Why does this family farm need funding?
Many family farms would love to raise their laying hens outdoors, but transitioning birds from a life spent indoors, to pasture, costs money. Farmers often need more land, mobile fencing, upgraded housing, water and feed structures to raise their hens outdoors. Farming this way requires more labor, time and care on behalf of the farmers. We calculate the start-up costs of birds and infrastructure for a new pasture raised farmer at about $25 per hen. While some of our 16 family farmers are new to farming, many are also second and third generation chicken farmers. We relish the opportunity to help keep these families on their own land, doing what they love.
What is pasture-raised farming?
We pride ourselves on employing the most honest methods of pasture raising that we can, centered on a respect for our birds and our land. We achieve this by providing only the very best for our girls. It’s a very simple formula really: plenty of salad and exercise!
Keeping the birds on fresh pasture is a labor-intensive process. Regular weekly rotation also keeps our pastures resilient and our birds full of green nutrition. All our pastures are USDA Certified Organic, so of course we never use any pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals with our chickens, their eggs, or our pastures. This ensures no harmful runoff into our streams, rivers, and oceans. While a chicken can live on grass alone, laying hens do require a feed ration to facilitate egg production. We source the very best organic feed we can find, which is Certified Organic and free from GMO corn and pesticides. Our birds themselves are also certified organic from day one, and receive no antibiotics or hormones, ever. The life our hens enjoy is designed to promote their natural instinctive behaviors. Roaming, foraging, and living outdoors is how hens were designed to spend their time.
What is our solution to moving away from the factory farm model?
To put the current conditions of conventional farming into perspective; 95 percent of laying hens in the U.S. live their entire lives in cages shared with other bids, with no space to move, flap their wings or go outside. These tortured birds eat feed laced with GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, and blood and feather meal (from other chickens). They lay eggs onto a conveyor belt and defecate onto a conveyor belt. Caging birds is now illegal in the EU and California.
Four percent of laying hens live in “free-range” conditions, where they are still raised in barns with 100,000 other hens. There is no “range” to speak of; these birds never breathe fresh air or see a blade of grass. Even organic laying hens are for the most part, raised indoors, and do not roam outside or forage grass like our hens.
At Vital Farms, we work with small family farmers to produce the best tasting eggs with the absolute highest standards of animal welfare in the country. The more successful we are in our campaign, the more farmers we can work with and the more birds we can save from life in a cage.