Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

Posts tagged ‘chicken’

Eggs and Philosophy

Undercover Video reveals a not so pretty picture

A recent undercover video taken by Direct Action Everywhere and released on the Now This facebook page shows the worst of the worst about hens involved in egg laying.

The video made me sick and I’ve a message for industrial agriculture – “clean up your act”.  The conditions of the hens and the environment they are living in are horrific.  It’s actors such as this that make it hard for those of us who don’t even think about animal husbandry being such as what is revealed in the video.  Animal agriculture is going to have to start standing up and condemning these types of practices and behaviors.  Don’t make excuses, own it, and fix it!

The hard truth and what makes the point of rubber stamping for humane practices an armed weapon for those opposed to animal agriculture is that this particular farm is “Certified Humane”, a project of Humane Farm Animal Care.  According to the organizations website, the program certifies products from farm animals that meet program standards related to practices required in the raising of the animals. Farms and ranches are monitored annually and may use the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® logo. Charges levied are to cover inspections and program costs which include promotional materials which help promote the products of the producers that are Certified Humane®.  Trust me folks, the fees applied aren’t cheap and certification predominately include large numbers of animals produced.

The organization has a “Humane Farm Animal Care Scientific Committee”, presumably who develop the standards that farmers and ranchers must meet for certification.  The Committee has some heavy hitters participating on it and I must wonder, what in the world they were thinking when they lent their names to something that doesn’t even come close to the definition of “humane practices”.

I can’t continue without describing the organization responsible for the undercover video, Direct Action Everywhere, is a network of animal rights activists claiming chapters in 160 cities in over 30 countries.  The organization, developed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013.  It operates on the theory of “speciesism”.

Getting Educated about Speciesism

I’m not big on giving out labels or definitive categories so I had to do some research on this one.  The term delves deeply into the realm of philosophy.    According to Wikipedia speciesism is a prejudice similar to racism or sexism, in that the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences.  Broadly speaking in the world of animal activism it means the exclusion of all nonhuman animals from the rights, freedoms, and protections afforded to humans.  June 5 is considered to be World Day Against Speciesism.  Who knew?

Without delving too deep into the topic of speciesism, it appears to me that it means every living thing is equal and has equal rights, no matter human or non-human.  I’m assuming if you don’t believe in this equality or you behave against the principal theory you are akin to a racist or sexist. I dunno, sounds good!

Of course agenda motivation is the driving force behind the video, why else would it be undercover?  Was it for the purpose of exposing Humane Farm Animal Care and name lending to a rubber stamping of the “Certified Humane” label?  Was it to expose the bad behavior of industrial agriculture?  Or was it a push toward the public to support veganism and animal rights? I think it’s all of the above.

On the other hand, what can be the excuses from industrial agriculture.  Historically industry will repeat all of the things listed above and describe the people taking the video as terrorists. They’ll say that the particular farm and the conditions revealed wasn’t like that when it was audited for humane standards and certification. My question would be, what changed in the farming practices between the standards audit and everyday practices?  Is it business as usual except when the humane farm animal standards audit is conducted?

No matter what your belief about what you eat, what is revealed in the undercover video is just plain wrong.  It doesn’t take a room full of philosophers or theorizers to figure it out.  You decide!

History Repeats Itself

Denial of bathroom use at forefront of poultry worker complaints

A friend sent me a post from the U.S. Department of Labor blog to settle a friendly dispute over poultry processing works rights and free access to the bathroom. I was adamant in my belief that poultry workers had “at need access” in using a bathroom because this same abuse was fought at least 15 years ago by a community organization I worked for, the Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance (DPJA). I’m going back to the late 1990’s – early 2000’s.

At that time the basic right of workers using a bathroom was denied because it would slow down or stop the processing line. To do so would cost the company dollars and in their greed stopping the line was not an option.

I was shocked to learn that people were denied use of the bathroom and I couldn’t fathom urinating on one’s self. I doubt that most of us could identify with such conditions, let alone being the one to say “no you can’t use the bathroom”. Unfortunately, my tenure as the executive director of DPJA brought many such shocks, and not to discount other serious issues, right now, I’m taking about using the bathroom.

No poultry company on the Delmarva Peninsula was immune from the complaints made by their workers. Stories from the workers encompassed many complaints such as urinating on their selves, pregnant workers being denied bathroom use as needed, and break time lines for bathroom use so long that the ten minutes allowed for a break were eaten up just standing in line waiting to use a toilet.

From the industry point of view, excuses were made such as workers abused bathroom breaks, no alternate or fill in workers were available to replace a worker leaving the line, and they get a ten-minute break to use the bathroom. Company flat out denial of worker complaints was the most used response.

Any worker who complained to supervisors or company powers that be, very quickly found their selves out the door. As most workers were undocumented immigrants, fear of reprisals kept them quiet. From my point of view I found it as being a method of control and exploitation.

As a matter of fact, DPJA lead a protest in Georgetown, DE, in front of one Delmarva poultry processing plant to deliver a letter to the company owner as an informational method of complaints by workers for abuses occurring inside the plant. The protest involved community members, church leaders, workers, and alliance members. Denial of bathroom use was one of the worker’s complaints. Afterwards workers reported that some things had changed and that those abusing basic human rights for workers were no longer there.

Fast forward to 2016

From all indications and as much as I hate to say it, my friend is correct. I have to concede to her as the winner of our debate. What a hollow victory! It boggles my mind to think that the very same issue is once again at the forefront of poultry processing plant worker’s complaints. Did industry learn nothing or is it a matter of continuing with a bad legacy until caught? I’m not particularly fond of the saying, “history repeats itself”, especially when it is a not so good history.

“For some workers, a simple trip to the bathroom could result in the loss of a job. Poultry-processing workers are sometimes disciplined for taking bathroom breaks while at work because there is no one available to fill in for them if they step away from the production line. Some workers have reported that they wear diapers and restrict liquid intake in an effort to avoid using the bathroom. No one should have to work under these conditions. All workers have a right to a safe workplace, and that includes access to readily available sanitary restroom facilities on the job. Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous industries in the United States, and readily accessible restrooms are only one of many problems that workers in this industry face.” Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Although this blog post was written back in July 2016, it’s relevant to the debate between my friend and I. She further burst my bubble with a link to a 2015 report published by Oxfam America. After reading it I thought to myself that nothing has changed. Over all of the time that passed between my employment at DPJA to the 2015 Oxfam report the simple basic human right of using the bathroom is being denied by employers in the poultry industry.

Coming from a common sense point of view, it’s obvious that denial of bathroom use is blatant and those practicing the behavior are unashamed. I think it takes a seriously disturbed person to find amusement in the behavior indicated in the Oxfam report.

“Routinely, poultry workers say, they are denied breaks to use the bathroom. Supervisors mock their needs and ignore their requests; they threaten punishment or firing. Workers wait inordinately long times (an hour or more), then race to accomplish the task within a certain timeframe (e.g., ten minutes) or risk discipline.” Quote from Oxfam America report, “No Relief, Denial of Bathroom Breaks In The Poultry Industry

For poultry workers having to come forward and speak about the goings on inside processing plants must be a humiliating experience. I, myself, wouldn’t want to have to tell anyone that I wear a diaper to work or that I defecate or urinate on myself while working. I can’t imagine!

Where are those who would ensure such a basic right? This type of abuse should not be tolerated by poultry company owners, stockholders, or consumers. Obviously, our government is aware of the situation, what is being done about it? We are supposed to be a civilized society. Is the processing of one more chicken, in the millions that are slaughtered every day, more important?

This subject started as a friendly debate and has turned in to a feeling of outrage. Again! I’m sure that I’ll write plenty more on this subject as I digest all that I’ve read. What does it take to end a vicious cycle of history repeating itself?

Are Words the Gospel Truth?

Last week, Tyson Foods made the announcement that it’s “striving to eliminate the use of human antibiotics from its US broiler chicken flocks by the end of September 2017”. I snickered to myself after reading this and thought, what’s the catch?

Researching this big announcement took me firstly to Tyson’s website for the official announcement and found that the company does indeed say that “it is “”striving”” to eliminate the use of “”human antibiotics from its U.S. broiler chicken flocks by the end of September 2017″”. The company will report annually on its progress, beginning with its fiscal 2015 Sustainability Report.  Tyson Foods has already stopped using all antibiotics in its 35 broiler hatcheries, requires a veterinary prescription for antibiotics used on broiler farms and “”has reduced human antibiotics”” used to treat broiler chickens by more than 80 percent since 2011.”

So why the snicker, wondering about what’s the catch, and double quotes in the last paragraph?

Back around 2007, Tyson began a huge advertising and labeling campaign of “raised without antibiotics” on its chicken products and was enthusiastically applauded for it by many.  I can remember hearing from some acquaintances about the “big” news and I can also remember me saying that I didn’t believe it for a second.

In June 2008, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Tyson’s use of the raised without antibiotics label.   USDA reversed that approval and ordered Tyson to remove the label after finding out that Tyson injected its chickens with antibiotics while still in the egg, before hatching, warning that it could no longer consider the raised without antibiotics label “truthful and accurate”.  Tyson admitted that the company used gentamicin which had been used for more than 30 years in the U.S. to treat infections in humans interjecting the belief that rules on labeling describing how chickens are raised typically begin from the second day of life.

According to an AP report, a U.S. District Court Judge had ordered Tyson to stop running any advertisements, setting a May 15, 2008 deadline after Perdue and Sanderson Farms sued, claiming Tysons advertising campaign was misleading.  Sanderson Farms claimed a loss of $4 million in and Perdue claimed it lost about $10 million in revenue.

A consumer lawsuit against Tyson followed accusing the company of falsely claiming that its chickens were raised without antibiotics.  Tyson settled the lawsuit in 2010.  The settlement was capped at $5 million.  The consumer payout was based on proof of purchase (a receipt) which would award $50 dollars, those who didn’t have proof of purchase but provided a sworn statement detailing the poultry they bought would receive $10 dollars.  Any residual funds after paying consumer claims that were left over the company would donate its products to food banks in lieu of the dollar amount.

“While we believe our company acted appropriately, we also believe it makes sense for us to resolve this legal matter and move on,” Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said.

While researching this ongoing saga, I found some fairly strong words being used to describe Tyson’s actions.  Statements such as “no longer consider the raised without antibiotics label truthful and accurate”, false and misleading, and getting to the heart of the issue – “It is quite clear to this court that it was in Tyson’s financial interest to delay the phase-out period as long as possible,” Judge Richard D. Bennett of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland written opinion referring to Tyson delaying further use of its advertising campaign.

Take the time to go back and read the bold print above and what I’ve double quoted.  Tyson’s announcement does not say that the company no longer uses antibiotics.

It’s all in the words folks!  It’s the twisting and turning of what the words actually mean and the assumption that consumers read the words and believe them as the gospel truth.  Is it any wonder that I snicker and wonder, what’s the catch over Tyson’s newest BIG announcement concerning the use of antibiotics?

Furthermore, $14 million was claimed to have been lost by Tyson’s competitors, just in 1 year.  Settling for $5 million with consumers is peanuts.  Were any fines levied for not being truthful and accurate, false and misleading, or delaying being so for financial gain?  Does anyone keep their household food purchase receipts for 3 years or bother with a sworn statement to a court for $10 dollars?  Was Tyson able to write off the value of products donated to Food Banks?

Chinese Chicken, A Global Recipe!

An interesting tidbit of information crossed my desk which, after reading, I filed away as another one of those “head spinners” that I occasionally have. Yessiree folks, I closed my eyes, shook my head, and asked myself – for real?

According to a report from Politico and confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service China was notified last week that four of its poultry processing plants have been given the green light to begin processing chicken of U.S. origin and selling it back to the American public.

Processed heat-treated/cooked poultry products, typically known as “further processed” chicken, such as nuggets, patties, or even the pieces of chicken in your canned soup may now be processed in China and sent to American consumers for consumption. Raw chicken processed in China may come from the U.S., Canada, or Chile the only three countries currently approved by USDA.

Concerns expressed by food safety advocates abound given China’s record on food safety and deadly bird flu (avian influenza) outbreaks. However this issue appears to go much further. In a press release issued by Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter says “it has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. that has been closed since 2003 due to diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease……”. The U.S., in turn, banned poultry imports from China in 2004 after a bird flu outbreak.

Although the main focus of concerns on this issue has rightly so centered on China’s not so great food safety record, me in my infinite wisdom, focused further on the statement made by Food & Water Watch. My simplistic common sense manner summed it up as trading chicken for beef thereby resolving a “tit for tat” trade dispute.

I then tried to understand why in the world we would send raw chicken all the way to China to have it processed and then have China send it back to us for consumption. I wondered how many miles it was from my closet seaport, Norfolk, VA, to China. Suffice it to say that it’s roughly 6,757 miles! Furthering my need to know, I realized that the one of the major U.S. chicken companies has a processing plant 15 miles away from me. I’m sorry, but this makes no sense in so far as reducing the carbon footprint that we all are supposed to be mindful of!

Back to the heat treated/cooked poultry products. Every major chicken company in the U.S. has “further processing” facilities in America. While I in no way agree with industrial chicken production, I have to wonder why chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S. would go to China for further processing and travel back to buyers in America to sell as cooked chicken products. In essence that chicken has traveled nearly twice around the world. Not to mention the American jobs that traveled out of the country with it. What does this say for boosting OUR economy?

Adding insult to injury the cooked chicken products coming from China will only have country of origin labeling for the buyer not for the consumer, the end user. This makes it impossible for consumers to choose supporting local or American made.

I understand, and have been told many times, that I need to think globally. Selling raw chicken to China of course will increase chicken production in the U.S. which is destined for export. The next step has China selling that same chicken back to U.S. buyers as a cooked product. I, by no stretch of the imagination, am a wheeler dealer of global trade however the only benefit I see in this global scheme is corporations increasing imports and exports. I see no trickling down effect of profits!

Many predict the approval of cooked chicken products from China as being a precursor to allowing raw chicken from China into the U.S. and that will have me wondering why we would buy chicken from China when we produce more than enough in our own country. Interested consumers will need to ask, which country did this chicken come from?

Increased trade is a good thing, so I’m told!

What Came First – The Chicken or The Egg?

Here on the farm, we are making preparations to expand. Yes, I said EXPAND! The great egg adventure has blossomed into something viable. Imagine that folks – viability on the farm. More Girls for Bird’s Eye View Farm and of course more eggs. Our current supply can’t meet the demand for product.

Back in January, I participated on a farmer panel at the Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (FH CASA) conference and our great egg adventure was used as one of several “case studies”.

Becoming a case study is something that I never considered when we first began. All joking aside, I had my doubts. Jumping into it was a leap of faith. As I told conference attendees we were flying by the seat of our pants in the beginning and in opposition to my colleagues successful case studies presented, I bluntly told folks – “do not follow my model”! Being a Guiana pig means making all of the mistakes and figuring out solutions.

If I had to do it over again I would have…… how many times do we say that in a life time? Exploring marketing and distribution would have been first before putting the Girls on the farm. I would want to know that I had outlets for product and have it figured out how I was going to get product to market – Note to self: Marketing and distribution, figure it out first.

Thinking back, I recall being told several times, don’t worry, the product will sell. That put me in a comfort zone and allowed me to relax and enjoy raising the Girls for 22 weeks. And then the eggs came! Getting the first eggs was a thrill and heartwarming because our grandson and my husband found the first ones. But then, more eggs came, lots of eggs!

Of course there are steps in between collecting eggs and selling eggs to consider such as washing, packaging, and cold storage. Washing and packing is done by hand (machinery is expensive) and a spare refrigerator works if you don’t have too many eggs. As the Girls increased egg laying the necessity for much larger cold storage space was presented. As any farmer knows, utilizing and modifying what you have is imperative for economic reasons – waste not, want not. There are not many of us who can go out and purchase a walk in cooler at the blink of an eye. Lucky for us, my husband ingeniously converted a pump room into a walk in cooler at a relatively low cost.

As the eggs started piling up the task of marketing became necessity! Marketing is a humbling experience for one who has never done it before. Thankfully, being an Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) Certified farm also meant that AWA lent a hand in marketing, free of charge. Who can afford to go out and hire a marketing firm to sell product? Sales began slowly and I had many sleepless nights wracking my brain thinking about markets. There are several ways to sell product. There is a lot of trial and error. Finding the way which best suits the individual takes time, patience, and persistence – lots of it.

Once the market was found, meeting the requirements of a buyer is something that never entered my mind until it was put before me. Researching Federal, State, and Local laws for production, processing, packaging, distribution, and selling is enough to make one’s head spin. Understanding and compliance is not the end of it. Each market or buyer has individual requirements and is something one should be well aware of before entering the market. Insurances, licensing, and permits for individual localities are a must.

Different types of packaging are something to consider such as chef’s preferring bulk (egg flats) in 30 dozen cases or consumer’s preferring half dozen or full dozen cartons packed in 15 dozen cases to suit the buyer and what sells best in the market place.

What size eggs do your customers want? Regardless of what some would have us believe, hens don’t lay uniformly sized or shaped eggs. Depending on the egg laying cycle of the hens decides what you get and how many. What do you do with eggs that don’t meet your customer’s preference?

Distribution – getting the product from farm to market can be a nightmare. Spending a good twelve hour day making deliveries each week was exhausting. Ensuring that product is kept sufficiently cool and as required by law is a must. Taking cost into consideration the question arises, will distribution cost outweigh profit margin expected after production and processing cost?

In my case, the chicken came before the egg! Was it a wise move? Probably not! However, I don’t have regrets over the roller coaster ride it presented! Settling on a market and developing a partnership with our buyer has been a relief to all of the unknowns mentioned above. I feel as if the farm has reached a point of serenity and life has leveled out over the past year. While not becoming complacent with where we are I’m a happy camper! Although eager to move forward I also realize that adding more hens presents new challenges. A new chapter in the great egg adventure!

The Makings of A Toxic Waste Dump

Arkansas rice growers don’t mess around! They’ve gone for the jugular asking the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Arkansas for a jury trial to decide the merits of their claim that chicken industry practices are responsible for high levels of arsenic being detected in their crops.

The lawsuit follows on the heels of Consumer Reports, November Issue, revealing data that white rice grown in Arkansas as well as Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas may contain arsenic levels that are too high. Named in the lawsuit are Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, George’s Farm, George’s Processing, George’s Inc., and Peterson Farms Inc. along with drug company czar, Pfizer.

The short version of the story is that Pfizer is the drug dealer, selling arsenic compounds such as 3-Nitro to the drug using poultry companies!
It’s a well-known fact that for decade’s arsenic has been fed to chickens raised in industrial poultry production.

Industry addiction to arsenic comes from the need to feed for rapid weight growth and control intestinal parasites, coccidiosis (cocci). Although both arsenic and cocci are naturally occurring in the environment in small amounts, the excessive levels in this case are said to be a result of heavily concentrated industrial chicken production.

Normally, cocci can be controlled through pasture management and rotational grazing of farm animals. When animals are raised in a totally confined space year after year cocci can’t be controlled through allowing that space to “rest”. As an intestinal parasite cocci becomes a problem. Chickens don’t convert feed to pounds of meat efficiently and that means slower growth and higher production costs. Enter arsenic.

The arsenical compounds added to chicken feed are consumed by the chicken and passes through the animal into its waste. That waste is then spread on farm fields as fertilizer for crops. Ironically, chicken manure has been touted as an asset by some industry leaders because of its value as a fertilizer. Arsenic is a heavy metal and doesn’t break down in the environment. Where is the value in a continual buildup of arsenic in farm fields and the environment?

Because chicken companies control every aspect of chicken production and retain title of the chickens, feed, and medications – the buck stops there. Known as “vertical integration”, chicken companies contract with farms to “raise” the chickens to a marketable age. Feed that those chickens eat is formulated, mixed, and delivered to contract farms by the companies. Under contract terms the farmers must use the feed formula delivered as dictated by the company.

The lawsuit should come as no surprise. Recent years have seen mounting evidence of residual arsenic at levels higher than normal from concentrated chicken production. https://oldfarmerlady.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/maryland-becomes-first-state-to-ban-arsenic-in-poultry-feed/ The state of Maryland went so far as to ban the use of one arsenical, Roxarsone, in chicken feed this past year. Roxarsone is a product acquired by Pfizer in its acquisition of Alpharma and was voluntarily withdrawn from the market by Pfizer. Good idea!

On the flip side – Tyson denies any wrong doing. According to Food Safety News, spokesperson for Tyson, Gary Mickelson, says that the company is still reviewing the lawsuit and that “it appears to be an example of creative lawyers trying to use frivolous litigation to extract money from companies that have done nothing wrong”…… Really, are you kidding me? One of my Facebook friends wondered if this was the best they (Tyson) could come up with.

In my last blog post, Food to Die For, I said that “I for one am sick and tired of continually hearing about evidence of arsenic in our food supply and it’s not because the evidence is uncovered and keeps mounting”. I’m also sick and tired of hearing industry denials of any wrong doing. It’s like a bunch of little kids who get into trouble and they all say “I didn’t do it”. I say “man up and own it”!

While poultry companies have reaped the benefits (dollars) of the use of arsenic they were also turning a blind eye to the consequences of their actions. They straight up just didn’t care. It brings to mind a discussion that I had with an industry trade union representative about contract growers having a right to know that arsenic was in the company feed and what they were being exposed to. The reply from this joker was “did you ask”. Another one of those creative and frivolous industry answers!

Some poultry companies are claiming that they don’t feed their chickens any additives containing arsenic. While that may be true at the present time, all of the arsenic that they used in the past hasn’t magically disappeared. My husband has often remarked that “we should put a chain link fence around the Delmarva Peninsula, and call it a toxic waste dump” because of all “the company toxic waste from their chickens that is dumped on our farm fields”. No one knows how much toxicity is in our soil and required government soil testing is only for nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium levels. It is not mentioned or recommended that soil testing should be done for heavy metals or toxic waste such as arsenic.

Chicken feed formulas are considered to be a “trade secret” and therefore companies don’t have to reveal what is in their feed. That being the case, secretive testing of feed would have to be done for anyone to get an idea of what is actually being fed to chickens, and of course that could be considered to be a “theft” because the chicken companies own the feed. Creative government regulations and laws make it impossible to verify any claims by chicken companies about what is or isn’t being fed to their chickens.

History will repeat its self! In the end I can imagine that the battery of defense lawyers will come up with some fancy foot work and legal maneuvering to either keep this lawsuit going for many years to come or go for a settlement which will be gag ordered! The arsenic will remain in our soil and we will more than likely read or hear about future discoveries of arsenic in our food supply.

Many Thanks and Some Thoughts

I’ve been overwhelmed this week with many heart felt comments and well wishes for the farm and my work. I have to admit that I’m stunned! All joking aside….. I sat here at my computer in amazement. I had no idea that so many people cared or recognized how horribly messed up our food production system is.

Food INC gave a glimpse into the food system that dominates our country and for my part I can say that I’m only one of thousands of farmers. Many of you have commented on the difference in my appearance or looks from Food INC to now. One commenter described me as looking haggard during my Food INC time and I have to agree. It’s a look and mental condition that I recognize well in the faces of my farmer friends who are stuck in the industrial system.

Taking that a step further…. I know so many who are stuck with no way out. They’ve been beaten down to the point of exhaustion. Many have lost the will to fight a power that is so great that there is no place that can’t be reached through wealth and influence. Facing complete financial ruin for one’s self and family is a powerful tool to ensure silence and compliance. I view myself as being blessed and lucky to have gotten out from under the thumb of corporate agriculture however I haven’t forgotten the many who haven’t. It will take a tidal wave of voices to free farmers from the restraints that bind them.

You are the people who will force change through spending hard earned food dollars in different ways and by electing officials who can’t be reached through wealth and influence. Other than the status quo!……….

The changes here on the farm have been dramatic and in my neck of the woods, the Delmarva Peninsula, our way of raising chickens is almost unheard of. A funny incident that happened a couple of months ago brings this point home – A man and woman were riding bicycles past the farm and I was out with the chickens. I could hear the woman shouting to the man “oh my God those chickens are out of the chicken house, they’re loose” and kept pointing and shouting! I had to holler back to assure her it was okay “they are free range chickens”.

Implementing a whole new way of farming and having the freedom to make all the decisions about how things are done is a refreshing and rewarding experience. Wanting to get out of bed and face the day on the farm is no longer a dreaded thing.

Having said that, I won’t gloss things over and say it’s easy. Along with the refreshing and rewarding – it’s hard work. I’m no longer just a farmer! I’ve learned about selling product; designing packaging and labeling; collecting, washing, and packing eggs according to food safety regulations (and learning the regulations); and coordinating deliveries and being the delivery driver…… the list goes on! These are things that independent farmers have to do.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have had excellent tech assistance through the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) program. Having been audited and certified by a third party, AWA, other than knowing that we are raising our girls in the best welfare practices we can, benefits have been assistance in all of the things I mentioned above. Without AWA? I wouldn’t have known where to begin.

For those of you who’ve asked about where our eggs can be purchased. Bird’s Eye View Farm eggs are available at Whole Foods stores in Annapolis, MD , Harbor East and Mount Washington in Baltimore, MD. They are also available at Cowgirl Creamery in Washington DC, Arrowine, Westover Market, and European Foods in Arlington, VA. We don’t sell meat chickens.

Having so many wonderful people, most complete strangers to me, joining me in my great adventure is the best. Somehow, saying “thank you” to all of the kind words, thoughts, support, and wishes, seems lacking. But it’s all that I have….. Thank you!