Why is Pasture Raised Turkey More Expensive?

October 05, 2018

 

You may like the idea of buying local and having a pasture raised bird for your Thanksgiving but then you see the price tag and are immediately taken back. Let me show you some of the TRUE costs of farming. 

Last year the price of conventionally grown turkey peaked at $1.40/lb. For a 20 pound bird you can expect to pay around $28. Why then are pasture raised birds so much more expensive at $5 to even $7 per pound? That puts the average price for ONE bird at $100, minimum. Some people will stop right there and not pass go. But I’m going to tell you why it’s worth every penny and why there’s a big difference in cost.

 

Labor & Land

Turkeys take somewhere around 18 weeks to grow out. On a small pasture based farm like ours the chicks will be inside for the first 3-4 weeks or until the weather is nice and they have most of their feathers in. They are then moved to pasture where they can roam in quarter to half acre pastures that are moved according to the rate they consume the pasture.

This method takes up a considerable amount of time and land resources.

In the conventional method of raising turkeys in a house, they will live their entire life inside. The turkeys will most likely never see a cricket or blade of grass. They can raise thousands of birds per house with very little labor expense because everything is automated: water, feed, and climate. Because of the large amount of birds combined with the decreased need labor the cost per hour per bird is spread out much further. But these houses are still very expensive. The last number I heard was $1 million per house! 

  

Chicks

The cost of chicks for small farmer is 10x higher. When a farmer places an order for chicks the price per chick goes down with the number of chicks ordered. If a small scale farmer orders chicks it could be as much as $6 per turkey poult. 

The large scale farmer most likely has an arrangement with a bigger company who sends the chicks and inevitably owns the chicks.

 

Better for the Environment

Because we are getting back to our roots and bringing the birds to the feast not the feast to the birds, we are actually HELPING the environment. There is no mass amount of poultry litter to be disposed of at the end. Instead they have done the fertilization for us. They have gracefully painted the pastures green and invigorated them with more nutrients.

In a confinement system, the farmer must mechanically clean out the poultry litter after every batch using up fuel. Then, the little is driven to another farm to be distributed there (more fuel). Finally, it is loaded into a manure spreader and distributed all over crop land for us all to enjoy. (even more fuel)

  

Better for Your Health

Pasture raised poultry have been studied to have fat that will provide fat-soluble vitamins in abundance. Your body can more readily absorb these nutrients. Poultry raised on pasture will have more omega-3 fatty acids in their skin than poultry fed exclusively grain. EXTRA BONUS: bone broth!

In a conventional system, antibiotics and other drugs are fed to keep them alive until the moment of slaughter and steroids are used to get them to that point as soon as possible. (Athletes consuming meat from hormone treated chickens have actually failed their urine tests for drugs!) 

 

Better for the Bird

It’s not surprising that when you put animals of any kind indoors in very tight spaces in high numbers, the areas that these animals live in becoming very unhealthy very fast. For conventionally raised birds, living conditions are known for being nothing short of gross and highly disturbing.

Our birds are able to spread out and stretch their wings. Because they are exposed to the outdoors and the diverse immunologic challenges it presents early on, they are able to fight off most pathogens with ease. 

CREDIT AMY MAYER / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

CREDIT AMY MAYER / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Better for the Farmer

We feel that paying ourselves and our employee a fair living wage is the bare minimum we can do. We feel that it’s a big part of what keeps us here serving you! (And we are so grateful to have the honor of serving you)

The working conditions are A LOT better too! Yes there are days when the physical labor is probably more than a worker in a confinement scenario, BUT we get to be outside breathing clean air that isn’t full of ammonia.

More and more traditional farms are moving into a debt-to-asset ratio exceeding 80%, says Tina Barrett, executive director of Nebraska Farm Business. In 2017 the average debt rose 10% to $1.3 million!

1.3 MILLION!

No wonder there are dairy farmers out there thinking that the best option they have to help their families is to cash in their life insurance!

 

Photo Credit: Tina Craig

Better Taste

Contrary to popular belief our pasture raised turkeys are not game-y at all, and not pumped with watery-salt solutions like grocery store birds are. This allow you to truly taste turkey and not filler.

Did you know that the poultry industry actually accounts for and expects a weight gain in their meat after chilling down in a chlorine bath or being injected with a salt brine?

It’s important to keep our eyes on the larger context of the world we live in, not just simply short term decisions based on financial gain. I want to pass on an environment to our next generation that they don’t have to worry about being able to support them. 

Check out Cottonwood Farm's turkey page to learn how you can get your hands on these delicious & healthy birds this Thanksgiving





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