This week I finally got to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a while: buy some pastured chickens straight from the farmer. I’d scoured the internet, and finally found Twenty Four Rivers Farm. They had their first chicken sale of the season this thursday, and I made sure to sign myself up! I wasn’t going to miss it.
I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect as I pulled into the driveway, and was in fact a bit nervous at the last minute. I’d just committed to buying 5 whole chickens from someone I’d never met, and had never seen their operation before. It may have been best for me to do a tour first, but with my busy schedule and the distance to the farm, it wasn’t exactly an easy errand. What if the place was dirty and the chickens looked unhealthy?
My fears were quickly put to rest as I got out of the car. The operation runs right next to the family home, and was kept immaculately clean. There wasn’t any foul odor whatsoever, the air was fresh. I could see the pots steaming in the processing center from where the chickens had been defeathered in the boiling water. There was a separate area for processing the chickens and for refrigerating and storing the chickens and eggs. And the animals themselves? They all looked perfectly healthy to me. There was a fenced in section for the roosters, a coop for the layers, and a Joel Salatin style rotational grazing pen for the meat birds. There wasn’t any fighting or pecking at each other, at least not that I could see. Birds who are cramped and unhealthy will peck at each other in order to eliminate the sick and create more room for the rest of the birds. None of this was going on, even though all the birds still had their beaks. (Did you know CAFO chickens have their beaks clipped so that they can’t peck at each other in their cramped quarters?)
I stood in line behind a family waiting for their birds, enjoying the fresh air and watching the whole operation. When it was my turn, Carrie was all ready with her chalkboard on the wall that kept track of who ordered what. She was definitely organized! I got my five birds plus a couple dozen eggs, and she made sure to let me know when their next sale was.
As I walked away, I felt completely at ease about the whole operation. It was clean, the birds were healthy, and the couple seemed like two honest people trying to produce the best food they could for themselves and others. It was obvious they took pride in their work, and with three kids running around, they certainly had motivation to make everything as healthy and clean as possible.
I will definitely be revisiting Twenty Four Rivers in the coming months to keep myself supplied with chickens and eggs. Now I’m off to go process those birds into all their usable parts and make some bone broth. If you’re used to buying chicken already cut up, you might be interested to see how easy it is to break down a chicken and what you can do with all the parts. Stay tuned for an upcoming post!