Tag Archives: pastured poultry

The Perennial Plate: Episode 82

Warning: This video is graphic. It’s about a halal slaughterhouse in Queens, New York, that sources many of its chickens from small farms and is run by a guy who believes in the humane treatment of the animals he buys for food. And many people in the neighborhood prefer to come here and pay a premium for natural, free-range, organic, or pastured chickens rather than paying cheap prices at the grocery store down the street because of the way the chickens are slaughtered and processed.

Real Food Farm: Where the Chickens Are Happy

Ben Bylsma listens for sounds of distress among his chickens while we stand a distance from the shelter they live in. That’s the kind of farmer I want raising the chickens I’ll soon roast in my oven this fall.

For me, it’s all about animals living in a stress-free environment, which is a far cry from the factory farm meat you find in a grocery store. It’s not just because I’m an animal lover (which seems hypocritical, I know, since I’m happy to roast the chickens I visited); it’s also important to me to consume meat from animals that have lived a happy life. It’s simply healthier.

Last week I took a ride out to Bylsma’s place, Real Food Farm, to see how he raises his chickens. I first heard from him when he contacted me as a member on an email distribution list from Tom Carey, the chicken farmer that Bill and I used to get chickens from at Lubbers Farm.

I like what I heard from Ben. A college grad with a major in International Development, he has spent time in third world countries (Tanzania and Guatemala), including a stint in the Peace Corps with his wife.

Ben believes that the major road blocks in the development of countries always seem to be about food–how to find the most nutritious calories to sustain a population.

And it’s not like raising food is new to Ben. As early as fifth grade he had a garden. As an AmeriCorps volunteer he moved into large-scale gardening with multiple bed and sites through his work at the Blanford Nature Center. Then he got hooked up with Trillium Haven Farm while awaiting his assignment for the Peace Corps. Finally, it was on to Guatemala where he and his wife kept their own animals: a pig, turkeys, and chickens. And he spent a lot of time reading about permaculture, composting, and the nature of chickens.

A chicken farmer who has actually read about the nature of chickens!

Since March of 2011 he’s been raising pastured chickens for meat the way Joel Salatin does: by moving them through a pasture every day.

You can see where the grass has been matted down from moving the chicken house.

In addition to the bugs and grubs in grass, the chickens are fed organic grain with a mix of minerals and fish meal.

Because organic feed isn’t cheap, the cost per pound to the consumer has to be higher. But, honestly, as Michael Pollan says, wouldn’t you rather pay the grocer (or, in this case, the farmer) than the doctor? I am happy to spend more on pastured chickens fed organic food in a green pasture than to buy the stressed-out meat from factory farmed poultry you see in the grocery store. Oh, and don’t forget the chlorine bath those chickens get before they’re packaged up in styrofoam and shrink-wrap just to sit there waiting for you to purchase.

In addition to broilers (for food), there are egg layers on the way.

And baby broilers!

For my friends in West Michigan, I wanted you to know that I’ve done the work of paying Ben a visit, checking out his farm and reporting on it. Why not sign up for chickens this fall? For the rest of my readers, I hope you’re able to find a farmer like Ben where you live. If not, try searching on EatWild.com or AnimalWelfareApproved.org to find an ethical, humane farmer in your area.

Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies

There’s a little project I’ve been working on during the past six months with a few good and talented friends. And because many of my blog readers suffer from food allergies–or live with people who suffer from them–I thought I’d share the fruits of our labor: I just published my first cookbook and it’s called Nothing to Sneeze At: Main Dishes for People with Allergies.

In the last several years that I’ve lived with Bill, who is allergic to wheat, cow dairy, and corn, I learned how many unnecessary ingredients are in processed food. I also learned how to make substitutions for the foods he can’t eat: bread, milk, butter, tortillas, most cereals, waffles, cookies, crackers, yoghurt, ice cream, cheeses from cows, breadcrumbs, semolina pasta–and even regular ketchup–just to name a few.

Adapting and creating recipes–many of which are posted on this blog–simply became a fun challenge as I cooked in the kitchen. So I thought: Why not share the recipes with people who suffer from food allergies? Then others can see how easy it is to make delicious meals without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.

If you’re interesting in buying your own copy of Nothing to Sneeze At, please visit Lulu.com. I hope it offers hope and inspiration for those who suffer from allergies at the table!

Giving Thanks Locally: A Tribute to West Michigan Farmers

I didn’t go nuts searching for new recipes to prepare for Thanksgiving yesterday. Instead, I focused on seasonal recipes I enjoy but don’t often make because of time constraints. Because it was a holiday, I indulged in more time to be creative by cooking a range of dishes. And the goal at our house isn’t to eat until you’re stuffed: It’s to enjoy a sampling of many ingredients that were grown or raised locally and with passion by people we know.

This year on Thanksgiving I’d like to recognize all the farmers who contributed to the meal that Bill, our friend Sue, and I enjoyed. Many are regular vendors at the Holland Farmers Market. Thank you, farmers, for braving the cold temperatures at the market this time of year so we can conveniently purchase local produce!

Here’s what our Thanksgiving menu looked like:


Celery Root Bisque – made with celery root, shallots, and celery from Visser Farms

Roasted Onion and Carrot Soup – made with onions, carrots, and garlic from Visser Farms

Mixed Greens Salad with Pear, Pomegranate, and Warm Goat Cheese Croutons – made with fresh greens from my CSAMud Lake Farm

A Real Simple Roast Chicken – made with a happy, four-pound pastured chicken from Grassfields

Roasted Root Vegetables – with turnips, rutabagas, carrots and parsnips from Visser Farms

Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions – with sweet potatoes and red onions from Visser Farms

Leek and Potato Casserole – with leeks from Boeve Farm and potatoes from Visser Farms

Cabernet Cranberries – with fresh, local cranberries from The Berry Bunch

Cinnamon-Spiced Applesauce – with Empire apples from Skinner Homestead Acres.

Pear Crumble – with Anjou pears from Cosgrove Orchards

And thanks to Sue for bringing Creamed Onions, Mincemeat Pie from Crane’s Pie Pantry, and wine!

The Thanksgiving Turkey Dilemma: Watery, Chemical-Laden Grocery Store Bird, or Happy Heritage Breed?

Photo by Matt Billings via Wikipedia

Earlier this month, I was reading a health magazine that comes in our local paper, the Grand Rapids Press, and saw an article on heritage turkeys. Since the 1960’s grocery stores have been selling broad-breasted turkeys, which is apparently what poultry processors wanted to develop back then, putting the heritage turkey (such as the Bourbon Red turkey, shown above) out of demand. Once considered “old-fashioned,” heritage breeds are making a comeback.

Heritage turkey breeder Mari Krebs of Steinbacher Poultry Farm in St. Joseph, Michigan, along with her family, is bringing back the savory flavor of old-fashioned birds with Bourbon Reds.

Photo via MLive.com

And they’re doing it the right way: At Steinbacher Poultry Farm, all of their birds are bred naturally, pastured, and fed non-GMO feed without antibiotics.

Why would you want one of those water-injected, factory farm birds from the local grocery store?

You can order your turkey in advance from the farm at $5.50 per pound, according to the article. And, you can even raise your own by purchasing eggs or poults.

Crane Dance Farm’s Mobile Meat Market

Yesterday, when I was at the Holland Farmers Market stocking up on produce for the winter, I stopped by the Crane Dance Farm booth to pick up some stew meat for Beef Bourguignon. Owned by Jill Johnson and Mary Wills and located in Middleville, Michigan, Crane Dance Farm is one of Bill’s and my favorite choices for meat when we need to supplement our stash from Lubbers Farm.

Mary and Jill from Crane Dance Farms

In the winter, we usually buy meat from Crane Dance Farm at the West Michigan Co-op, but yesterday Tim and Stephanie Pierce, two of the farm’s apprentices, gave me a flyer advertising their winter schedule. I was thrilled to learn they will be setting up their Mobile Meat Market at the Holland Civic Center one Thursday afternoon a month from December through April! (Check out their Winter Delivery Schedule on the farm’s website.)

So if you’re looking for a healthy, happy source of meat–from grassfed beef and lamb to pastured pork, poultry, and eggs–visit the Crane Dance Farm Mobile Meat Market in Holland. The bonus? They’re Animal Welfare Approved.