Well I kinda lost my energy to post tonight. Keith Cutting gave me a heads up about a rule change from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the processing and sale of meats in the state of New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it looks like a few changes will be made: namely, I heard through the grapevine that I won't be able to process my own chickens, and then bring them to the market.
Before I get going on the problems with the potential rule, let me first answer the title to this posting: Why chicken?
Besides the fact that it is so damn good....We love chicken. It is a wholesome, delicious meat that we can raise on the farm. They do not require as much pasture as a cow or sheep. They make wonderful droppings upon our field that simply make the grass grow! We feel energized after eating it. Our farm families love it. Devour it. If someone came up to you who felt a part of their life has been completely revitalized- namely the dinner table, then why would you want to squash that?
We process the chickens on our farm for several reasons. Namely, that the economics of taking them to a USDA slaughter house is prohibitive. Lameys, the only USDA slaughter house in the state, charges $5 per bird to process. Without including the time to load birds into cages, the truck and then drive them to Goffstown, that processing fee would add another $1.00 per pound to our birds. I process the birds on the farm partly because I am not in the business to pass the buck along. Our customers do not want a live bird- they want a ready to eat chicken. Secondly, they are my birds. I buy them as chicks, raise them in the brooders, get them out onto pasture- I am out there at odd ours of the night checking on them, and with flakes of hay keeping them warm and dry in storms. If I can take the integrity to raise the best possible birds that I can, then I am going to slaughter them in the best possible manner that I can. I slaughter 20-35 birds a day, once or twice a week. In between slaughterings the area is cleaned and rested. The sun pasteurizes the area. I keep everything clean. I don't care how much bleach they use, a slaughterhouse that is killing and cutting 5 days out of the week isn't going to have the cleanliness and attention that I can give my birds.
The next biggest thing is the economics of me raising birds. We can't drive down to Goffstown with 35 birds. We'd have to take 100+. Which essentially means good bye fresh birds- hello frozens. Now I have to have an extra freezer just for birds. Might as well add another $0.25 a pound.
Just to switch focus quickly: The state of California passed in March 2008 a law requiring that all raw milk pass a 10 coliform units per mil. test. (this is essentially impossible: http://www.naturalnews.com/022303.html ) Anyways, NH has the same rule on its "books". http://gencourt.state.nh.us/rules/mil100-300.html I guess we are also supposed to have,
“Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health” listed on our bottles when we sell it.
What we have been fearful on our farm for the last couple years is the ability for the DHHS, senate/house, or other public bodies to put a few words on a piece of paper and as a result put us out of business. Food products that are considered potentially hazardous garner attention from regulators. Unfortunately for us, they are the type of foods we are interested in producing. Not because they are potentially hazardous. We do not see them that way at all. I think they are potentially lifesaving. Real, raw milk, fresh chicken, ground meat from cows raised on pasture who have seen more weeds, dirt and grass than concrete. Instead of looking up the statistics of food related illness from food sources that promote an unhealthy, environmentally degrading, morally decomposing system- why not look for and promote the production of foods that energize and vitalize both the producers and consumers. I think a lot of the dairies around us would have a bit more pep in their step if they were pasturing their cows on grass, getting $4 a gallon for pure milk, selling baby beef calves in retail markets instead of getting $0.72 a gallon after sales, shipping and commission for milk from sillage fed cows, and $30 dollars for day old shipped calves.
I recently took a ServeSafe class for my work at a kitchen in New London. Without getting too much into it I can simply say- the government's view of food is more of that of a dangerous item that needs special care, while ours is of a wholesome nutritious fulfillment of the land we live on that becomes one part of our daily nourishment. You can look at stats on food illness- but how about the stats on food wellness? How many dinners were made wholesome with our chicken? How many wives loved their husbands a little more for buying a beautiful bouquet from Two Mountain Farm? Did anyone's allergies improve after having honey from Cutting Farm? Did those kids remember going to the supermarket with their mom- or Farm Days at Musterfield Farm? How many of feel healthier now that Doritos has 33% more free per b
So where do we go with our farm? Do we really want to put money, time and unneeded frustration into a lifestyle and product that can disappear when a bureaucrat with a piece of paper comes around my barn door some day? The answer truly is no. I don't want to spend a few years building up something that can disappear over night. But how many vegetable vendors does the state want? our farmer's market need? If the state restricts the sale of foods they think potentially hazardous- that only Purdue, Tyson and Hood know how to produce safely, then everyone else that wants to farm either has to enter that production system or grow products without restrictions. We can't all sell summer squash. Right now that is what is so nice about our market- the other farmers we work with- A lot of our products overlap, but th
e products are so diverse that instead of being competitors- we're friends and advisors to each other. What happens to our already fragmented farm communities when everyone shows up with summer squash, beans and cucumbers?
Part of: the Answer
We need a few things. here are the few things I have been thinking of for the last couple weeks.
1. We need a state government that recognizes the fragmentation and diversity of homesteaders and farmers in the state that does not passes regulations on th
e direct sale of farmer to consumer; and that instead promotes the sale of properly raised/grown foods.
2. (the government) needs to realize that direct farm to consumer sales are not part of the food system; they are a reaction to the current food system. There is a difference between walking into a grocery store for a gallon of milk on your way home from work, and driv
ing to a farm to pick up a gallon of milk. The latte
r is decision to purchase something different, by choice, often because it is felt to be the healthier, better decision. These interactions should not be regulated. They are a reaction to the system that is already regulated. As Joel Salatin said, it's just letting people opt out.
3. Farmer markets are extensions of the farm. They offer a convenience for a customer to meet various farmers at one location. If a product can be sold at the farm, then it should be able to be sold at the market. Free and clear of legislative baggage.
4. Food isn't hazardous. With the exception of corn syr
up, MSG, and a few preservatives food isn't dangerous. People shouldn't fear the food they eat. They should be in jubilation of how they feel afterwards. Food illness
happens. Three years ago a man in Massachusetts died from lysteria contaminated milk: PASTEURIZED contaminated milk. The state official at the time said that even in a perfect system things can go wrong. It happens, rarely- But just keep in mind that it is leg
al to sell e.coli contaminated beef as long as it is precooked before sale, and as long as a veterinarian gives
the ok to a downer cow it can still legally go throu
gh the slaughterhouse.
5. An inspection doesn't make food safe. Feeding animals what they should eat makes the food safe. Maintaining biodynamic gardens keeps food safe. Integrity keeps food safe. You can have all the inspections you want. If whomever is shipping it off to a middleman and doe
sn't care, then it really doesn't matter.
Well, I am tucking off to bed. That is enough rant and nervousness from me. Maybe I'll edit tomorrow or let it stand as is. Take care, thanks for buying, kee
p it going and thanks to EVERYONE that came out in the rain today.
Chickens who are raised on the farm, processed on the farm. The grass is there, which means they aren't sitting in manure- which means when I go to process, I get to start with a clean bird.
First year garden at new farm. According to GAP rules which will be mandatory for vegetable producers in the future, we couldn't sell produce because we also raise animals in the vicinity.
Two week old chicks first day on half way house. That is the life. I put the food and water outside later to force them to go outside and get used to the great outdoors.
Wonderful addition to the farm. I started with a 5 frame nuc- quickly added a second hive body, then a medium super, and now a second super as the first is nearly filled.
Bees on busy day.