Evaluating Pasture-Based Poultry Systems: Potential Contribution to Farm Diversification, Human Nutrition, and Marketing Alternatives

Final Report for LNC97-121

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1997: $89,348.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $109,800.00
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
George Stevenson
UW-Madison, Center for Integrated Ag. Systems
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Project Information

Summary:

According to Allan Nation, the editor of The Stockman Grass Farmer, pastured poultry is an agricultural production model “…which is capable of producing an income from a small acreage equal or superior to that of most off farm jobs…(and) is capable of producing a very high quality of life…” (Salatin, iv). The greatest marketing tool of pastured poultry is the claim that it is a high quality product. This project, “Evaluating Pasture Based Poultry Systems: Potential Contributions to Farm Diversification, Human Nutrition, and Marketing Alternatives”, was designed to study these claims.

The project joined university scientists with farmers and other agri-professionals in a participatory research approach to evaluate the important socio-economic and human nutrition dimensions associated with pastured poultry systems on small and medium. Only half of the processors interviewed were satisfied with their businesses and sure that they could continue operating with few changes into the future diversified farms. Five farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota were used as case studies. The project was the beginning of ongoing work that will provide important scientific data for informing and setting standards for pastured poultry enterprises in the United States.

The first objective of the project was to evaluate if grass-based poultry systems had the capacity to significantly contribute to the beneficial diversification of the farm economics and quality of life. The economic analysis focused on the profitability and capital requirements of the pastured poultry enterprise. The results showed that returns and costs were highly variable and that total net returns were relatively small. The net return per bird ranged from $1.33- $7.05. The median net return per bird was $3.73 and the mean was $3.87. The quality of life analysis had both a quantitative and qualitative component. During the summers of 1998 and 1999 farmers kept labor logs for a month long quantitative analysis. Labor hours per bird ranged from 0.168 to 1.06 hours per bird. The median was 0.294 and the mean was 0.419 labor hours per bird. Individual farmer interviews on quality of life issues were also conducted during the summers of 1998 and 1999 to begin a qualitative analysis.

In order to evaluate the important human nutrition claims associated with pastured-poultry emphasis was placed on fat, cholesterol, texture, flavor, and microbiological analyses. Data was collected from chickens raised in the summers of 1997 and 1998. Nutritional analysis showed that there is no significant difference between the nutrition of a pastured poultry bird and a conventionally raised bird. Taste testing to compare birds raised using different production systems also showed no significant difference. Microbial analysis on processing facilities conducted during 1999 showed that on farm processing methods are as sanitary as a USDA inspected bird.

The third objective was to investigate the marketing opportunities and challenges for pastured poultry products. Emphasis was placed on the processing and regulatory components of the marketing infrastructure. During1997-98 the laws surrounding on-farm slaughter and sale of poultry in WI and MN were clarified and a complete list of processors available for small-scale poultry processing in WI and MN was made. In Wisconsin, there is a shortage of small-scale processors. Interviews with small-scale processors during the summer of 2000 revealed that these processors often struggled with their businesses and were not sure that they could continue operating without making significant changes. Finally, during the summer of 1999 a pastured poultry consumer survey was conducted. Most consumers buy pastured poultry because they believe that it tastes better.

Potential contributions of the project include: analysis of the viability of pastured poultry for small diversified farms; appraisal of the impacts of state and federal regulations on small-scale poultry processors; comparative evaluation of the human nutritional content of meat from differing poultry production systems; and the provision of preliminary scientific data for developing standards for an emerging pastured poultry industry in the U.S.

Project Objectives:

1. Evaluate the capacity of grass-based poultry systems to significantly contribute to the beneficial diversification of small and midsize farms. Emphasis will be placed on economic and quality of life issues.

2. Evaluate important human nutrition-related claims associated with the products of pastured poultry systems. Emphasis will be placed on fat, cholesterol, texture, flavor, and microbiological analysis.

3. Investigate marketing opportunities and challenges for pastured poultry system products. Emphasis will be placed on the processing and regulatory components of the marketing infrastructure.

Research

Materials and methods:
Methods / Approach

Objective #1:
In order to understand how the pastured poultry enterprise fits into the whole system, the economic evaluation includes an enterprise analysis and whole-farm analysis. The analysis was done using the computer programs from the FINPACK series of computer programs from the University of Minnesota. Richard Klemme and Kathryn Pereira collected data for 1997 from farm records during on farm visits during March of 1998. Notes were kept about how to keep better records for 1998 and 1999. During the winter of 1999 information was collected about the finances from the summer of 1998. The program yielded information on the enterprise capital requirements and how these requirements impact on whole farm profitability, liquidity, and solvency measures as well as measures of enterprise feasibility.

The quality of life analysis for 1998 and 1999 included a time-use study and interviews. The time use study took place simultaneously on each farm from June 14th- July 11th 1998 and June 13th –July 10th 1999. Visits were made by George Stevenson and Kathryn Pereira to each farm before the study began in 1998 so that researches could view each farm and make sure that farmers understood how to record data. Because the farmers and researches felt that they could not fully anticipate the labor categories for pastured poultry farmers recorded activities in their own words across each 24 hour time period.

When collating the data Kathryn Pereira created consistent categories in pastured poultry across all five farms and aggregated other data by individual enterprises or broad category, e.g. off farm work. This method reduced the size of a miscellaneous pastured poultry category. In 1999 the labor categories developed after the 1998 study were used as a model way to record time use in pastured poultry. Data from the 1998 and 1999 labor logs will be used to better estimate the percentage of time spent in each enterprise for the financial analysis for 1998 and 1999.

Qualitative analysis began with individual farmer interviews conducted by George Stevenson and Kathryn Pereira in June 1998 and August 1999. Finally, to complement the interviews, a group discussion with four of the five farmers on the role of pastured poultry on the farm took place at our biannual research meeting on November 19th, 1999.

Objective #2:
During the first year of the project, meat from pastured chickens (two farms representing a range of pasture and supplemental feeding systems), and from conventionally raised poultry (one sample from University of Wisconsin chickens raised on litter and two samples of commercially-raised chickens from the supermarket) were compared for the mandatory nutrition labeling that includes total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, calcium and iron as well as for conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content. The sampling and analyses were replicated to add validity to the data.

Comparisons between the three categories of birds (pastured, university, and supermarket) were made at the usual market age of today’s broilers (6 weeks of age) and at a later time consistent with a typical market age of pastured poultry (8-9 weeks of age: pastured and university chickens only). The birds were harvested following home slaughter (Maurer, 1979), university (Maurer, 1979), or commercial practices (Bryant, et al., 1982) practices. Fresh (unfrozen) carcasses were deboned and samples were frozen for later analyses. Tests were conducted on the meat as sold (raw).

Most of the chemical analyses (e.g. moisture in the drying oven, fat using ether extraction, protein by Kjeldahl, and ash in a muffle furnace) were conducted in the University of Wisconsin Department of Animal Sciences laboratories following standard procedures (AOAC, 1990). An HPLC method (extraction and saponification) was used to determine cholesterol in the meat (Beyer and Jensen, 1989). A gas chromatography technique (University of Wisconsin Food Research Institute) was employed to obtain a fatty acid profile whereby the saturated fat content was ascertained. Calories, calories from fat, and carbohydrates were determined by calculation based on the proximate analyses conducted in the lab. A commercial testing laboratory (Covance, Madison WI) analyzed Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, calcium, iron, and sodium. The University of Wisconsin Food Research Institute provided CLA testing. Fat and meat color were measured with a Minolta meter on the standard L (lightness), a (redness), and b (yellowness) scale (Baardseth, et al., 1988).

During the second year of the project, a sensory evaluation on cooked chicken breast meat using chickens from the same sources as in Year 1 was conducted at the Food Science Department Sensory Evaluation Lab. All carcasses were heat-processed to an internal temperature of 180 F in a convection oven. The breast meat were cut into 20g samples and served warm to approximately 30 semi-trained taste panelists seated in individual booths. The panelists were asked to evaluate the visual appearance attributes; the texture/mouthfeel attributes the flavor attributes and the overall acceptability.

Northland Laboratories, a commercial testing laboratory, did all of the chemical analyses (excluding CLA). The University of Wisconsin Food Research Institute provided CLA testing. Northland Laboratories also tested chicken guts from each source for Salmonella and Campylobacter.

During 1999, the microbiological levels associated with the on-farm and university processing enterprises were evaluated. These were done using E. coli, coliform, and enterococci counts. The whole carcass rinse method (USFDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual 1995 ed.) will be used to sample poultry carcasses. In addition, microbiological analyses were performed on the on-farm processing procedures employed at the Hastings farm in Wyoming, MN. During visits to the farm, various pieces of processing equipment (e.g., defeathering machine, evisceration tables, packaging station, knives) and the walls and floor of the processing room were sampled.

Objective #3:
The types and capacities of poultry processing businesses in WI and MN have been evaluated. Gerry Campbell and Kathryn Pereira have visited with extension specialists, small processors, and officials at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection in order to gain insight and accurate information about the rules, regulations and standards of small-scale poultry processing in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It seems clear that the biggest barrier to marketing pastured poultry is the lack of small-scale processors. Also farmers have a difficult time maintaining the high quality of their product once it has left their hands. It is also clear that state rules matter. In Wisconsin a farmer is able to self-slaughter up to 1,000 birds a year a direct market these to consumers. In Minnesota the rule is 20,000 birds. This number difference allows farmers in Minnesota much more freedom in establishing the specialized enterprise.

A consumer survey was conducted during the summer of 1999. The purpose of the survey was to get a more accurate picture of a pastured poultry consumer, to help estimate demand for pastured poultry, and to try to discover why people buy pastured poultry. Farmers distributed the one page self-administered survey to each customer who bought a pastured raised chicken this summer. The surveys were distributed until the end of November 1999.

Research results and discussion:

Key findings for objective #1 include: returns and costs are highly variable across farms; and that net returns are relatively small, both in total and on a per hour basis. The returns per head were quite variable. However, the mean net return per head was $2.43 and the median net return per head was $3.02. Costs per head were also quite variable. These ranged from $2.31 to $9.62 per head. The mean cost per head was $5.00 while the median was $4.56 per head. In general, these costs are higher than other studies (Lein 1998, Salatin 1992). This is probably due to the inclusion of processing costs and the inclusion of overhead costs in our study. The variability of both returns and expenses may be due to the fact that pastured poultry is still a new farm enterprise and, over time, the range of returns and expenses may shrink. Other explanations for the variability may be due to different sources of feed, differences in management skills and years of experience of the farmers, and the fact that each farm in the study had a different goal for the pastured poultry enterprise. An interesting result was that differences in total returns and net return per head showed significant differences when farms were divided according to size, those raising less than 1,000 birds per year and those raising more than 1,000 birds per year.

The quantitative analysis of the labor hours from 1998 shows some significant differences between farms in total labor hours spent in pastured poultry and differences in labor hours per bird. The 1999 data did not completely resolve the differences in labor hour per bird. However, after discussing the results with farmers it seems that an accurate range would be from 0.168 to 0.42 labor hours per bird. Lower levels of labor hours per bird can be achieved after several years of experience and by raising more than 2,500 birds. When raising 1,000 birds or less and/or doing on-farm processing it is more likely that you will spend 0.3 to 0.4 hours per bird. Labor hours per bird ranged from a low of 0.168 to a high of 1.160. The mean time spent in the pastured poultry enterprise was 24 hours per week and the median was 21.5 hours per week (the range was from 12 to 41 hours per week). The high number of hours per week, 41, was due to the inclusion of on–farm processing time in the pastured poultry enterprise. The range of farm workweek is also broad. The primary farm worker spends from 46 to 73.5 hours per week on farm work. The mean farm workweek was 57 hours per week and the median farm workweek is 55 hours. Although these totals are higher than the average 40-hour workweek they are a lot less than a dairy farmers workweek. According to a 1993/1994 study, the principal farm operator on a Wisconsin dairy farm averaged 100 plus hour workweeks (Bobbe and Stevenson).

Using the data collected in the financial analysis and the labor and quality of life studies for her thesis, Kathryn Pereira, developed a stochastic simulation model to estimate potential expected profit levels of pastured poultry farmers. The results showed that farmers who chose to raise less than 1,000 birds restricted themselves to a supplementary farm enterprise that could contribute to farm income. A farmer operating at this level might be able to earn $11 per hour and in a best case scenario over $15 per hour. A farmer might also be expected to earn approximately $5,000 total net return to labor and management. However, a farmer who scaled up his or her operation to 5,000 birds might expected to earn over $18 per hour and generate over $18,000 in returns to labor and management. One farmer involved in the project scaled up his production to 6,000 birds during the summer of 2000 and thereby showed that it was entirely feasible for one person to raise this many birds in Wisconsin without hiring additional labor.

In general, the on-farm processes and systems studied in Objective 1 begin to paint an optimistic, yet cautious, picture.

Most on-farm barriers which include the learning curve of the production processes, total time necessary to raise pastured poultry, enhancement of the farmers’ quality of life, and profitability issues can be overcome in a relatively short period of time. On the positive side, pastured poultry enterprises require low amounts of start-up capital, have low levels of stress associated with beginning enterprises, and can have varying roles, objectives, and sizes. These factors indicate that pastured poultry is a very flexible system. It is easy to enter and exit pastured poultry and the enterprise can be tailored to fit many different farming systems. It also may be possible to make a living raising pastured poultry. However, few of the farmers in the project achieved stable and significant total net returns during the time of the study. Therefore, the off-farm system, that is considered in Objective 3, must be carefully taken into consideration. See Appendix Three for a full analysis and report of the findings concerning Objective One.

The results from objective #2 show that moisture content, fat content and protein levels were not significantly influenced by the age (i.e. 6 weeks vs. 8 weeks) of the birds or by the rearing method (i.e. pastured vs. confined). It was noted, however, that the average moisture content and fat content of birds raised in 1997 was significantly higher (P<.05) than the average moisture content of birds raised in 1998. Ash content was significantly higher (P, 0.05) in 6-week-old birds than in 8-week-old birds. Results of the analyses for Vitamin A and minerals like calcium, iron, and sodium show that values obtained in 1997 were significantly higher than those obtained in 1998. Levels of calcium were found to be significantly higher (P<0.05) in 6-week-old birds than in 8-week-old birds. However, age and rearing method did not significantly affect the levels of Vitamin A, iron and sodium. Cholesterol levels, calorie content, and saturated fat content were not significantly affected by age or rearing method. But, values obtained in 1997 were again higher than those in 1998. The higher values obtained in 1997 compared to 1998 may be attributed to the fact that the samples analyzed in 1997 came from the breast, thigh and drumstick; whereas in 1998, samples made use only of breast meat. Tests for Campylobactor and Salmonella were negative for all the birds, with the exception of the six-week-old birds from one pastured poultry farm that tested positive for Campylobactor. This may have been due to the compromised immune system of the birds as a result of the stress experienced during the brooder fire that occurred when these birds were being raised.

No significant differences in flavor intensity were found among the birds. However, tenderness, juiciness, and rate of breakdown during chewing differed significantly among the birds. In terms of tenderness, birds from the supermarket and those raised at UW were found to be the most tender, and the least tender were the birds from the two pastured poultry farms at 6 weeks of age. At 8 weeks of age, birds from the supermarket were found to be the most tender, while the least tender were the birds from the UW. Birds from the farm were intermediate in tenderness. In terms of juiciness, birds from one of the farms were found to be the juiciest but the birds from the other farm were found to be the least juicy. Birds from the supermarket and UW were intermediate. At 8 weeks of age, the birds from the other farm were found to be the juiciest and the least juicy were the birds from the UW. In terms of overall acceptability, birds from the supermarket were found to be the most acceptable both at 6 weeks and 8 weeks of age. The least acceptable at 6 weeks of age were the birds from the farms while at 8 weeks of age, birds from the UW were found to be the least acceptable.

The microbiological results from the processing facilities showed that E.coli/coliform counts were significantly lower in birds from the supermarket and from on-farm slaughtering compared to E.coli/coliform counts in birds from the two state-inspected plants. This gives good justification for raising the 1,000 birds limit that poultry producers in Wisconsin face. E.coli/coliform counts were significantly lower at point-of-sale than at post-slaughter in all of the birds regardless of the source.

It appears that a bird that is processed on-farm can be as sanitary and safe as a bird processed at a USDA facility.

Regarding objective #3, it is increasingly clear that the lack of small and moderate scaled USDA approved poultry processing facilities is the critical barrier to marketing pastured poultry products in the upper Midwest.

The cost of processing is nearly $2.00 per bird. Processing plants are often located far from production sites. State inspected poultry processors are often overbooked and operating at capacity. Furthermore, when the project began in 1997 five type 29 (instate sales only) state inspected processors were in business in Wisconsin. Currently, only two remain in business. Both owners of the remaining plants, however, would like to sell their businesses and move on to other things or retire. It is unclear how these plants will remain in operation. Farmers also have difficulties with receiving a consistent, safe product. Farmers have expressed frustration with the fact that they work very hard to produce a high quality product and this hard work can be erased if the product is not treated with care during processing. The 1,000-bird exemption is also a limitation to farmers. Only a small or supplementary farm income can be generated by raising 1,000 birds.

By raising the 1,000 bird limit to 5,000 birds, as was done in Illinois in 1999, more options would be available for a pastured poultry farmer in Wisconsin.

For example, it might be possible for the mobile processor that was built during 1999 to operated if a farmer were allowed to process more than 1,000 birds on-farm. Also type 23 custom exempt plants could be used to slaughter birds without facing the 1,000 bird restriction on sales.

It is clear that more work needs to be done in this area. We have outlined a feasibility study and put together a working group consisting of several farmers from the project, a staff member from Cooperative Development Services, and a policy person from the Wisconsin DATCP. This further research may include an analysis of demand for processing, develop a model of a new USDA inspected processing facility, or how a mobile poultry processing facility could hook up with a existing state or USDA inspected meat slaughter/processing facility in order to process chicken. During the summer of 2000, ten smaller scale poultry processors from around the country were interviewed to find out what factors contributed to or inhibited their business
success.

Only half of the processors interviewed were satisfied with their businesses and sure that they could continue operating with few changes into the future.

Waste disposal, labor issues, seasonal fluctuations in business, dealing with unpredictable farmers, and regulations were all common problems mentioned by the processors. Many business were started because the owners had been raising their own poultry or working in the meat industry and saw a need for high quality small-scale processing in their communities. In fact, many felt that their success was due to their ability to offer a clean, high quality product.

Niche and differentiated products were also seen as keys to success.

All processors tried to do some cut-up. Newer facilities were planning for more value added products including things like sausages, chicken potpies, boneless breast, marinated boneless breast, and ground products. One plant offers a kosher product. One processor joked that his success was due to persistence “no one else was left in the business!”. Processors, in general, thought that in order to be successful the boss needed to be seen working hard and the business needed to be customer friendly. Finally, in terms of learning from their mistakes processors said that adding new and better technology early on, creating better floor plans, creating solid business plans, and educating themselves with business and financial management course are all things they would do differently. Sometimes the process of slowly building or adding on to existing facilities lead to awkward or inefficient use of space or making mistakes that might have been avoided if they had gathered or had access to information during the planning stages of their business.

Finally, survey results show that 82% of pastured poultry consumers are motivated to buy pastured poultry due to taste. This is an interesting preliminary result in light of the taste test results that show no significant difference in taste between a pastured birds and a confined bird. If the survey shows that consumers are overwhelmingly motivated to buy pastured poultry due to taste the blind taste test panel methodology may be redesigned and the taste test panel from objective #2 may be repeated in the fall of 1999.

Additional survey results are reported below:
Number of surveys completed: 208
Response rate: 67%
Average number of pastured poultry birds bought per month in season: 2.68
Percent of customers who believe they can buy pastured poultry at the grocery store: 17%.

This is an indication that there is still considerable customer confusion regarding distinction within the poultry market.

Why do you buy pastured poultry?
• Antibiotic/hormone free: 73%
• Flavor: 82%
• Production System: 45%
• Freshness: 69%
• Value: 14%
• Texture: 33%
• Convenience: 6%

• Personal Contact with Farmer: 47%
• Other: 9%

Importance of organic certification: 51% say this is very important/extremely important.
Again this may be an indication of a lack of consumer education since none of the farmers participating are certified organic.
Importance of buying pastured poultry direct from the farmer who produced it: 59% say this is very important or extremely important.
Total household members: median=2, mean=2.68
Total Household Income: median range= $60,000 to $79,999

As often reported, pastured poultry customers appear to be upper income two person households. However, these results may be slightly skewed due to the higher number of surveys returned by customers at the Madison Capital Square Farmers’ Market.

Research conclusions:

• Analysis of the viability of pastured poultry for small diversified farms
• Appraisal of the impacts of state and federal regulations on small scale poultry processors
• Comparative evaluation of the human nutritional content of meat from differing poultry production systems
• Provision of preliminary data for developing standards for an emerging pastured poultry industry in the U.S.

Economic Analysis

Appendix Three: Economic and Quality of Life Analysis

I. Case Farms
Farm 1
Farm 1 is a single operator 220-acre farm in southwest Wisconsin. The farmland has been in the family for three generations. The primary farm enterprise is an 80-cow dairy, which generated at least 82% of gross cash farm income in 1997 and 1998 and 47% of farm work time in 1998. The milk is sold to a local dairy. Other enterprises include eggs, pork, pastured poultry (2,000 birds per year), and Italian cheeses, which are all marketed at a farmers’ market. The pastured poultry enterprise generates approximately 4% of gross cash farm income and 7% of farm work time. The operator views the extra revenue from the pastured poultry enterprise as a retirement or vacation fund. He believes that pastured poultry is an enterprise he will be able to manage when he becomes too old to work the dairy enterprise. He also truly enjoys the direct marketing sales and customer contact. It means a lot to Farmer 1 when he hears a customer express their appreciation with a “thanks”, “atta boy “, or “good job” comment. He doesn’t get this kind of positive feedback and appreciation from his dairy enterprise. Finally, field crops (alfalfa and hay) are raised to support the dairy enterprise. In addition to the operator and occasional help from family members, at least two full time adult workers are employed and spend most of their time in the dairy and with the field crops. One of the full-time adult workers has been in charge of the pastured poultry production for the last two years. However, the operator handles all the direct marketing sales for the pastured poultry enterprise. Farmer 1 returned to the family farm after a college education and a high paying, but unsatisfying job because his father was considering selling the farm. Farmer 1 felt emotionally attached to the farm and did not want to lose it. Farmer 1 also says that he was at a point in his life where, “I got tired of being on the road which was necessary when I was in sales. I wanted to be back home. I wanted to call the shots and to be my own boss” (1999 interviews).

Farm 2
Farm 2 is a second-generation family owned and operated farm in southeastern Minnesota. Family members perform nearly all farm work. The operator’s parents live on the farm but are not involved with daily operations. Although the farm originally was a part-time seasonal Christmas tree farm, during the course of the study the bulk of Farmer 2’s time has gone into developing and running an educational farm tour business. The farm tour business currently generates the greatest proportion of farm income and is now the primary farm enterprise. However, during the 1999 summer months the farm tour enterprise only took 17% of farm labor time. The other farm enterprises include fallow deer, pastured poultry (2,000 birds per year), a poultry slaughtering enterprise, and pumpkins. Pastured poultry uses about 36% of farm labor time and the poultry slaughter business utilizes 34% of farm labor time during the summer months. The operator’s spouse and two children contribute significant portions of the farm labor in both the pastured poultry and poultry slaughter enterprises. Pumpkins utilize only 4% of farm labor time during the summer months. In the fall and spring months when schools are in session farm tour labor time increases. However, during these time periods the labor use in the pastured poultry enterprise and related processing business is relatively small. Furthermore, as labor time increases in the Christmas tree enterprise labor time in the farm tour enterprise decreases. Farm 2 has built up a good system of complementary enterprise relationships in terms of labor usage. Because the farm sits very close to a major highway, Farm 2 is able to take advantage of the traffic and advertise with a large highway billboard. This allows for Farm 2 to make all sales on farm. The farm tour business also benefits from location since the farm is a short drive from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. Other complementary relationships can be seen by considering the product relationships. The farm tour business is used as a way to generate customers for the seasonal Christmas tree and pumpkin enterprises. Pastured poultry is also used as a customer draw. Farmer 2 also made the choice to farm, and although he initially found it difficult to give up a $70,000 a year job, has realized the benefits of seasonal work and being able to spend more time with his children as they are growing up. In 2000, the family will temporarily stop raising pastured poultry in order to be able to take more family vacations before the two children become too old.

Farm 3
Farm 3 is a twenty-two acre farm in northwestern Wisconsin. The primary farm enterprise is an 80-ewe flock of milking sheep. This enterprise generates approximately 56% to 78% of gross cash farm income. The sheep milk is delivered every three days to a commercial freezer where it is then picked up by and sold to Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Coop. Other enterprises include pastured poultry (1,000 birds per year), market lambs, sheep breeding stock, and an occasional number of beef cattle or hogs raised for slaughter. The pastured poultry enterprise generates about 7% to 14% of gross cash farm income and 34% of farm work time. Pastured poultry customers pick up their chickens on farm. All poultry are slaughtered off-farm at a state inspected processing plant. A unique aspect of the pastured poultry system on Farm 3 is that all poultry are fed organic feed. Despite the fact that Farm 3’s poultry could be certified organic, Farmer 3 chooses not to do so and relies on the direct customer contact to inform and educate the customers that they are receiving an organic bird. The majority of the farm labor is done by the owner/operator. However, the operator’s spouse, who is employed full time off-farm, teenage daughter, and an occasional intern all help out when necessary. During the last year of the study the operator began to work a part-time off-farm job. Farmer 3 has raised pastured poultry for ten full seasons and does not want to grow beyond 1,000 birds per year. Farmer 3 is facing a crucial decision for the 2000 growing season. Due to a medical condition, Farmer 3 may find it difficult to pull the poultry pens. Farmer 3’s spouse enjoys interacting with the customers on the chicken pick-up days on the farm but does not want to become involved in the farm in any more depth due to an off-farm career. In addition, Farmer 3’s youngest child will be leaving the household this next season and therefore will no longer be available as emergency or temporary labor. Therefore, Farmer 3 may have to exit pastured poultry and farming altogether.

Farm 4
Farm 4 is a 120-acre farm in southwestern Wisconsin. The owner/operator performs all the farm labor. The owner’s spouse used to work full-time off-farm, but now stays home to take care of their two young children. The owner also used to do some limited part-time work off-farm, but now farms full time. This decrease in total household income has increased the pressure on the farmer to make the farm economically viable. Farmer 4 is trying to expand the pastured poultry enterprise to become the primary farm enterprise. In both 1997 and 1998 the pastured poultry enterprise generated approximately 35% of gross cash farm income and 30% of farm work time. During 1999 the pastured poultry gross revenues increased to $19,145 and constituted 45.5% of gross farm income and 29% of farm labor. Farm 4 would like the pastured poultry enterprise to generate at least 50% of gross farm income. Approximately 40% of sales are made to restaurants and 60% of sales are made direct to the consumer at a farmers’ market. Farmer 4 anticipates that in 2000 this ratio will change so that 60% of sales will be made to restaurants and 40% of sales through the farmers’ market. Due to the increasing size of the pastured poultry enterprise, Farmer 4 has been struggling with storage issues for the slaughtered birds and is therefore trying to figure out ways to move product faster at the farmers’ market. For example, Farmer 4 thinks product would sell faster if he were able to sell more cut-up birds and chicken breasts. However, available processors are generally unwilling to do this, as it is not cost efficient. Farmer 4 has also noticed a sharp increase in sales of whole chickens during the cooler autumn months. As a result Farmer 4 will try to time a greater percentage of pastured poultry production to be available during the fall months. Finally, in 2000 Farmer 4 will begin selling fresh birds to local co-ops and grocery stores.
Other enterprises on the farm include: eggs (20% of gross cash farm income and 20% of time); pastured beef (19% of gross cash farm income and 10% to 15% of farm work time); and, for one year of the study, vegetables. All products are direct marketed to restaurants or at a local farme

Farmer Adoption

• Entry and production are feasible.
• Marketing is highly affected by the lack of access to small-scale high quality poultry processing in Wisconsin. Therefore, farmers should plan carefully before they expand production beyond 1,000 birds. They may not be able to make significant portions of farm income from the poultry enterprise if they do not have easy access to processing.
• Consider forming farmer groups for marketing and processing pastured poultry in order to expand beyond 1,000 birds.
• Letters from farmers Diane Kaufmann and Bill Moore are in Appendix Four.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:
Involvement of Other Audiences

• George Stevenson had a teleconference in January 1999 with a University of Wisconsin extension group on specialty marketing
• Consulted with Anne Fanatico, ATTRA, during August 2000 on further research and grant application to study feasibility of applying the French Label Rouge production system to the US. Label Rouge genetics for farm trials during summer 2001.
• On January 13th, 2000 Gerry Campbell, George Stevenson and Kathryn Pereira attended a Wisconsin Extension Meat Summit Meeting. Contact continues with the group.

Publications and Outreach

• Outreach staff for the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems wrote and published a research brief on the project. This Research Brief #46 has been mailed to a select list of 200 agriculturists in WI.
• Diane Kaufmann, project farmer, is the editor of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) newsletter, APPPA Grit!, and has mentioned our research several times in the newsletter.
• Diane Kaufmann and other team members have made presentations about pastured poultry systems at several conferences, including the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference in 1999.
• A presentation of project results was also made at the first annual APPPA conference on December 12th, 1999 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kathryn Pereira’s masters’ thesis in Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison August 2000.
• 2nd, 3rd, and 4th CIAS research briefs to be published February 2001. They will also be sent to over 200 agriculturalists in Wisconsin and will be put on the CIAS website.
• Panel presentation at Wisconsin Grazing Conference February 25, 2001 by farmer participant Diane Kaufmann and either researcher Kathryn Pereira or Steve Stevenson.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

• Feasibility of small-scale, multi-species meat processing plants in the upper Midwest
• More nutritional analysis based on larger samples
• Funding has been secured by CIAS from the USADA’S IFAFS program to study the feasibility of small-scale, multi-species meat processing plants in the upper Midwest
• Applying air chill processing technology to small-scale poultry plants in the United States and the impact of this technology on the taste of pastured poultry.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.