Pastured Poultry News

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  • Wed, September 01, 2021 11:12 AM | Anonymous

    American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) respectfully submits these comments regarding the opportunity to invest in poultry processing infrastructure. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed critical capacity and logistical failures in our country’s processing infrastructure that has resulted from industry consolidation. APPPA’s comments will focus exclusively on poultry.

    Inspected processors who are members of APPPA have expressed a concern about the long-term feasibility of very small plants. They cite inflationary pressure on labor, utilities, and supplies, in addition to regulatory pressure. Labor shortages represent the primary concern among very small plant operators. These concerns will still be present after USDA awards these funds. We ask that these funds simultaneously help very small plants, like those represented by APPPA, while making generational impacts by adding processing capacity in every state in the union.

    What seasonal throughput issues (e.g., under- and over-utilization during parts of the year) or regional challenges need to be considered for plant expansion or development?

    All 50 states and U.S. territories have unmet demand for poultry processing for independent farmers. In much of the country, local poultry processing demand tends to be seasonal and distributed across rural areas. Retaining labor is a primary challenge for seasonal plants.

    Employee turnover increases training costs and decreases efficiency. The people who want to work tend to want to work every day and year-round. APPPA members who operate inspected processing facilities say that investments in automation and other infrastructure are required to help offset the labor shortages that have affected them year-after-year.

    Working with plants to develop 12-month solutions for their seasonal plants should be a priority for USDA.

    What constitutes sufficient actual demand for small and very small processing facilities to keep a business operational with appropriate cash flow?

    We believe that on-farm poultry processing can cash flow with less than 20,000 birds per year when that processing is done on farm under a PL 90-492 exemption. Based on processor feedback, a cooperative poultry processing facility would likely need to process greater than 100,000 birds per year.

    Consider a small plant operator, and member of APPPA, who defines the gap between 20,000 birds processed under exemption and the level required to make a USDA inspected plant viable as “no man’s land.” At 20,000 birds, the on-farm processing added value to the farm and represented a volume that could be direct marketed by the farm.

    The plant ultimately scaled up to 120,000 birds through an inspected plant, which changed the business model to focus on wholesale business. However, 120,000 birds in a wholesale market are not a competitive volume. To get the wholesale price down to a competitive number, the plant would need to operate five days a week, eight hours a day. The volume increase would need to coincide with an investment to further automate the plant to reduce labor shortage concerns.

    This underscores an important consideration in terms of the very small plants operated by APPPA members. These processing plants are owned by farmers who need the processing to get the value out of the poultry they raise. They need processing solutions that fit into their business model and the regional food models they serve.

    At any given time, approximately ten very small poultry processing plants are members of APPPA. USDA could grant each of these plants up to $1,000,000 to help upgrade their plants to deal with automation, cold storage, and other upgrades and have an immediate impact on their competitiveness. These inspected processors are often hubs for other members of the pastured poultry community. When they go out of business, their processing customers (i.e., independent family farmers) go with them; most often, there are no other processing options available to cover the loss in capacity.

    How can USDA support access to processing services for smaller-scale producers? Are there opportunities for producers to engage in cooperative or collaborative arrangements with each other or other facilities to both ensure access and provide a sufficient supply for a plant to operate?

    The answer to food security and competitive agricultural markets is more processing options. We understand that not all safe and legal processing needs to occur under USDA inspection. Not all markets require a USDA small or very small plant to meet regional marketing demands. We have two ideas that could increase processing capacity and ease cash flow challenges that commonly face very small plants.

    In our first consideration, we ask USDA to consider that they’ve had part of their answer codified in the Poultry Processing Inspection Act since August 17, 1968. In our second consideration, we outline an idea using regional inspected plants with distributed Retail exempt facilities.

    PL 90-492 Creates Competitive Processing Capacity

    9 CFR 381.10 defines multiple exemptions from inspection in the Poultry Processing Inspection Act. There are three underutilized exemptions that should be part of this conversation on restoring competition through processing capacity.

    The Producer Grower exemptions, of which there are two, allow farmers to raise and grow up to 1,000 or up to 20,000 birds and process them on farm.

    The Custom exemption allows a processor to process an unlimited number of birds for an unlimited number of individuals; however, those processed birds are for personal consumption purposes only.

    The Small Enterprise exemption makes provisions for a processor to buy up to 20,000 birds from multiple farmers, process those birds, and then sell them back to the farmers for distribution.

    The problem with these exemptions is that individual states can determine whether they will accept the exemptions and ultimately determine what compliance looks like. State regulatory personnel often lack the training and the knowledge required to make these exemptions an effective solution for farmers across the country. The result is unequal access and ambiguity that inhibits farmers from accessing one of the easiest ways to increase competitive access to processing.

    In some states, such as Indiana, efforts to clarify PL 90-492 exempt processing regulations were successful; in other states, such as California, those efforts are met with resistance by a commercial poultry lobby. Lobbyists often argue their case under the guise of food safety, but food safety fears have not been realized with exempt processed poultry. Opposing exempt processing by the commercial poultry lobby does prevent competitive market access by smaller scale producers.

    USDA should use this opportunity and some of these funds to make the PL 90-492 exemptions a viable processing path for everyone. Remove the ambiguity that occurs at the state level and enable producers access to these federally approved processing options.

    Alternatively, USDA could develop a new plant definition that is scale appropriate for areas of the country that have difficulty in staffing a profitable USDA plant. These micro plants could be limited in annual processing volume (e.g., 40,000 birds per year) to offset the regulatory burdens commonly placed on very small plants.

    Both approaches (exempt and micro plants) would open the opportunities for entrepreneurial farms to add processing value without funding from USDA and have an immediate increase in processing capacity. The longer-term benefit is that as markets for locally produced poultry increases and regions experience stable processing options, some of those plants will organically grow into very small USDA plants, thereby increasing capacity. In this way, the market dictates whether a very small plant is feasible instead of the industry trying to force a common approach across all processing scales.

    Retail Exempt Facilities

    Considering the seasonality limitations, volume requirements, and cash flow challenges of operating a small or very small plant, several APPPA members suggest a model that creates regional processing capacity with smaller satellite Retail exempt facilities that would further process the poultry prior to sale.

    The regional plants could be operated as either non-profit processors or as dedicated for-hire facilities, assuming seasonal demand makes it possible. USDA could provide funds to help these plants upgrade existing facilities or to establish themselves. Some land grant universities, such as Alabama A&M, have existing processing capacity that would fit this model.

    After slaughter at the regional plant, the poultry could be distributed back to the farmer to further process in several Retail exempt processing facilities. USDA could use funds to support this operation by funding a reefer truck to distribute product from the regional plant to the Retail exempt facilities.

    This collaborative approach can allow the regional plant to specialize in slaughter without worrying about accommodating all the individual demands a producer may have for further processing.


  • Wed, March 24, 2021 8:12 AM | Anonymous

    The following individuals have been elected by members to serve a three-year board term beginning March 2021: Caitlin Caserta (New Hampshire), Mark Harrison (Georgia), and Joe Koopsen (Michigan). 

    All three of these individuals have been active in APPPA for years, and have been active participants in our annual conference. They will join Bruce Hennessey (Vermont), Pat McNiff (Rhode Island), Ginger Shields (Florida), Daniel Salatin (Virginia), Rosanna Bauman (Kansas), and Christian Alexandre (California) as the board of directors.

    At the March 16, 2021, board meeting, the new members began their three-year term. At the March meeting, the new board nominated and elected a new executive committee, which consists of Bruce Hennessey, President; Daniel Salatin, Vice President; Rosanna Bauman, Treasurer; and Ginger Shields, Secretary. The executive committee serves a one year term.

    Every time we enthusiastically welcome new board members, we must simultaneously bid farewell. Susan Beal and David Hale step aside after serving APPPA for six years. Paul Greive leaves after three years in service to APPPA.


  • Fri, July 31, 2020 9:43 AM | Anonymous

    "Reading a label is not the same as knowing your farmer."

    The video “Let us show you real pasture raised eggs” clears up the label confusion common in the grocery store aisle by setting a clear expectation of what pasture-raised means. Pasture raised hens move to fresh pasture often. They live a majority of their lives on pasture and not in a barn that only gives access to pasture. Movement to fresh pasture ensures that the benefits of the pastured poultry farming model come together into an egg that is documented to be more nutrient dense in important vitamins and fats when compared to non-pasture raised eggs.

    The key to perceiving the difference between real pasture raised eggs, as it’s been done for the last 30 years, and other egg labels is understanding the difference between the words “on” and “access.”

    Pastured poultry live on rooted-in-soil vegetation and actively growing pasture.

    The use of the term “access to pasture” in egg marketing is a sign that management behind those eggs may not live up to the decades of historical principles used by the pastured poultry community.

    In this video, Ginger Shields of Pastured Life Farm in Florida sums up the problem. “We have to do a fair amount of de-education for our customers because so many of them are misled by grocery store labels. They assume that a free-range chicken would the same [pasture raised] product that we're selling. It's not.”

    The legal definition for Free Range poultry regulates “access” to the outdoors, but it’s an open secret in the poultry industry that the doors on a free-range barn may never open. If the barn doors do open, there’s no enforced standard that requires there to be vegetation outside the doors or that the birds step through the door. Likewise, when you see certifications that market 108 square feet of pasture per hen, it’s a warning that you may not be getting what you expect. In these systems, the 108 square feet replaces the core principle of movement to fresh, rooted in-soil vegetation by providing “access” to a large amount of space that the hens cannot properly utilize.

    How do you get what you expect?

    In “Let us show you real pasture raised eggs,” Grady Phelan from Heritage Valley Farm in Texas, says is succinctly, “Know the first name of your farmer.” APPPA helps consumers know the first name of their farmer by maintaining a searchable directory of pastured poultry farms at https://getrealchicken.com. Get Real Chicken is a project of APPPA.

    get Real Chicken Logo


  • Tue, June 23, 2020 1:13 PM | Anonymous

    The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) launches the Get Real Chicken website to make it easier for consumers to shop for local pasture raised poultry. Get Real Chicken (getrealchicken.com) features over 500 independent pastured poultry farms that can be discovered through an interactive search.

    The “Find a Local Farmer” directory enables visitors to search by location, type of poultry, type of feed (e.g., certified organic, soy-free, non-gmo) and product availability. Customers looking for farm-to-door delivery will find a growing list of farmers who ship to your doorstep by filtering the “Availability” options to include “Home Delivery.”

    In addition to the farmer directory, Get Real Chicken features educational resources, such as a consumer buying guide and the Real Pastured Poultry video series.  This website answers the question, “What is pasture raised poultry?”

    Pasture raised chickens, turkeys, and other poultry live a majority of their lives on fresh, rooted-in soil pasture.  This is accomplished through movable shelters (coops). That’s different from living in a confinement barn that only provides access to pasture. Living on fresh green grass makes pasture raised poultry the preferred choice over every other label, including free range, cage-free, organic, all-natural, and antibiotic free.

    Get Real Chicken (getrealchicken.com) is a project of APPPA. APPPA is a member-based organization that has been providing the pastured poultry community with training, research, insights, and networking opportunities since 1997. Get Real Chicken provides a friendly way to learn about and source real pasture raised poultry, including chicken, eggs, and turkey.

  • Wed, June 17, 2020 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) will unite with Heritage Poultry Breeders (HPB). The two organizations are voluntarily merging their assets under the APPPA organization, so that the educational goals and resources for poultry breeders can be realized through APPPA’s reach.

    APPPA and HPB agree that assimilating HPB resources into the APPPA organization provides a strategic advantage for heritage poultry, poultry breeding in general, and for the broader pastured poultry community. APPPA’s inclusion of poultry breeding will fall in line with its broader mission of advocating for pastured poultry as a profitable business model.

    HPB was formed to organize a community of passionate Heritage Poultry breeders – enabling sharing, educating, and developing the knowledge base needed to improve and restore standard breeds to their original purposes. APPPA encourages the production, processing, marketing, and purchasing of poultry raised on pasture through education and networking opportunities for both producers and consumers. This announcement formally declares breeding as a topical area of interest for APPPA and APPPA members.

    While we understand that many heritage poultry enthusiasts breed for exhibition and show, APPPA’s focus will remain on pastured models, integrating breeding for breed-specific productivity and profitability of standard-bred poultry into our other resources. By incorporating heritage poultry breeding resources into APPPA, there are opportunities to expand heritage poultry adoption, forge marketing relationships between breeders and growers, and build a more resilient pastured poultry community.

    What’s this mean for existing APPPA members?

    APPPA remains focused on pastured poultry as a for-profit business model. This focus creates the necessary for diversity within the community in terms of breed, feed, markets, and production scales.

    The most obvious change is that you will start to see breeder-specific topics covered in articles, trainings, and networking. The creation of a breeder specific discussion group will be the first tangible change, the discussion list is open to any APPPA member.

    Stay tuned for announcements and updates and remember this caveat:: We are staking the claim that no other association advocates for pastured poultry like APPPA does, and we believe that developing profitable models for breeding heritage poultry is a critical part of the long-term health of pastured poultry.

    As we settle in and incorporate changes designed to include breeders, you will hear a lot about breeding as we setup those resources. Know that APPPA will continue to hold open a large umbrella that makes room for all pastured poultry producers.

    APPPA believes that incorporating passionate breeders with the most knowledgeable pastured poultry community in the world will lead to strategic partnerships and opportunities that we’ve not yet begun to imagine.


  • Tue, April 07, 2020 6:17 AM | Anonymous

    Healthier Way Forward is the latest video release in the Real Pastured Poultry video marketing campaign from American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA). Healthier Way Forward showcases pasture raised poultry through farmer stories, stunning visuals, and human nutrition.

    Healthier Way Forward presents results that show pasture raised chicken and eggs are more nutritionally dense than non-pasture raised. The nutritional values summarized throughout the video are the result of independent laboratory testing conducted on real-world pastured poultry products. That means the chickens were raised using pastured poultry best practices regarding movement, feed, and husbandry.

    The nutritional results summarized in Healthier Way Forward were originally published in the APPPA Grit, the pastured poultry community’s journal of record since 1997. Peer reviewed research trials and independent farmer nutritional testing corroborate the findings published by APPPA.

    The evidence is overwhelmingly clear. How we raise chickens and what we feed them matters to the health of the people who eat the chickens and eggs.

    Healthier Way Forward features the stories of farmers from across the United States, including Matt Cadman of Shady Grove Ranch in Texas. In the video, Matt’s provides a dietary wake-up call. “I was on $700 of medication a month. My wife

    and I said, this has got to be diet related." Matt and his family included pastured poultry in total pursuit of better health. "I’m the poster child for what a total lifestyle change can accomplish. I haven’t taken a pill in eight years,” he says.

    When it comes to making a more nutrient dense chicken and egg, the movement matters. There are companies who try to market pasture raised eggs based on access to 108 square feet of space per hen from an immovable barn with chickens that may never go outside. That’s a historically inaccurate understanding of pasture-raised because it removes the critical foundation of movement to fresh forage. APPPA asserts that birds that only have access to the outdoors, the free range reality, are different from birds raised on pasture. The peer reviewed research provides support for this assertion. When independent laboratory testing or university research incorporates a movement-based pasture model, the nutritional differences are clearly noticeable. When the nutritional composition of free range birds are tested, the results are less predictable.

    When you watch Healthier Way Forward, you see real pastured poultry farms incorporating moveable shelters that enable the farmer to provide a steady supply of fresh rooted in soil vegetation to the flock. The steady access to fresh forage is the foundation for the health of the chicken and the nutrient density of the eggs and meat produced from a pastured system.

    You can’t identify real pastured poultry by certifications and labels. You identify real pastured poultry based on movement. The best way to find a pastured poultry farmer is to visit apppa.org/directory.

    For more information, contact grit@apppa.org or (888) 662-7772 or download the media kit for Healthier Way Forward. 

  • Fri, April 03, 2020 11:01 AM | Anonymous

    Seeing lots of questions about the availability of feed, chicks, processing and other essential services that pastured poultry farms need.

    The Department of Homeland Security publishes a list of critically essential jobs, and as you might expect, agricultural supply chains are in that list. You can review it here:

    https://www.cisa.gov/…/guidance-essential-critical-infrastr…

    In terms of access to inputs (feed and chicks), please understand this is a high demand time of year. It's spring and the entire country is now coming online to raise meat birds. It's a recurring, high seasonal demand.

    There's an extra pressure on the supply right now. As consumers push a higher demand for pasture-raised chickens, farms are blowing through stockpiled inventory. It's an expected outcome that they will be trying to add capacity to meet the demand and replace inventory.

    That extra demand gobbles up all the available inventory and before you know it, your hatchery can't meet your needs for 1 month. It's not the end of the world. Don't panic. It's an increase in demand causing a 1 month window in next availability dates. That's a fairly normal result for this time of year.

    When you go to a big box store and you see the shelves picked clean of feed bags when normally they wouldn't be, understand that is panicked buying in much the same way bulk toilet paper purchases are. Please give your supply chains time to work. If you have doubts, talk to them. The pastured poultry community is built on relationships throughout the supply chain and your relationship with your feed and chick supplier should be prominent.

    Please don't hoard feed that you can't use within 30 days. If you do stockpile feed, you'll realize the cost of that decision in a couple months when your chickens develop growth problems and illnesses from nutritionally deficient feeds that you've stockpiled in the shed for three months.

  • Thu, April 02, 2020 8:27 AM | Anonymous

    Congress recently approved The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R.748), which provides $9.5 billion in support for “agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers.”

    The economic impact of social distancing and shutting down society is uneven within the local food economy. Many APPPA members have been able to shift their distribution models to focus on online sales and direct delivery to families. They are seeing unprecedented demand.  However, farms who rely heavily on other direct markets, such as restaurants, specialty retailer stores, and institutions, have seen devastating reductions in sales. They are left scrambling to shift sales models on-the-fly. 

    The National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition (NSAC) organized a letter to Secretary Perdue to remind the Secretary that local, direct-market farms are expected to incur a loss estimated at more than $1 billion dollars. APPPA eagerly agreed to sign onto that letter with 11 other organizations. 

    The letter reads, in part: 

    As you work through these challenging times to swiftly implement this provision of the CARES Act, we urge you to ensure that farmers and ranchers who have lost local and regional markets due to the pandemic receive financial relief, especially direct assistance, that is commensurate with their expected losses of over $1 billion.

    Read the full letter

  • Wed, April 01, 2020 10:37 AM | Anonymous

    APPPA welcomes Christian Alexandre (Crescent City, California) and Rosanna Bauman (Garnett, Kansas) to the board of directors, where they will be serving three-year terms. Voting for the 2020 board election closed on March 1, after a competitive election.

    Christian and Rosanna replace Craig Haney and Grady Phelan. Words are inadequate to acknowledge the work and effort Craig and Grady put into APPPA, but their influence is visible in so many ways, including our conference planning and implementation.

    Craig initiated the Poultry School at Stone Barns in New York, which included APPPA as a collaborator. The Stone Barns event gave the APPPA conference momentum and provided us with early insights into the need for a pastured poultry specific event.  Grady was a critical resource and host for launching the first APPPA conference in Hillsboro, Texas.

    New Leadership

    The Board, at the March 2020 APPPA board meeting, welcomed Christian and Rosanna and elected a new executive committee.  Here are your officers for this year:

    ‪· Susan Beal, DVM, President

    · Paul Greive, Vice President

    · David Hale, Treasurer

    · Ginger Shields, Secretary

    Five additional board members join  the executive committee to help serve you - the APPPA membership: Pat McNiff, Bruce Hennessey, Daniel Salatin, Rosanna Bauman, and Christian Alexandre.

  • Tue, March 24, 2020 10:56 AM | Anonymous

    The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA), on behalf of our members, submits these comments relevant to the clarification of the label claim of “free range” for poultry products [Docket Number FSIS-2016-0021].

    Based on consultation with the AMS, FSIS currently deems the terms “Free Range,” “Free Roaming,” “Pasture Fed,” “Pasture Grown,” “Pasture Raised,” and “Meadow Raised” to be synonymous. By treating all these potentially different management scenarios as synonymous, the proposed directive opens the door for confusion on the part of the producer as well as the consumer.

    In their discussion about how the specific claims around these terms are to be made, the proposed FSIS directive states that the documentation “must describe the housing condition for the birds” and “must demonstrate continuous, free access to the outside throughout [the birds’] normal growing cycle.”

    However, FSIS has also been clear that it does not want to engage in a definition of these terms, nor in prescribing and auditing specific husbandry practices.

    The wording of the proposed directive allows poultry products to be labeled as “pastured raised,” even if the birds have never been outside on pasture in their lives. Additionally, being “outside” is not synonymous with being “on pasture.” Pasture implies vegetation rooted in soil, which is either actively growing or that has been stockpiled for use in the non-growing season.

    Access to the Outside / Being Outside Should be Defined more Clearly

    Poultry group dynamics ensures that birds who have “access to the outside” may never actually leave their social groups and their area of the house to walk to – and then venture through – the (typically very small) access doors to gain access to open outdoor air.

    Additionally, the FSIS directive states, “During winter months in northern climate, birds are not free range if they stay in poultry housing or coops all winter.” While APPPA and our members commend FSIS for clarifying the difference between winter and other seasonal housing, this part of the directive does not offer enough clarity.

    In this situation, FSIS deems birds are not free range if they stay in the coops and housing all winter, but does not differentiate this situation from the birds who, by virtue of their normal social behaviors and / or relative lack of access to suitable doors (size, number and location), do not move outside using the pop doors in other seasons. This seems incongruous.

    Pasture Raised Eggs and Chicken are Nutritionally Different

    There is evidence to support that poultry raised on viable, rooted-in-soil pasture display a nutritional profile that is different than poultry raised in confinement and / or in dirt-lot situations. Multiple research papers, supported by privately funded nutritional testing of poultry raised on growing pastures in a management system that incorporates movement across those pastures, show that there are differences in the nutritional profiles of the pastured birds.

    Because of this evidence and because there is additional research currently in progress, APPPA requests that FSIS reconsider their opinions. This research compares the nutritional components in the meat and eggs of pasture-raised birds compared to that of birds raised in other circumstances, including free range.

    Logic and laboratory work indicate that claiming “Free Range” as equivalent to “Pastured Raised” would construe and support misleading and untruthful claims.

    This lack of clarity and specificity is misleading to consumers and contributes to labels that are not truthful and misleading.  The consumer who is seeking out pastured poultry products specifically because of the differences in nutritional value has expectations about the way the label on the poultry accurately reflects the product contained within the packaging. Continuing to consider these different management practices as equivalent could result in products that are negligently misbranded using fundamentally incorrect labels. 

    APPPA proposes that FSIS continue to collate and study the available data and make an empirical assessment of the differences in nutritional content among the meat and eggs from birds raised in different husbandry models, including but not only, pasture-raised and free range. Further APPPA proposes that the final rule be delayed until such time as the research is more fully completed.

    Pasture Raised Not Synonymous with Free Range

    Since the mission of FSIS includes “ensuring the nation's commercial supply of poultry is correctly labeled and packaged,” it seems self-evident that the guidance offered regarding “Free Range” and “Pasture Raised” should include a clear definition of the claims being made on the labels.  

    The current definition of free range is inherently accurate: poultry are “Free to Range,” meaning they can stay indoors or go outdoors as they so choose.  In the Free Range system, a bird can stay indoors its entire life and still be accurately labeled as free range.  That would be an accurate and correct use of the Free-Range label, but it would not represent a Pasture-Raised bird.

    We also realize that most poultry must spend their first weeks in a very controlled environment (the brooder) in order to survive. (This is similar to the weaning period for ruminants.). It is unreasonable to propose that requirements for poultry that are “pasture-raised” include the provision that they “[must] demonstrate continuous, free access to the outside through [the birds’] normal growing cycle.”

    An accurate description of “pasture raised” is that each bird lives more than 50% of its life on pasture that is covered by rooted-in-soil vegetative cover, which is typically achieved by flock movement to fresh pasture.

    APPPA recommends that FSIS does not consider “Pasture Raised” synonymous with “Free Range” based on a growing body of research and fundamental differences in the approach of each system. APPPA proposes further discussion and collaboration with FSIS to more accurately define pasture raised poultry and eggs as a product that is inherently different than free range.

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