As K and I go along in our “trying to stay close to basics” kind of lives, we’ve taken some things for granted. One, that people we interact with in this new-found community we’ve become a part of have motives as pure as ours. Two, that the farmers, who are charging a premium for their “crop” (whether it’s produce or meat), are fully upfront with their wares – that they don’t use genetically modified feed, and that while they may not be certified organic, they make their best efforts to practice as such as much as possible. Three, that those farmers are fully informed regarding what they are selling, and able to answer any and all questions regarding such.
As such, imagine our surprise, and outright dismay, upon receiving this email from our egg and chicken farmer.
From: “Phil Metzger”
Date: May 1, 2010 11:19:40 EDT
Subject: [Coopers Ark Fans] Cooper’s Ark Farm
If you have the time, please read.
Last year, you might remember a rabid skunk getting into the processing plant and “possibly” contaminating a chicken. We had to destroy 100 birds rather than take the chance of a problem. The fact that we carry over $3 million dollars in insurance never entered the picture.
On Thursday, April 28th, I brought our first 60+ birds for processing. Approximately 40 birds were to stay whole, while the rest were parted out. When I picked them up Thursday evening, I was informed of a greenish color in a piece of meat, as well as one bad bird. He showed me the bad bird, and told me he removed the tinted meat from another. Neither Jim Eklund (processor) or myself have ever seen this before. I did not sleep very well Thursday night worrying about the “what if’s”. On Friday morning I called Leon Moyer from Moyer’s Chicks – most of our broiler chicks and all of our pullets come from
Moyer’s. (www.moyerschicks.com) He returned my call later and confirmed “Green Muscle Disease”. One of the causes is from a bird flying. Please don’t laugh.
Today’s broilers are bred for faster growth and larger breasts. They need a quiet, not too well lit, little space environment. Raising them outdoors presents a different set of growing practices/problems.
Today at noon, I’ll be bringing the whole birds back to Stanford to have them parted out. Whether there is or isn’t any other traces of Green Muscle Disease, both Jim and I feel it is in the best interest of
everyone concerned to proceed in this manner.
I’ll be available at the market Sunday if there are any questions.
I’ll be having chicken tonight.
Coopers Ark Farm
I am very sorry if this presents an inconvenience to anyone.
Yea, we had questions. The first being, once I looked at the website listed above, I felt a little disgusted. This huge …factory (there’s no other word for it) puts out genetically modified breeds, not much better than a factory farm. While our chicken and eggs are definitely raised free-range, their source is not something we want to support.
Second, it appears that only hybrid birds get this disease, not heirloom or what they call heritage breed birds. We never asked what kind of birds we’ve been getting. Totally our fault, but I wish that was something Coopers Ark had shared with us previously. Their pictures and such (we haven’t been to the farm yet, due to my medical issues last year, but were planning on it this year) quite clearly demonstrated the conditions they’re kept in (wonderful, ample space to move around – definitely free range) and we just automatically assumed the bird breeds themselves were equally as good. Well, you know about that assuming thing.
Phil seemed sober at the market today, no doubt from all the questions he was probably fielding. K was rather hard on him, I thought. For one thing, he had been completely open about the whole situation. He didn’t have to say a word. He could have said there was a problem at the processor and they didn’t get any chicken or something.
Second of all, Phil made a really great point to K’s questioning. Organic feed costs $750/ton (he pays $250 a ton for whatever he gets). That organic feed at $750/ton STILL includes GMO corn. What the heck? You just can’t win. AND, the amount of money he would have to charge to use that feed (plus heritage breeds) would certainly be beyond anything we would pay. We’re into this lifestyle, but we’re still reasonable people.
So really, what is he to do? He buys the chickens from this place, he raises them well, (he once again told us to come out to the farm) and this is what happens. I think there is something wrong with his business model, but I’m not sure how I would fix it.
And in the meantime, we feel like we’ve lost a bit of my innocence regarding all of this, as well as a bit of our naivete. No longer can we hide our heads in the sand; we really need to be proactive with our questions, with our farm field trips (THIS SUMMER), and with our dollars. That’s the whole point of why we do what we do. No one’s perfect, but we can strive to be better.
Still don’t know if we’ll buy chicken from him next week though. But if not, what would be any better? Do we really think organic chicken sold in the store isn’t from hybrid birds? Pfft. At least with him we know how they were treated. Sigh…it’s really sad in a way. Progress isn’t always progress.