Organic Animal Farming listen02/07/11 Sadia Ahmed
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Organic animal farming is becoming more popular. Consumer awareness of some negative health effects of inorganic chickens and eggs is increasing. WMNF’s Sadia Ahmed reports on the differences between organic animal farming and factory farming.
Live Oak resident Denis Stoltzfoos, provides organic meat, milk, and eggs to 200 families in Florida. The owner of Full Circle farm has been in the organic poultry farming business for last 8 years. Organic farming differs greatly from factory farming.
“Aaa, night and day. We are small and we are chemical free, the opposite of factory farm where everything is done on pasture, nothing is confined. Everything is free ranged or open pasture. Like our cows spend 23 and a half hours a day in the pasture and are only brought in for milking and that takes only about half an hour. We have chickens, cows, and goats. We do meat, milk, and eggs the old way like it was done a 100 years ago without chemicals”
Stoltzfoos says chickens in organic farming are raised cage-free on a natural diet that includes insects.
"Well, our chickens for example are allowed to be a chicken. They are allowed to peck and scratch and roam freely on open pastures. They eat bugs and grubs and things like that. I laugh when I see eggs in the health food store from vegetarian hens but they are free ranged. There is no hen is a vegetarian if she is truly free ranged. Throw a pack of ham burger into a herd of chickens and they will eat it in 20 seconds."
Chuck Cunnigham of University of South Florida has been living in Florida for the last 20 years. He grew up in Long Island, New York where he had his own organic farm with chickens, ducks, and horses. But because of cost and availability, he buys inorganic animal products.
“We used chickens for the eggs and we did use some of the chickens to eat, which was very tasty. I mean not like today. You know, I mean I know what I fed the chickens. They were fed good grains so that they grew up healthy and strong. And the eggs were always good.”
Cunningham says now in FL he buys eggs and chickens from regular grocery stores. The taste of organic and inorganic poultry differs greatly and so does the price.
"I buy eggs from the groceries, chickens from the groceries stores, which I have no idea what they are fed and how they are grown. But you gotta eat. You know what I am saying. It is not the same as when I was younger. The taste difference was just more natural years ago you know when I had my own chickens and my own eggs. Today I don’t know, they have it seem to be like artificial or injected with stuff to keep them looking good and tasting good. But there is a difference in taste. There is a big price difference too. And in this economy today with the economy the way it is I guess you have to go with the lowest."
Nicole Lebeau, spokesperson for Sweetbay Supermarket, says the grocery chain offers both organic and inorganic eggs. The organic food at Sweetbay is more expensive than their factory counterparts.
"Our eggs actually come from an organization called Cal-Maine and they are located right in our backyard in Zephyrhills, Florida. Sweetbay carries both organic and non-organic eggs. Yah! Typically a customer is going to find organic eggs and organic poultry is probably going to be doubled from the actual price and our prices vary from week to week. So if you consider what you pay for traditional poultry and eggs your organic is probably going to be twice as much"
The cows in Denis Stoltzfoos’s organic farm are fed nutrient dense grass to produce milk. Florida soil has been treated with natural products to produce nutrient dense grass.
"No grains, we do not feed any grains to our herbivores. Our cows eat green grass. To make nutrient dense milk you have to have nutrient dense food for these animals. So the cows need grasses that are nutrient dense. Florida soil is very lacking, very sandy, and very poor. But you have to build them up too. We came here with a half percent organic matter or humus in the soil. Now we have it built up to 5 percent. You have to have nutrient holding capacity in your soil if you wanna grow nutrient dense grasses."
The chickens in the inorganic poultry farms are kept in close confinement where they are injected with artificial antibiotics. Stoltzfoos blamed last fall’s salmonella outbreak in eggs on factory farming.
“OK, well all those outbreaks are happening from factory farming. There is 300,000 chickens in one building. There are too many chickens in one place. That is what we call concentration camps for chickens. The chickens never see one day of their whole life fresh air and sunshine. Two thirds of the anti-biotic produced today goes to animal feeding. And it is very sad. We are ruining the immune system of our animals. And that is why we are having disease outbreaks.”
Cunningham, who used to have his own farm, agrees.
"When I was younger I never had that problem or that worry of salmonella. Because like I said, I know the chickens were being fed organic food and taken care of."
Both Stoltzfoos and Cunningham say it is easy to raise a few chickens in your own backyard that can supply sufficient eggs to feed a whole family.
"You don’t need but a quarter of an acre to have a few chickens in your back yard. There is henspa.com. There is a guy who makes these neat little chicken coups. You can have five to six, seven birds in your back yard. Fresh eggs everyday— absolutely what a nutritional treat! My friend and nutrition guru Jerry Brunetti calls eggs hen fruit."
"I would just suggest to try and have a couple of chickens of your own and feed them. And have your own eggs. And you know what you are feeding them. Your eggs will be a lot better than what you buy in the stores."