Chicken news in Portland

rich/ March 12, 2006/ Food/

Word has come down that the largest pastured poultry producer in Oregon, and probably the northwest, is closing up shop. Greener Pastures Poultry started their operation a year or so before we did, and we had the opportunity to visit their site and operation. Aaron and his partners did a very good job, but when we were pondering what model we were going to pursue for our farm business, we avoided theirs, as we saw it as a heavily capitalized, growth-dependent model whose sustainability (economic and ecological) was in question.

Their strength was that they had a licensed processing facility, so that they could sell frozen birds, as well as carry the wholesale trade. Thus, you could buy a pasture-raised bird in January, which is a big departure from what we were able to accomplish with our seasonal production.

As the years passed, we saw their product in many venues, and they were by far our greatest competition. It was difficult for a small seasonal operation such as ours to compete with a company that had product year-round. For myriad reasons, competition among them, our model for broilers had its own problems, however.

Now, the Portland area is without 2 of its established broiler producers…local foodies will undoubtedly bemoan the loss of such good food. But, I think it’s something that’s going to start to show up nationwide.

Chicken has been one of those staple foods that Americans have taken for granted. What we haven’t appreciated is how energy intensive they are to produce. It takes ~2-3 lbs of grain and soybeans to create a pound of chicken, and producing those grains is getting more and more expensive as gasoline, diesel, and natural gas wend their way to a peak of production

Compare that to cattle and sheep, ruminants that can make their entire living off of grass. Instead of constantly importing grains onto the farm, we can actively manage the animals’ grazing, giving them their fill of what farms everywhere can grow in abundance, cheaply, and most important, locally, with few fossil fuel inputs. We feel that that’s the foundation of a sustainable food enterprise.

Conveniently enough, we’ll be putting out our spring newsletter with ordering information in a month or so…watch this space, or drop us a line to get on our email list. Thanks!