Entries in Research (26)

Friday
Oct102014

4 questions to ask about your Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is near and stores and farms are starting to strut their stuff.  There are many, many options for your Thanksgiving Turkey and it can get a little confusing as to what is really available and what’s the difference in all those labels anyway.

Consider these simple questions to help you decide which Turkey is right for you

Heritage Turkeys at Synergistic Acres are raised on fresh pastures1.  How is the turkey raised?  Possible answers are inside a commercial poultry house, in an open-air building, outside on dirt, confined to a small outdoor area (often dirt from overuse and often called "free-range"), in a pasture and truly free-range.  

Don't assume that the breed of turkey is indicative of how it is raised either.   Not all Heritage Turkeys are raised outdoors and certainly not all Heritage birds get to roam lush fields.  A Heritage bird raised on pasture is a wonderful pairing that ensures the turkey lived a life appropriate for a turkey.

2.  What does the turkey eat?  Don’t get tricked by hearing what they don’t eat - find out what they DO eat.  Soy-free or gluten-free or vegetarian fed might mean all the turkey ever ate was corn.  Is that what you want your meat to be made from?  The meat that you will be consuming was created from the nutrients and minerals that went into the turkey’s mouth.  Is the feed organic or non-GMO or conventional?  An organic turkey might sound great, but that often means it was simply raised in confinement but fed organic feed.  If the turkey was raised outside, did it have consistent access to grass and forages?  Are the pastures sprayed with anything? 

3.  Who raises the turkey and where?  Do you want a local farm?  A family farm?  A large scale farm?  An industry raised bird?  Store-bought turkeys will be labeled as to their origination, but you’ll need to ask farms directly if they raise their turkeys or buy them from another producer.  Turkeys take a long time to grow and not every farm can devote the time or resources to raising them.  It is always best to go visit the farm.  However, if you can't visit, look for pictures from throughout the growing season to ensure your Turkey is raised how you desire.  Turkeys are more than a majestic meal, they are live animals that deserve a respectful life.

4.  What kind of turkey is it?   An industrial bird will have different characteristics than a Heritage bird.  Heritage birds are generally smaller in frame and have a higher percentage of dark meat than industrial birds.  Industrial birds take longer to cook and will usually have a different texture of meat.  The type of Turkey you get will influence which recipe you use to prepare it. 

Here at Synergistic Acres, we answer all these questions and more and always invite people out to the farm to see the animals up close and personal.  You can also read many blog posts about how we raise our turkeys or watch a short video to see how farmers entertain themselves while raising turkeys.  We’d love to hear what additional questions you have.  

There are as many ways to raise a turkey as there are feathers on one.  No one way is perfect, you have to decide what is important to you.  Ask questions! 
Know your farmer, know your food.

Wednesday
Jun192013

a personal pet peeve of mine

Are you buying what you THINK you are buying?

Just a short two years ago, I didn't understand the labels on egg cartons.  I truly thought free-range chickens had access to pastures and that cage-free meant chickens lived outside.  I thought the beloved organic label meant living naturally, acting like a chicken.  It's not that the marketing told me that specifically, but rather that the image was encouraged on the packaging by lovely pictures of red barns with expansive green pastures AND I was basing my perceptions on my own experiences of a few small flocks I had seen.  You know, like at Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead!                                                                                                    
I also used to think that brown eggs were more natural than white eggs.  I thought the brown organic eggs at a wholesale grocery store were probably just as good as the ones I got from a farmer friend.  And possibly they were - depending how the chickens are raised.  Brown eggs are a more traditional 'fresh from the farm' color simply because some of the breeds that did well on old-fashion farmsteads laid brown eggs.  The egg industry has simply bred for prolific laying and it happened to be a breed that lays white eggs.  However, the egg industry decided to add value to their egg - feed the chicken organic feed and select a breed that lays brown eggs - and began charging more for this difference (generally while still debeaking the birds and raising them in tiny cages).                                                                                                                                               
The outside color - white, blue, green, brown, cream, pink - doesn't indicate quality in the least.  It's the inside color that showcases the quality of the egg.  A rich, near-orange yolk is proof positive that the bird that laid it had access to a variety of forages and insects.  Also look for a thick, firm yolk and strong albumin (the white part).                                                                                                                                                                    
          
What "Free Range," "Cage Free" Chickens Really look Like by The Healthy Home Economist is an article that gives a peek into what an egg with lots of nice labels on it really comes from.  The most important thing I gleaned from the article is the reminder to know where your food comes from.  Decide what is important to you and vote with your food dollars.                                                                                
In the case of eggs, if chickens eating all organic grains is important, buy organic eggs.  If you want to know that the chickens that laid your eggs were not confined to a cage, buy cage-free.  If you want chickens that browse pastures and free-range on grass, then look for pasture raised.  It's important to find out if your perception of how your food is raised matches your beliefs because every time you make a purchase, you are sending a message.
It's not easy.  Not only do you need to make a conscious decision about what is important to you, but you also might need to do some researching to find out if those labels mean what you think they mean.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
My pet peeve is when someone judges a product based on looks alone and decrees that it is the same as another product.  The brown egg I put in a carton is unlikely to be the same as the brown egg you might find at a grocery store and is possibly quite different than the egg raised at a different small farm.  As a food advocate for yourself and possibly others, you have to ensure that what you think you are buying is in fact what you are buying.
Thursday
Apr182013

antibiotics in your meat?

Stories like CNN's 'What government tests found in your meat' used to catch my eye for a quick read and then I'd be back to regular life.  But now, as a farmer, I see it with different eyes - I KNOW something can be done to correct this problem because I am DOING it.  And it has been done by others and can be done by more still. 

Love this excerpt (emphasis mine)

"Antibiotic use in animals is out of hand," said Dr. Gail Hansen, a veterinarian and senior officer for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, a project aimed at phasing out overuse of antibiotics in food production.

"We feed antibiotics to sick animals, which is completely appropriate, but we also put antibiotics in their feed and in their water to help them grow faster and to compensate for unhygienic conditions. If you have to keep the animals healthy with drugs, I would argue you need to re-examine the system. You don't take antibiotics preventively when you go out into the world."

And wouldn't this be awesome?!  Imagine if all animals were raised in healthy environments so that prophylactic antibiotics were unnecessary.

Mike Doyle, a microbiologist with the University of Georgia and the director for the university's Center for Food Safety, said, "farmers should use fewer antibiotics with their livestock, which he believes has happened over the past few years. "I predict within the next five years, the concept of using antibiotics as a prophylactic with animals is not going to continue."

The article reveals that 39%-81% of the meat tested contained antibiotic resistant bacteria, so there is definitely some room for reducing the amount of antibiotics in retail meat production.

Pasture raised animals at Synergistic Acres - healthy with nature's diet

As you probably know, we do not treat our animals with phophylactic antibiotics.  The organic locally milled feed with which we supplement the diet of our pigs and chickens is actually enriched with probiotics.  We'd rather encourage a healthy digestive system than prop up an unhealthy one.  

Monday
Apr082013

we are featured on a sustainable agriculture blog!


Seedstock, an online sustainable agriculture hub, featured us in a recent article.  Abbie Stutzer interviewed Jeff and wrote the article.  We think she presented many of the key points about our farm in her article and are humbled that Seedstock chose to feature Synergistic Acres.  Seedstock frequently profiles small farms and also shares research and ideas related to modern farming.
Check it out for yourself!  
Sunday
Oct072012

Story of the Prairie Ranger - Week 4

Giving chickens access to fresh grass twice a day is the "secret" to what makes our chicken so good!  When you raise a chicken outside it changes the product entirely!  This is very different than what is often labeled as "free range chickens."  Commercial store bought chicken labeled free range -- even organic free range -- is usually raised in a house with 10's of thousands of chickens with access to a dirt or gravel apron around the outside of the building.  This may add slightly to the welfare of the bird, but does not add any health benefit to the bird or later to the person eating the meat. On the contrary,  USDA studies have shown that chicken grown on grass has 50% less unhealthy fats than house raised chickens.  Other studies have shown there is tremendous differences in the omega-3-fatty acids between birds grown on pasture and in houses as well.  This is all due to the significant part of their diet coming from fresh grass and ample sunlight!  Our Prairie Rangers capitalize on these benefits better than any other of our birds because they are such voracious foragers and slow growers.

Week 4 (32 days to be exact)

Today was a big day for our Prairie Ranger chickens.  They were ready to go out on pasture.  Sometimes, we put our Prairie Ranger on pasture at three weeks of age, it just depends on how the birds have grown and the pasture and weather conditions (last night's freeze prompted us to wait until this week's nicer temps).  We loaded them from the brooder into their travel crates and then carted them out to the pasture that we chose for them.  There, they were put into the specially designed floorless pasture pens.  These allow us to keep the birds safe and secure, but also allows us to move them to new grass twice a day.  They will spend the next seven weeks enjoying the outdoor life on fresh new grass twice a day!

 

Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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