a chicken? These are questions without easy answers.

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What I can say is that it is not possible to mindlessly eat an animal that I killed myself. I don’t think I’ve ever put more care into preparing a meal than I did to cook my bird. The brining, the roasting, the carving, the slowly chewing, the savoring of each bite (it was chewy, dense and sweet – like no poultry I’ve ever tasted before) – I completed each step with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love. Did I feel nauseous thinking about eating my bird? Absolutely. Did my bird taste fresher than any other meat I’ve ever eaten? No doubt. Do I think that my small and delicious meal was worth the life of an animal? I’m not sure.

What I can say with confidence is that I have a whole new reverence for the process of bringing meat to my plate. I also have a lot of unanswered questions and feelings of remorse that will take some time to process fully. Regardless, if any of you meat eaters ever get the chance to be this close to your meat sourcing, I strongly recommend you do it.

It is no longer appropriate for any of us to be uninformed consumers. Our knowledge and our ability to vote with our dollars are the best tools we have to start fixing a food system that is destroying our environment and making so many of us chronically ill.

Also, a big thanks to everyone at Primal Pastures for the opportunity. You have changed me and I am grateful.

Why We Love Maybel (4 Moo-tastic Reasons)

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In case you haven’t already heard us shout it to the rooftops on facebook and instagram, I’m going to take one more opportunity to really hammer the message home — WE GOT A COW!

And now that she’s here, it’s hard to imagine how we went so long without her big brown eyes, her loud “MOOOOOOO”, and the massive cow pies that she leaves all over the pasture.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s pregnant!?

You know what that means — lots of delicious, raw, beyond organic, grass-fed milk come April. Yup, we’re pretty excited about Maybel around here. Here’s a few more reasons why:


Why We <3 Maybel

  • MAYBEL FACT #1: She’s a Jersey. The Jersey breed comes from — you guessed it — New Jersey! Researchers aren’t quite sure how Jersey cattle were first brought to Jersey Island, but they generally suspect that Jerseys originated from the adjacent coast of France (cattle resembling Jerseys are found in Normandy and Brittany).

    The Jersey breed are said to be more efficient producers of milk, less susceptible to a number of diseases and conditions, and can adapt extremely well to a variety of climates. They also have…

    • Greater fertility and little to no calving problems.
    • More nutritious milk that contains 18% more protein, 20% more calcium, and 25% more butterfat than milk from other cows.
    • A2 Milk (read more about this in #3).

  • MAYBEL FACT #2: She’s a sweetheart.

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    According to this website, “Jerseys are thought to have one of the best temperaments among the dairy breeds.” If this picture isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what is.

  • MAYBEL FACT #3: Milk — raw, delicious, beyond organic milk! This could be an entire blog post in itself (and probably will be at some point). But for now, a summarized version of why Maybel’s milk will be a-mooo-zing will have to do.

    In addition to having a higher protein and nutrient content, Maybel’s milk also contains the beta-casein A2 (not A1). I knew nothing about this distinction until we got Maybel (and am still learning the details of it), but I do know that ALL cows produced A2 Milk back in the day. Around 8,000 years ago, and a new type of milk (A1) came about as the result of a mutation.

    There’s compelling research that links A1 milk (most of what’s available in the U.S.) to a slew serious health problems including heart disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autism, schizophrenia, and more (check out this video series by Sean Croxton for more information on the difference between A1 and A2 milk).

    Maybel’s natural diet of organic grass along with the raw, unpasteurized state of her milk (pasteurization destroys the good bacteria in milk that allows our bodies to digest it properly) will also contribute to it’s nutritious and wholesome goodness.

    We couldn’t be more excited to try her milk and pass it along to our neighbors in So-Cal!

  • MAYBEL FACT #4: Maybel is (and will always be) a very happy and healthy cow.

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    She’ll spend the duration of her life on fresh pasture, soaking up the sun and grazing on delicious green grass. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Anything else you want to know or share about Maybel, milk, or the Jersey breed? Ask/share it with a comment!

Mark’s Daily Apple Guest Post: “Next Level Primal — I Killed a Chicken and Ate It”

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This is a guest post I wrote for the wildly popular primal blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. On his blog, Mark Sisson “empowers people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically re-thinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness.” I LOVE that! Don’t you? Head over to MarksDailyApple.com for awesome info on all things primal!

I still remember the first time I killed a chicken. I had watched it happen hundreds of times. I’d even helped out with all of the other steps involved in chicken processing (scalding, plucking, eviscerating, and packaging), but I couldn’t quite bring myself to take a knife to a chicken’s throat and end its life.

But why?

I had no problem eating chickens that someone else killed. I’m not terribly freaked out by blood. And I had already gone through the gutting process more times than I could count (which is way gross-er than killing).

After about a year of helping out with processing days, I decided that it was time for me to kill a chicken.

Click here to continue reading.

Ask Anything: Farmer Paul

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As a small family farm, we’re always looking for ways to get to know you (our customers & fans) better. And we want you to know us better too! That’s why we’re starting a series of Farmer Spotlights — to give you the chance to truly “know your farmers.”

Farmer Paul was the first brave volunteer (even though he was really volunTOLD) to answer the questions you asked on facebook, instagram, and through email. You might already know that Farmer Paul is a devoted husband and father to his wife Lynsey and son Noah (and obviously an awesome farmer)! But were you aware that he was also an All-American racewalker and javelin thrower at Concordia University, Irvine — where he attended on a handbell scholarship!? Needless to say, Paul is a pretty awesome guy who’s full of surprises.

Find out more interesting facts about him (as well his take on all sorts of farming questions) below!

Personal/Lifestyle Questions

Q: Did you rub dirt on your face for this picture? – Yeshua G.

A: It’s actually poop. I was spreading manure compost that day. It was super windy out and I was chucking it out onto the pasture from a wheelbarrow and it kept blowing back into my face. That’s kind of embarrassing, but thanks for asking! Haha, off to a good start…

Q: Would you say your life has changed for the better since Primal Pastures – Camila L.

A: Before Primal Pastures, I was working a desk job. I was in a cubicle with fake lighting for 70 hours a week and was hardly ever able to get away to see family or friends. It was really boring and I didn’t believe in what I was doing. I gave all of that up (along with a really solid paycheck) to farm full time. Now, I’m working outside with my hands. I have much more time to spend with my family even though I’m working the same amount of hours (often times even more). And it’s really a blessing working with animals. I have a smaller paycheck now but feel 100 times more fulfilled than I did before.

Q: Do you lift, bro? In all seriousness, my husband joining CrossFit was what introduced us to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle last year. When did you decide to shift your life/career to farming? And did your parents, friends, and family think you were nuts? – Kimberly H.

A: I got into Paleo from CrossFit too. When I was in the Marine Corps, all of the guys were doing CrossFit and along with that came paleo. They told me to take out breads and gluten for 30 days. After I did it, the arthritis I had in college disappeared. That pretty much sold me on Paleo. As for the career shift, Farmer Tom (my father in-law) had been interested in organic pasture farming for like 30 years. Once I started learning more about pasture farming and how it fit in with the Paleo lifestyle, I was convinced that starting a farm was the right thing to do. The family was incredibly supportive but my friends thought it was a little weird. Most of the Primal Pastures family members are into CrossFit now – and our farming background gives us a new appreciation for farmers carries, etc.

Q: What was your favorite food growing up, and how would you adapt it to the way you eat today? Or would you even want to? – Joyce B.

A: Just so you guys know, that’s my mom who asked this question. LOVE YOU!! As you know, mom, corn dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese were definitely my favorites. I haven’t had either of those since I was a kid and wouldn’t really want them anymore. When you make a habit of staying away from certain foods, you don’t crave them anymore. And knowing how bad they’ll make you feel makes you crave them even less. I don’t think of Paleo as a “diet.” I never feel restricted by only eating real, unprocessed foods. It’s pretty much how every guy wants to eat anyway, I mean come on – amazing steaks and bacon? Although… a grass-fed beef Paleo corn dog would be pretty epic.

Q: Do any of you still work another “day” job? – Nick and Kim P.

A: I was the first farmer to go full time with Primal Pastures. Farmer Jeff was the second, and both of us are also part-time students. Farmer Rob is a full time student in addition to his work with Primal Pastures. Farmer Tom still works full time. The goal is to have everyone in the family come on full time eventually.

Q: What came first, the chicken or the egg? – Philicia P.

A: The chicken definitely came first – an egg can’t hatch without a chicken sitting on it. Why is this disputed?

Q: When are you going to start making more babies? – Philicia P.

A: The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends spacing out children by 3 years. Weston A. Price himself recommends 5 years in between children. But since my wife wasn’t the average traditional age of 13 when we had our first (Noah, 15 months), we’ll probably have them a little faster than that. After all, we’re gonna need a lot more farm hands to help collect eggs and process chickens. We’re passionate about adopting and want to grow our family in that way too.


Primal Pastures Questions

Q: When can I get some of your eggs? – Jeanie O.

A: We love producing eggs, but it takes quite a bit of land. We also lost 70% of our flock to predation last year and it’s taken some time to rebuild it. But even more than selling eggs, we’re really passionate about helping people raise eggs on their own. We’re working on a web series right now to make this possible even for folks who have small yards or apartment balconies. We’re also working on doing a pastured chicken coop that will work for small yards or balconies. If we really want to see dramatic change to our nation’s broken food system, we need 20% of people to plant a garden and raise a couple of laying hens. It would do more than you could imagine and it’s fun!

Q: Do you supplement pasture feed with corn or soy? – Nicole R.

A: We do supplement our chickens’ pasture plucking and bug eating with organic, non-GMO corn, but never soy. Soy in the United States is more genetically modified than any other crop and can cause big problems when digested by humans. The corn in our supplemental feed makes up a small percentage of our chickens’ diet, otherwise consisting of bugs, grass, organic alfalfa, wheat, limestone, diatomaceous earth, grit, and other natural ingredients that chickens feed on in the wild.

Q: I love Primal Pastures’ dedication to properly raised animals. I have a question about your term beyond organic. In what ways does your farm produce beyond organic animals and how is this better than organic? – Melissa L.

A: The problem with the term “organic” is that it’s just a check in the box. Companies have to meet very minimal standards in order to be certified. A chicken given organic feed can be certified organic and still live de-beaked in a 12”x12” cage with 3 others for its entire life. That is totally missing the point if you ask me! We believe in raising animals in their natural environments with plenty of time and space to roam… where each animal can express their unique characteristics (the chickenness of the chicken, the pigness of the pig, the sheepness of the sheep, etc.). We strive to create a natural habitat for these animals over getting a government sign off.

Q: How large would you like to grow your farm and when will you know you’ve reached the ideal size? I.e. will we see you in Whole Foods? – Madeline H.

A: First and foremost, we all want our family to have a good lifestyle and our family is priority. We don’t want to get so big to the point where we aren’t having fun, but not too small to where it’s not putting food on the table for us. We like selling directly to the consumer but also want to have a major food impact. It’s a balancing act and I wish I had the perfect answer, but we’re taking things day by day for now! Certainly not as big as Nutpods will be someday :)

Q: Now that you won a couple of contests, what are you gonna do with all those Benjamin’s? – Philicia P.

A: We’re super excited and honored to have just won an Agricultural Innovation Prize with University of Wisconsin-Madison through a new company called Pasturebird LLC. This new venture provides a large scale solution to factory farming that puts birds out on grass where they belong. The funds will go towards patenting the idea, prototyping it, and implementing it on a small scale at our farm. The plan is to scale it up after that (which will require a larger investment).


General Farming Questions

Q: What is your favorite and least favorite chore to do on the farm?
Also, is there one animal (that you don’t already have) in which you are hoping to one day raise on the farm? – Emily P.

A: My favorite chore is rotating the animals to a new patch of grass every day. I can literally feel their excitement to have fresh food to grub on – it’s like a big salad bar for them. My least favorite is processing chickens. I’m grateful that we’re able to do it and we’re passionate about doing it as humanely as possible, but it’s a lot of work…and it’s a really long day. I want to add lots of other animals – cattle, pigs and ducks to name a few. The one I’m MOST excited about is probably dairy cows. They are such amazing animals.

Q: How long will it take in your opinion for our country to change how we grow our food and more farmers step up to real farming? And do you even want that? How do we help keep the good guys like you all growing and all the while supplying to our demands …is this a question? Haha. Thanks. – Jenna P.

A: In my opinion, it could take as little as a year for our county’s food system to really change but that would take support on three levels: farmers, consumers, and government.

Farmers: We’re still experiencing a mass exodus of young talent out of agriculture. And when you look at conventional systems, it’s easy to see why. Who would want to work 70 hours making $25k a year working a factory farm? We need to see more examples of financially successful ecological farmers who can motivate more young people to start farms. Right now it’s a poor man’s sport.

Consumers: The trend of consumers demanding higher quality food is amazing, but it needs to be 1,000 times greater than what it is now. In So-Cal, we’re blessed with a lot of educated and informed folks but the demand needs to sweep across the country. People need to understand what good quality really is instead of falling into the traps of meaningless labels like cage free, free range, etc.

Government: It’s going to be difficult for our country to see large gains without the support of public policy. Right now, it’s heavily in support of the pharmaceutical industry and large scale CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) farms. These policies drive up prices and make it artificially cheaper to buy poor quality food.

If these three things could change overnight, there will be widespread food healing for our country within a year. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by things out of our control, but each of us needs to focus on our own choices and what we can do to help.

Q: What are some things you wish you had known when you guys were first starting? What are some good “ducks” to get in a row so to speak? – Adam P.

A: It would have been great if we had known how to farm. There are too many things to even list that we didn’t know before getting into this. It would have been really good for one of us to do a week-long internship with Mark Shepherd, Joel Salatin, Alan Savory, Greg Judy, one of our heroes. That definitely would have catapulted us faster, but we also wanted to make our own mistakes – so we just jumped right into it. We would have rather gotten the ball rolling and messed up than bury ourselves in books and never actually do anything. As long as your mistakes don’t include compromised integrity, don’t ever mess that up.

Q: With the prevalence of GMO-infused food these days, how are you able to ensure there is none up-chain from y’all? – Donna C.

A:We do our best to perform due diligence with our whole supply chain. We have visited the farms where we get most of our products from. The feed supplier that we use for the chicken feed has multiple certifications, not just the National Organic. They are National Organic Program certified, Oregon Tilth certified, and OMRI listed.

Q: Do y’all farm by the intensive grazing method? Using electric fencing Joel Salatin style? I’m curious about worming methods as well. They say if you aren’t rotational/intensive grazing, you have to worm your animals. – Annemarie S.

A: Yes – we practice Joel Salatin’s style of rotational grazing. Some of our biggest influences are him, Allan Savory, Greg Judy, and Mark Shepard. If animals are being rotated, worming isn’t really an issue. We’ve never had to de-worm anything.

Q: How often do you move your sheep? Are you using flexible paddocks or static? Which abattoir do you use? – wandercampasino

A: We move the sheep based on the amount of pasture and stocking density available, but they never stay in the same place for more than 2-3 days. We use Electro Netting for the sheep.

There are a variety of USDA and state inspected abattoirs around So-Cal that we use. Feel free to shoot me an email at Paul@primalpastures.com if you want a full list of our slaughter houses. I’d be happy to provide it, but it’s a lot of information.

Q: You all completed a fairly large kickstarter project to move into the beef industry: where are your pastures in So-Cal? Nuevo? Temecula? How are the dress out weights coming and how did infrastructure roll out go? – wandercampasino

A: Kickstarter was awesome. We’re still looking for a great piece of land to call home. Dress out weights always depend on time of year and are unique to the animal but we’re very happy with them at this point in time. As far as infrastructure, we really don’t have a lot of permanent equipment but I’m happy to answer a more specific follow up question in the comment section below.

Q: Are you offering free choice minerals to your ruminants? Are you using a specific breed of cattle? I heard BarZona may be a good choice for the climate. – wandercampasino

A: We’re interested in free choice minerals but haven’t put them into use yet. We watched Greg Judy’s talk on them and it’s definitely something we’d like to explore in the future. I’m very familiar with the BarZona breed. Right now we’re using Black Angus but BarZona is an excellent hot weather beef meat.

Q: Have you noticed a significant change in feed/time needed after switching from Cornish Crosses? – newvintageembroidery

A: Yes – it’s 2-4 weeks longer on average. But the Heritage birds peck and scratch a lot more so you end up using less supplemental feed. They take longer but it ends up balancing out. The Heritage birds also act a lot more like chickens and taste better.

Q: Is starting a farm more expensive than one realizes? – Laura H.

A: Starting a conventional factory farm is far more expensive than anyone could imagine. You’re looking at close to 1 million dollars just to get a couple of poultry houses set up. Starting a farm the way we did is really cheap and scalable in comparison. Primal Pastures cost less than a combined $5,000 between family members to start!

Q: Seems a bit too normal, but asking anyway: For you, what’s the best/worst part of farming? – Scott H.

A: I love being outside, doing something I’m passionate about, being around family all the time and being around awesome customers. The downsides are the massive time commitment, the huge learning curve, and all of the ups and downs.


Thanks so much for reading and for all of your questions! Have anything else you’re dying to ask Farmer Paul? Leave any additional questions in the comment section below!