Our chickens arrive at the Ranch within 24 hours of hatching. Chicks are hand raised by our family from the time they arrive until the time that they are processed. Our chickens are handled daily and treated more like pets than simply a source of income. Our chicks are fed non-medicated feed and are not exposed to any chemicals or hormones. The chicks are provided extra calcium by providing ground up organic egg shells from our own laying hens. Extra protein is provided as a treat in the form of organic worms that we farm here on the ranch. Our chickens are processed under Federal “Exempt P.L.90-492”. This means that our chickens, unlike some other farms, are processed here on the ranch by our family. This means that our chickens do not endure feed withdrawal or a long and stressful transport to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. Our chickens experience virtually no stress prior to processing because they are at home with handlers that have known them their entire lives. Transport and use of commercial slaughterhouses can result in higher stress levels which transfer into the meat.
Weeks and Nicol (2000) reported that: (a) The manner in which birds are raised alters their subsequent fear and stress reactions, and better enables them to cope with the stressors they will subsequently face during catching, transportation and preslaughter handling; however, neither environmental enrichment nor prior experience of gentle handling can ameliorate the shock and the sometimes extreme stressors that are encountered during commercial-type handling and transportation. (b) Transportation is an extremely stressful process for commercial poultry; birds experience new stimuli—motion, vibration and impacts (daylight, noise, overcrowding, temperature extremes)—of greater intensity and more varied than they have previously encountered. There are economic and welfare benefits for minimizing these stressors. (c) The potentially adverse consequences of transportation include physical, physiological and behavioral changes; among those are death, thermal stress, trauma, fatigue, hunger and thirst, physiology indicative of stress plus fear and aversion. (d) About 0.3% of birds die between farm and factory and there are reports of 24% of laying hens acquiring broken bones when they are removed from their cages. (e) There are estimates that one in four broilers processed in the USA have bruising of the legs, breast or wings sustained during catching and transport. (University), University), University), & Don Lay, 2004)
For the consumers, this means that our meat is nutritious and contains the least amount of stress related hormones possible. This results in the better tasting, tenderer meat for our consumers. According to Food Safety Magazine:
“Pale, soft and exudative (PSE) pork or poultry is one of the most common results of animal stress and occurs just prior to harvest. When an animal experiences anxiety or agitation, muscles become tense; muscle glycogen is utilized, resulting in the formation of lactic acid in the meat. Because the animal is harvested before the lactic acid can be eliminated, a rapid drop in muscle pH occurs post-mortem (<5.5). The meat loses water-holding capacity; the muscle bundles have an open texture and reflect light, creating meat that appears pale and watery. There is a greater drip loss associated with PSE meat, which can also provide moisture for microbial growth, and thus PSE meat can have a reduced shelf life. As well, when the meat is cooked and consumed, this “drip loss” can cause a dryer, tougher product.” (Erika L. Voogd, 2009)
Erika L. Voogd, M. ( 2009, February/March). Does Animal Welfare Affect Food Safety? Retrieved May 3, 2016, from FoodSafetyMagazine.com: http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2009/does-animal-welfare-affect-food-safety/
University), G. C., University), T. G., University), T. H., & Don Lay, J. (.-U. (2004, December). www.grandin.com. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from http://www.grandin.com/behaviour/effect.of.transport.html
I am a wife, mother, registered nurse and owner/operator of R and J Ranch. I am committed to living a sustainable lifestyle and ensuring the best nutrition for my family.