Evaluating Pasture-Based Poultry Systems: Potential Contribution to Farm Diversification, Human Nutrition, and Marketing Alternatives
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 is designed to study these claims.
The project is a multi-disciplinary and multi-professional investigation that joins university scientists with farmers and other agri-professionals in a participatory research approach to begin evaluating important socio-economic and human nutrition dimensions associated with pastured poultry systems on small and medium diversified farms. Five farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota are being used as case studies. The project is the beginning of ongoing work that eventually can provide important scientific data for informing and setting standards for the developing pastured poultry industry in the United States.
The first objective of the project is to evaluate if grass-based poultry systems have the capacity to significantly contribute to the beneficial diversification of small- and mid-sized farms in terms of economic and quality of life issues. The economic analysis is focusing on profitability and capital requirements for the whole-farm system and the pastured poultry enterprise. 1998 was spent reconstructing farm economic records from 1997 to provide estimates and practice for the real analysis to begin in 1998. The quality of life analysis began in the summer of 1998. Farmers kept labor logs for a month to begin a quantitative analysis. The total hours spent on farm labor for each enterprise were calculated. Individual interviews on quality of life issues were also conducted during the summer of 1998 to begin a qualitative analysis.
Evaluation began on the important human nutrition claims associated with pastured poultry. Emphasis has been placed on fat, cholesterol, texture, flavor and microbiological analyses. Data has been collected from chickens raised in the summers of 1997 and 1998. When a full analysis is completed in the winter of 1999, we will decide which areas seem to indicate significant results and need further study. The sample size will be increased for these analyses during the summer of 1999.
The third objective is to investigate the marketing opportunities and challenges for pastured poultry products. Emphasis has been placed on the processing and regulatory components of the marketing infrastructure.1997-98 was spent clarifying the laws surrounding on-farm slaughter and sale of poultry in Wisconsin and Minnesota and making a complete list of processors available for small-scale poultry processing.
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
Provision of preliminary scientific data for developing standards for an emerging pastured poultry industry in the U.S.