The Best Medicine is No Medicine

Raising Drug-Free Chicken

Thankfully most of you understand the reality of food labeling. “Free-range” isn’t really free and chickens aren't vegetarian so why feed them corn and soy? You also know that pasture-raised, where the birds are actually outdoors on pasture and do what chickens were born to do, is what you want to feed your family.

But almost no one pays attention to the vaccinations chicks had before they started their journey to chicken labeling or the antibiotics their breeder flocks may have been fed. We hope to change that.

Our meat chickens are from the family-owned and operated Welp Hatchery in Bancroft, Iowa established in 1929 by Joseph H. Welp. When our birds from Welp are one-day old they are packed with plenty of water, warmth and ventilation and put on a plane to California, Priority Mail. They arrive happy, healthy and unaware they’ve just won the lottery for a stress-free life filled with fresh air, sunshine, lots of exercise, eating bugs and pecking around on pasture here at Tara Firma.

But why not just buy from someone nearby? Well, it’s not so easy. Most commercial hatcheries automatically administer vaccination for Marek’s disease the day of hatch. We’re not against vaccinations per se and can understand their necessity for birds in the toxic conditions of a factory farm--similar to the way you might want mosquito repellant if you were in a Louisiana swamp. But our birds aren’t raised in caged or cramped conditions where they are likely to get sick so they don’t need the vaccination. We figure “why vaccinate for a disease we’ve never had a problem with?”

Unfortunately we can’t get hatcheries to make that exception for just our birds. While we buy several hundred chicks at a time, to the commercial hatcheries we’re the smallest fish in the poultry pond. They won't change their processes just to accommodate our small order. Luckily our friends at Welp Hatchery don’t mind our special requests and are willing to make sure the chicks they send us are vaccine free.

Even more important is that the birds are antibiotic free. According to the National Chicken Council, all chicken sold at grocery stores is technically “antibiotic-free” in the sense that no antibiotic residues are present in the meat due to the withdrawal periods and other precautions required by the government. But what we want are birds that never saw an antibiotic. Many hatcheries both treat disease with antibiotics and also administer sub-therapeutic doses daily to promote weight gain. We steadfastly avoid antibiotics because once you you give them you have to keep giving them. It not only permeates the meat but also destroys the microbes in the soil from antibiotic-laced poo. Our chicks from Welp are also antibiotic free. Really, truly antibiotic free.

So while our chicks have a thousand frequent-flyer miles before they ever touch foot on the farm, we have the piece of mind knowing they were untainted before arriving here and certainly destined to say that way.