Owner: Joel Salatin
Web site: www.polyfacefarms.com
- What chicken breed(s) do you raise? Why did you choose those breed(s), and are you satisfied with their performance? Rhode Island Red, Black Astralorpe, Barred Rocks — all straight bred, no hybrids. Hybrids lay too many eggs that extract energy from the bird so she cannibalizes her nutrition. And of course that compromises the energy (nutrition) in the egg. The heavy breeds are also more docile than hybrids, which reduces blood spots in the eggs. They are more hardy for weather extremes, which is the single biggest factor in health and production for pastured poultry.
- Which breed’s eggs did you send in to be tested? We did not check to see what breed our eggs came from. They came from a smattering.
- How many laying hens do you have? We have not quite 3,000 layers.
- In what year of laying are the hens? They vary in age because we start two groups a year. They lay for two years and then we dress them as stewing hens.
- Approximately how many eggs do they lay per hen, per month? Please include seasonal variations. These birds average 50 percent throughout the year — 70-plus in spring and early summer, and drop to 30 percent in the winter. At 20 percent they pay the feed bill.
We use the Feathernet system, which is the Premier poultry net, electrified, with simple hoop structures on skids and nest boxes along the sides. Three pieces of netting make an oval a quarter acre for 1,000 layers. We move them every 3 days to a new paddock. We mow ahead of them with the cows to shorten the grass and keep it lush and vegetative to stimulate poultry ingestion.
- What, if any, measures do you take to extend the egg production season?
In the winter, for about 100 days, the birds come into tall tunnels — hoop houses. That keeps them warm and comfortable — and keeps us warm and comfortable — so that they lay better in the cold part of the year. We don't use any lights to extend the season. What we do is start a batch of pullets to begin laying by the first of August so they are at physiological peak during declining daylength. That way they don't spike quite as high in the spring, and it all evens out more through the year.
- What kind(s) of supplemental feed do you use? Please be as specific as possible, including the brand name or farm where you get your feed.
We use local non-GMO grains for our ration. Everything is milled at Sunrise Farms in Stuarts Draft. The supplement we use is Poultry Nutri-Balancer from Fertrell in Bainbridge, PA. Wonderful stuff, all. The closest organic grain is 1,000 miles away, and we simply will not export our dollars that far away and bathe our feed in that much diesel fuel just for government paperwork.
- If you have kept confined hens, can you estimate how much less feed hens raised on pasture consume? They can pick up more than 50 percent off the pasture, but only if they have lots of new ground every day. When we first started the Eggmobile with 100 birds, they virtually lived off the land in the summer — a smidgen of corn just for energy. But now with 400 per Eggmobile, we have economies of scale for moving and gathering eggs, but they do not range any further and therefore eat more grain as a percentage of their diet. It's a constant battle, trying to straddle the living off the range with very few birds but having enough volume to pay the taxes and insurance.
- Tell us about the living and ranging conditions of your hens. For example, what kind of pens do you have? Did you build them yourself? Do you use moveable pens? If so, how often do you move the birds to fresh pasture? What is the approximate size of the area on which your chickens are free to range and forage on a given day? Are there any specific plants in the pasture that you know your birds eat? The Eggmobiles are portable henhouses, 12-by-20 foot, on mobile home axles. These follow the cows so the birds can scratch through the cow dung, spread it into the soil, and peck out fly larvae — like a biological pasture sanitizer. Essentially we don't know how a commercial flock can be maintained with integrity in a non-portable building. Chickens are simply too hard on pasture and cream it off too early to ingest enough green material, which is the secret to everything, in a permanent pasture setting. That is why everything at Polyface is portable.
- How would you characterize the area in which you live—urban, suburban or rural? Are there any local regulations you had to meet to be able to raise chickens?
We live in a rural area. So far we have not had to deal with permits for pastured poultry, but we have been demonized as bioterrorists by the industry and poultry bureaucrats because Red-Winged Blackbirds commiserate with our pastured poultry and allegedly transport viruses to the scientifically based fecal factory concentration camp industrial houses. And with the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) fast approaching, pastured poultry will go the way of the American Indian at Wounded Knee. These are serious times. The global industrialists a paranoid of us heritage indigenous imbedded food system advocates, and will stop at nothing to criminalize food choice and humane animal husbandry.
- Have you had problems with predators, and how have you solved them?
Predators are an ongoing problem. The biggest problem is the animal welfarists and endangered species protection that make the most serious predators worshipped. Predators are much more a people problem than an animal problem. We have a guard dog; we trap; we shoot; we do things that I would not divulge in public. But everyone raising pastured poultry could go to jail for years, be assured of that.
- Do you sell your eggs? If so, where and for how much? We sell our eggs retail. We supply about 1,000 families at the farm and at our Metropolitan Buying Clubs. We service about 30 white table cloth restaurants and half a dozen retail establishments. The eggs are $2.40 per dozen in flat and $2.65 per dozen in cartons.
- Can you estimate how much you earn per year, per bird?
We estimate we earn about $10 per hen per year.
- What do you think are the main reasons customers choose your eggs? (flavor, nutrition, more humane conditions, etc.)
Our eggs sell because they are better. They look better, taste better, and handle better.
- Do you have any notable comments from customers that you can share with us? Are there any customers whose contact information you can give us so we can talk directly with them about why they choose your eggs?
Perhaps most notable are our elderly customers who reduce their cholesterol by eating half a dozen eggs per day. Our pastry chefs double their window of marketability from 36 hours to 72 hours using these eggs. Check our website to see the restaurants that use our eggs and feel free to contact them for testimonials.
- Many of you have expressed dismay at our using the term “free-range eggs,” because of the way that language has been tarnished by certain producers whose birds really have no access to fresh pasture. Are you aware of any of these “industrial free-range” farms in your area? If so, please provide us with as much information about the producer as possible.
- Feel free to share any additional comments with us.
NUTRITION TEST RESULTS
1. On what date were your egg samples shipped to the lab?
2. Please confirm that we have recorded your test results accurately. If your report shows different values, please indicate that by making a note on the correct line below.
Cholesterol: 292 mg
Omega-3: 710 mg
Vitamin E: 11 IU
Folic acid: 8.51 mg
Selenium: ND: 0.09
Beta carotene: 127 IU
Retinol: 636 IU
Total vitamin A: 763 IU