The Benefits of Pasture Raised Chicken
We are going to dive into some of the many reasons why you and your family should be eating pasture raised chicken! I will answer some questions you might have about pasture raised chicken and discuss the many benefits pasture raised poultry has to offer.
What is pasture raised chicken?
Pasture raised chicken is one that has been allowed to roam free in pasture. This allows the chicken to forage on grass, seeds, insects, plants and earthworms. This also allows for direct sunlight and fresh air.
How is pasture raised chicken different from other chicken?
Pasture raised chicken is different than conventionally raised chicken in many ways:
- The chicken is allowed to be a chicken, frolicking and scratching on grass eating insects, seeds and earthworms. Those that are raised in confinement housing do not have this luxury and are often debeaked and sitting in their own feces.
- Chickens raised on pasture meet around 7% of their protein needs from foraging (2) meaning they do not have to consume as much grain. While chickens are not herbivores, they still require a feed ration to meet their nutritional requirements. However, when chickens are rotated on pasture, they require less which means less feed costs.
- The nutritional benefits from consuming pasture raised chicken versus conventionally raised chicken are very different. Studies show that the nutritional value of meat from pasture raised poultry that consume grass and forage is higher than the latter (4). For instance, pasture raised chicken have better fat quality (4). This means less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fats (4). They also show a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (4). These birds also show higher levels of protein, collagen and vitamin E (4). UM, YES PLEASE.
- Not to mention, the chickens that are raised on pasture show more chicken behaviors which indicate that they are much happier and healthier than being raised in confinement housing in their own manure (hint: that’s what you are supporting when you buy from big box stores).
What are the benefits of eating pasture raised chicken?
As mentioned previously, the nutritional benefits from consuming pasture raised chicken show as the superior option to their component. Compared to the numbers to conventionally raised poultry meat, pasture raised has up to (4):
-2.3 times more omega-3 fats
-3 times more long-chain omega-3s
-90% lower omega-6 : omega-3 ratio
-1.9 times high polyunsaturated : saturated fats
-6% higher protein
-15% more collagen
-1.3 times more vitamin E
Is pasture raised chicken organic?
The simple answer is no. The complex answer is that pasture raised chicken can be certified organic if the certification is valid. You can find out more about the organic certification here. It is worth mentioning that the two labels are not interchangeable and mean two different things. Just because chicken has an organic label, does not mean they are free ranging on pasture. This is why we preach to know your farmer and know exactly where your food comes from.
Pasture raised chicken on our farm
On our farm, we have adopted to Joel Salatin style of raising pastured poultry. Our meat chickens are moved to a new piece of forage every single day. Sometimes they are moved twice a day depending on the richness and quality of the grass that are on that day. By rotating these birds every day, they get access to all the benefits that the grass and soil have to offer. Not to mention, the chickens give back to the grass and soil by dropping their “gold” as they move This fertilizes the soil making it more palatable for themselves and for the other animals we rotate. If that is not cool, nothing is!
Where can you find pasture raised chicken?
If you are local, we have pasture raised chicken available. Check it out here! At this time, we do not ship any of our meat.
If you are not local, you can find a farm local to your area here.
1 Introduction to Pasture-Raised Poultry: Maximizing Foraging Behavior by University of Florida - IFAS Extension
2 Pastured Poultry Nutrition and Forages by SARE
3 The Nutrition of Pasture Raised Chicken and Meats by American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA)
4 The Nutritional Benefits of Pasture-Raised Meat Birds by Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)
Originally posted: 2/2022
Last edit: 2/2022