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Posts posted by StanSherman

  1. Maybe someone can try the eggs and report back. 

    I have bought those $8 eggs when they were $6 eggs. They are real farm eggs! With the feed cost increases, and extra transportation costs for the Yoga instructors, it’s no wonder they sell out at such a bargain price!

    Good thing we only have a flock just for the family right now, or those Marin egg whores would have us out of business by now, selling that cheap.

  2. I have to ask, what is a farmette hunt?  You're searching for small, female farms?

    A farm with a “hot” body…

    Searching for a small-scale farm. Here in Northern California, 20 acres can be a sizable organic produce farm. When we first started looking for a farm in Iowa, once people heard we raised chickens, they immediately steered us towards “chicken operations”. Places with buildings to house 60-90 thousand birds in each one. We raise a breed that is very similar to a Bresse chicken. Truly small flock, outdoors on pasture, milk-finished, and locally hand-processed.

    We still want a few acres of crops and animal feed for family use, plus room for a small orchard of heirloom fruit trees and garden, but the “farm enterprise” would be the chickens. We want to be in an area with a bit of isolation because we do heirloom seed saving - we currently have 15 beans and 15 tomatoes, to name a few, that we offer through Seed Savers.

  3. I’m not sure we can be of any help, but who knows. We will be spending the first 2 weeks of July traveling the Northern half of Iowa on our rural-focused farmette hunt. We have a very loose itinerary and are going to wander around exploring wherever we feel like going. We may run into some interesting food or drink finds along the way that we can alert you to.

    We will be going through much of the area in which the first few days of the race is being run, since we haven’t been through that section of Iowa, yet. I suspect you are already familiar with the available interesting foods closer to the finish.

  4. They take care of preparing the bird for you.

    There is special equipment that allows them to quickly slaughter, de-feather, and blanch for pinfeathers within a few brief moments while you wait. It is a cost that is built into the "price per pound".

    They bleed the bird.  Place it into a "scalder" and then it goes into a "Plucker".  A plucker is like a clothes dryer with rubber fingers all over.  One to several birds roll around in there and the feathers are exhausted.

    As noted earlier in the thread, it is a good idea to go the day before to allow the bird to rest in the refrigerator overnight for tenderness.

    Four is even better

    Someone also mentioned earlier being worried about going to these places "now" and I am assuming it is from a fear of bird flu.

    Is there anyone out there capable of speaking knowledgeably upon this subject for us?

    I know a fair amount since we have a small chicken farm

    There are no markets near where I live, so the subject has not come up "personally", but certainly it is of some interest.

    Naturally, these sorts of places do have to be licensed and I would imagine that they are regulated very closely. . .

    The bird flu that is the big worry in not currently around. The concern is a bird to bird transmission mutating into one that will effect humans. Birds pass diseases easily to each other since they huddle together while sleeping for warmth.

  5. My sweetie raised all three of her kids on fresh goats milk that she milked. I've never seen any of them with even a cold. Its the kids in the sterile city environment who are always getting sick.

    Goat milk is expensive because goats only produce about a gallon a day and they don't produce anything for about five months a year.

    Her one boy got in trouble in gramer school when the teacher asked the kids "where does milk come from?" He got into an argument with her because everyone knows it comes from goats.

  6. Stan, I'm not sure why you'd cut the pink salt in half.  It's not adding perceptible salt to the mix, but the "cured" flavor that you expect in a hot dog comes right from the pink salt.  Without it I'm thinking you'll have basically a beef sausage, as opposed to a hot dog.  By the way, when I made that recipe I liked it a lot better with a few drops of liquid smoke added - and I really do mean a few drops.

    I'm concerned that there is so much pink and kosher salt in the corned beef brine that it may get too salty. I thought I'd do a little cold smoke like we did the last batch of hot dogs.

  7. Dag,

    It looks like the chicken that I’d like you to taste are not going to be available until late spring. It’s almost gone underground. They only seem to do well, as outside birds thus none are available in the winter. The avian flu concerns may make them really scarce commercially.

    Outdoor raised birds are harder to get here than pot. Ten miles from us is a Farmers’ Market that advertises pot plants and clones in the newspaper. My passion is to grow the best tasting chicken we can. It may not make it off our farm due to economics, but it is still a passion.

    What seems to make great meat bird is their passion for chow. They are like tuna that eat everything in their sight. If the avian flu issues continue we may have to find a down and out veterinarian who will give marijuana medial recommendations to our flock. Do you think people will buy “Munchie Birds”, birds who eat like monsters, fed brownies and then super corn and milk laced curds to finish them off?

    I’m not sure if you guys have seen the Foster’s Farm commercials on TV in your area. They have a couple of chickens driving around with pizza, donut boxes, and the rest of the vehicle filled with sundry junk food containers. Well, the guy who came up with that must have spent some time with meat birds.

  8. Stan, thanks for the stories.  It is fascinating to learn more about  chicken farming.

    On a different note, but relevant to the thread (I hope), does anyone know anything about the Friendly Farm chickens available through Philadelphia Winter Harvest?  I have one coming in a delivery next week, and I'm hoping it is good.

    Their online information seems a little slim. Since I'm now somewhat invested into your areas poulty evaluation I'd appreciate an update.

  9. We made the Chicago style hot dogs and they turned out pretty good. Our technique is getting better, but we are still waiting for a new KA mixer, which I think, will help in the emulsification process. I’m hell bent on doing corned beef hot dogs with our own homemade sauerkraut. My idea is to use raw brined beef in the same recipe as the Chicago dogs with the kosher and pink salt cut in half (at least). Do you see any problems?

  10. I find it strange that they are not getting involved in methane production. Seems like a win-win especialy for factory farms as they could suplement there energy costs.

    Smithfield announced a few years ago that they were going to build a twenty million-dollar facility to convert pig poo into bio-diesel. I’m not sure it will even work, but I seriously don’t believe a twenty million-dollar facility will process that much. It’s about enough to build a facility about the size of a Home Depot.

    Two of the counties in North Carolina have about 125,000 people. The hog waste is the equivalent to 3.7 million people and hog waste is a little more toxic. It’s going to be a big investment and from my experience anything that is good for the environment needs a higher return than normal to get corporate America to do it.

    I honestly speak with some experience. Solar in many applications in California is now a no brainier. In one case I could get a company 100% financing, quite a hefty tax credit and a guarantee of a 10% energy saving based on today’s rates. Positive cash flow from day one and they wouldn’t buy it.

    You are right, it is strange.

  11. Other than tradition why so early? Would milking them at say 6 AM make that much of a difference?

    Because they also need to be milked in the evening. Think 12 hour cycles 7 days a week. If they milk at 6pm they end up with no time for the family in the evening. On Sunday's many milk and then go to church thus they need to get it done in time.

    The big operations have milking going on around the clock on 10-15 minute intervals rotating a large herd through a smaller number of milking stations.

    Dairy farms usually make fair money, but they get no life.

  12. Steve,

    The idea that technology is going to solve all our problems is already a hotly debated topic. Many believe the technology that is being pushed may be creating more problems than it is solving. A few large companies are making profits and people can buy cheaper food, but are we paying for it with health problems?

    About thirty years ago, we spent about 24% of our income on food. Now it’s about 10%. Now we have more money to buy more crap at Wal-Mart, and can pay the interest on our over extended credit cards.

    I’m certainly not technology phobic. I really enjoy the fact that you and I can have this discussion from 2000 miles away, but when it comes to farming the trends truly disturb me. There is a better way to grow healthy and tasty food and my hope is we don’t lose those ways.

    You don’t hear chefs like Thomas Keller bragging about how they serve a chop from Shitfield. Usually you hear about purveyors who raise an extremely high quality product by means that are quite old. Every time we got into how to raise the best chickens we ended up talking to some Amish guy. We spent several days on Amish farms in the past couple of years and only wish the American public would have learned more about them than their buggies when those school girls were murdered. The place we want is walking distance from a one-room Amish schoolhouse, and spending a little time with those girls was precious. They make puppies seem evil. It takes some time to truly understand their resistance to adopting every new thing that comes along.

    BTW, The feed lots stink because they have large numbers of cattle in a concentrated space for the final finishing. They are also raised on pasture, but depending on many factors, they are fed 1-6 months of (typically) corn before they are harvested. During the summer they water the whole mess down to cool the cattle, so it really gets stinky with ammonia and other smells.

    Many small-scale producers feel that the animals grow better when they have fresh air. It does make sense, since they get oxygen via their lungs, too.

  13. you can't judge a farm by its stink. this is in no way a defense of factory farming, but gentle sensibilities should not go where animals are raised. i was just at a live poultry shop and even though teh chickens are held there less than 24 hours, the odor was penetrating.

    Urban folks moving into farm areas is a real problem just as really smelly or dirty operations moving into one. Many of the farm zoning regulations we written prior to any of these super-size facilities. They did not comprehend the enormous volume that they would be putting out in a relativily small acreage. California requires purchasers near agricultural areas to sign a statement stating that they are aware that they do not have the right to stop an exhisting operation from doing what they have already been doing.

    I bring up the "stink" factor because that is the major reason these facilities are getting flack. Surely a hungry country town welcomes the economic impact.

  14. A pig farm stinks. A big pig farm stinks big.

    We are trying to by a farm in Iowa. In the Midwest they basically grow corn, soy and alfalfa. They raise pigs, dairy cows and beef. In California we grow hundreds of the other varieties. Cows and beef are reasonably big. Pigs aren’t around here much.

    Because of our lack of knowledge in corn, the family that is hopefully selling us the farm sold off 40 acres of the corn, but left the balance for us. They restricted the deed to not allow “hogs”. We’ve been told to basically stay at least eight miles away for any mid to large size hog farm.

    Have you ever driven by a cattle feed lot in the summer? Pretty big stink. I don’t know anyone who lives in farm areas who likes the smell of hogs over cows.

    Researchers at the University of Iowa found an unusually high rate of respiratory problems among people who lived near a 4,000-sow hog confinement facility. Certainly the Smithfield plant with 30,000 hogs a day going through must have some serious impact.

    The new large facilities are called “farrow-to-finish”. They are born, raised and processed without trucking them. Their economics depend on volume. They have a huge capital investment so their bottom line is much more sensitive to volume than the price of feed.

  15. I'm no defender of the factory "farms", but have you ever seen what hogs do to the landscape if left to their own devices? :hmmm:

    There are some really smart farmers who use those traits in pigs instead of tractors. There is tons of middle ground between "pigs gone wild" and Smithfield.

  16. Does anyone have recommendations for finding a small processor?  I have tried without much luck via localharvest.com - perhaps I should try phone contact rather than email?

    I'd be more than happy to help. Farmers' are not real quick on e-mail for the most part. This is a great time of the year to look into pork. Pastured pork is becomming available.

    How many people are you feeding? Are you willing to commit to a few cubic feet of freezer storage?

  17. Yeah I read that article the other day, and it really makes the case for getting pork form small local producers. Bacon...sooooo tasty though.

    Have you had bacon from a small processor? If a couple of families split a hog and have the meat locker process it you will have some incredable bacon along with well priced and great pork.

  18. Thanks for the virtual tour link. It's now of the top of my list for absolute corporate bullshit. They give a number to call for more bull. I may just do that for giggles.

    See the cute piglets. Here’s how we smoke bacon “naturally” in a plant that processes 30,000 hogs a day. Tell the Sierra Club to take a vacation because we’re taking care of the environment.

    I guess we can throw out our home cured bacon from our Berkshire. No way can I compete with the “gold standard”. I love such meaningful statements like “we meet or exceed the standards set by the USDA” Isn’t that kinda like saying; Gee we do what’s required and maybe a little more. Maybe we should give them an award for not throwing babies into the smokehouse too.

  19. Stan, thanks for this fascinating peek inside a world that I suspect most of us have little knowledge of. I think it's pretty cool of you to share this with us - keep the posts coming and good luck with the USDA


    I will protest the USDA’s actions but the public is the one that needs the good luck. My primary income is not dependent upon poultry. Somehow I accidentally turned a hobby/passion into a business. No matter what they do we can still grow birds for our family. Not everyone has that option. People in Pennsylvania have it pretty good. You can drive out to a farm and get great birds. I’ll take a frozen pastured chicken over the fresh commercial ones any day.

    We’ve had a good look into some facilities since we’ve considered buying one. It started with an Amish 160-acre farm in Indiana with an on-site USDA licensed facility. I believe it’s the only USDA license on the actual farm site in the country. The license is necessary to sell across state lines. Our idea was to produce the finest bird possible and sell to fine restaurants. Processing them at the farm reduces stress. The family runs a nice volume with twelve kids all living in a singlewide. When we figured out how much it was going to cost to add the missing labor to the operation it just didn’t pencil out too well.

    We’re planning to move to Iowa so when we told some farm brokers we raise chickens they all assumed we wanted what they knew to be a poultry operation. It gave us an opportunity to get insight into the larger operations. I don’t consider commercial chicken unsafe, just not an environment we care to live in. The smell is pretty nasty and it’s not a pleasant place. There does need to be a way to feed the masses of this country, but the size of the companies in our food chain scare me. Regulation isn’t the answer. They can pass all the rules they want and someone will figure a way around them.

    I applaud you folks for having the curiosity to actually learn and care about what you shove into the top hole. The marketing power of the big boys is unbelievable.

  20. We are pretty new to “farming” although we have grown and raised much of our own food for years. We started with a twenty acre raw piece of land near the rural housing development that we live in. There are about 3000 people in the area. We decided to build the dream CSA farm that we always wanted to have nearby. Chickens were a big part of the initial soil program. We are very aware of the issues with chicken manure and mad spinach disease, but I’m not going to go into that here and now.

    We first started with the girls. We had about a hundred hens with a large hen house on a flatbed trailer. Inside is straw on the floor, food, water, roosts and nests that roll the eggs out to the side access doors. This house is inside of portable electric fencing to keep the predators out. They are outside during the day and closed in for additional protection at night. The idea of the trailer is to move the birds on a regular basis so they have new pasture with bugs and seeds etc to scratch and pick at. It also distributes the poop around better.

    On top of that, we had two Anotolian/Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs with the chickens, specially bred and trained to bond with the birds and protect them. They were also enclosed inside of portable electric fencing.

    The third area contained a few hundred broilers. Four breeds from French genetics that are usually grown to Label Rouge standards. Our methods exceeded those. Our boy built them a straw bale maze to keep them occupied and amused. It really worked well, and they enjoyed pecking at the bales. We had a few regrets with the maze during round-up. They were very clever and better at running through it than us with a net! These are very active, healthy birds!

    In another area we had a mixed pasture that was seeded and grown for chicken tractors with Cornish X birds in them. A chicken tractor is basically a wood-framed, rectangular box with chicken wire surrounding all the sides, but not the bottom. It forces the birds onto new pasture when it gets moved every morning. 50 birds per tractor eat about the correct amount of grass necessary to supplement their food supply for tasty meat.

    We hauled special, organic, custom-milled feed from 5 hours away. It took a full day, every 4 weeks, to haul the flocks’ three tons worth of feed. It was a labor of love, to raise the perfect chickens. And perfect food for them to grow and thrive on is a big part of that. We pamper our birds in every way.

    Now, Cornish X birds are repulsive birds. Cornish X birds have a pretty high mortality rate. Ten percent is common. We averaged less than five. This means a couple birds a week go into the compost pile. Not very desirable, but just a fact of life. No farmer wants to see birds that have been brooded and fed lost. That’s where you hear the disaster stories of the large growers hauling truckloads of dead birds. 90,000 birds times 5% for 6.5 weeks is 700 a day out of just one building. The big guys usually have several.

    It’s not bad farming that causes the losses. What most people don’t know is that Cornish X are bred to grow so fast, they begin having heart attacks and crippling leg problems as they grow, and they either die naturally, or we have to put them down humanely next morning when we move the tractor. To the non-understanding non-farmer, it looks bad. We didn’t like this facet of this hybrid breed, either (and will no longer grow them), but we had to have some so we could compare the French genetics’ flavors and textures to “regular” home-grown birds.

    One of day, we were coming home from town and we drove down the road to find a dog catcher truck parked by our pens. He was standing inside the dog pen, petting them. He had driven by a no trespassing sign with our phone number on it, (for bio-security safety of the animals – visitors must wash and disinfect their hands and boots) and he had just gone about willy-nilly touching and handling all our things. Who knows what sick dog he had picked up 30 minutes ago, and now he’s handling our special ones without being clean?

    Although we explained our bio-concerns, and barely contained our anger at his dumb attitude, and it didn’t get through to him what he had done. He had the right to come on our place, yes, but not like this! He even admitted he knew nothing about chickens and didn’t know what he was even looking at. He just saw the food and water, the clean, luxurious hen house, and so he guessed they were okay. He did see the one Cornish X that had decided to croak that afternoon in the tractor, but even he knew some meat birds die. But he had to write everything up in a report, and no, we couldn’t have a copy of it, it was secret. But he did tell us someone had been on the property and had seen the chickens in the tractor and thought we were cruel to them and reported us. We’re debating if we should place a flyer in her mailbox inviting people to a rooster semen collection seminar.

    With all the bio-security/avian flu issues floating around the large producers have a great excuse to keep the public away from seeing how birds are raised. We were so over the top on our methods we are a laughing stock within some poultry circles. We are proud of how we handle our birds, but will be situated in a much more secluded area when we move.

    The USDA will eventually make the rules so ridiculous that small-scale pastured poultry are either going to be very expensive or gone. I’m not saying it’s their intention, but they have become such a behemoth of a bureaucracy they have no ability to do well for the small farms. The USDA budget now exceeds the actual agricultural product value in the U.S. They have now created a new and shiney bureaucratic nightmare for small farms called NAIS (National Animal Identification System) with which they wish to track every animal in the food system individually. The idea started with cattle and radio ID tags. Not a big problem $10/cow is not going to put anyone out of business. They have re-written the poultry rules to allow a full flock to be counted as one. So 90,000 birds are one report. If you have them truly free ranging they need little ankle bracelets and one won’t work for their full life so they may need up to three since they grow so fast.

    Many of the high-quality poultry producers are Amish. They have been very successful at it since they have very large families and chicken care can be done by young ones. Their beliefs don’t allow them to let animals bear their mark.

    I just can’t imagine how the U.S. government is going to track billions of animals when they can’t even track known child molesters.

    Welcome to my world!

  21. Thanks, it’s nice get some encouragement on an issue that I’m so passionate about. Chickens aren’t much of a glamour business. I spent the first forty years of my life in Los Angeles. As a kid there was a local poultry shop where the guy actually cut up and processed the birds from no further away than fifty miles away. It took me years of trying to duplicate the fried chicken from childhood and only until we had our own flock of birds did I realize it was not my cooking technique but the main ingredient that was the problem.

    I like shopping at Whole Foods. It’s pretty and they have gorgeous stuff. Unfortunately, they are large enough that if all the ultra-premium poultry producers put together sold just to them, only a few stores could be supplied.

    Hens are a blast! You can treat them more like pets. Broilers, with the rare exception, are Cornish X birds and they are just nasty. You can’t wait to kill them. The birds we are continuing forward with are much more likable and really tough to catch. We have to get them in the dark while their sleeping.

    If you want I have a great story of “the PETA lady and our county dog catcher” It’s about our birds.


    Yes, the second one is a rooster. The top one is a hen.

  22. perhaps this is a debate for another thread, but a friend of mine who grew up on a farm told me that he would never eat free range chicken because chickens when they are out in the field will peck and eat just about anything including chicken feces.

    I agree that the raising of chickens in battery cages and debeaking is indeed hideous, but I'm not so sure that free range is necessarily so great either (for the consumer).

    Lots of animals eat poop. Ever have a Golden Retriever? I'm no expert, but if the opportunity to eat poop was an issue, then why would you eat a chicken who sat in it's own poop all the time, as most do.

    Chickens for eating are called "broilers" and they aren't raised in battery cages. They are generally (99.99%) crammed into a grow house with 90,000 birds, or just 60,000 birds in the case of "free-range”. They have a food and water supply at the front end and a conveyor to take away the poop at the back end. The birds sleep at night and during the day eat, drink, fart and poop. Once in a while one of the deranged birds goes wild and roams about 5-6 feet away from the food. The efficiency is remarkable, but not a pretty thing. Most people would not eat chicken if they ever walked into a poultry house.

    Properly pastured birds are given a very adequate supply of proper feed and water. When they are kept in “tractors” they are moved daily, so they fertilize the soil and forage the fresh pasture bugs, seeds and grass as a food supplement. We have not seen any chickens eating poop. Corn is like crack to them and they do appreciate variety in their diet.

    In small scale chicken farming our profit is in the chicken poop. It’s what we use for our soil. For the money invested we’d be better off putting it into a 3% savings account and sleeping in of a morning.

    The battery cages are used for birds that lay eggs. In the case of layers, there is such a huge difference in the taste and quality of a hen’s eggs that free-roams around a farm and pecks at poop, getting the bugs and maggots, you would not believe it. Those kinds of eggs are so full of Omega 3 fatty acids that it actually counteracts the cholesterol in the egg being bad for you. The yolks are deep orange, and the whites are incredibly firm and strong, unlike any store-bought egg.

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