Recently we visited our amazing poultry supplier Greener Pastures Chicken based in Elgin, TX.
Although Greener Pastures birds are raised in Texas their roots have a story close to home. Von Miller (Bronco's Legend and Super Bowl 50 Champ), the proprietor of Greener Pastures, has a degree in Poultry Science and wanted to be one of the only certified organic and pasture-raised poultry operations in the Southwestern US.
While we always try to focus on local producers, Colorado’s climate is not conducive to year round pasture-raised poultry production, which greatly limits the production season and access to USDA processing.
Our partnership with Greener Pastures has afforded us to year round access to the best chicken we’ve ever tasted.
We've been told the Greener Pastures story in our regular conversations with Paul and Cameron Co-CEOs of Greener Pastures, but it really came together when we saw the farm in action.
Sean, the Farm Operations Manager, greeted us in their office that sits conveniently tucked between the brooder house and a new state of the art new on-premise processing facility that is scheduled to come online in the Fall of 2023.
While the on-premise USDA certified processing facility is a large financial investment it will provide Greener Pastures with full control of their product from start to finish. This has benefits for both animal welfare and will drastically reduce Greener Pastures mileage footprint by not having to haul birds to the processor and finished product back to the farm.
Our tour began as we entered the 400ft long brooder house where the chickens start. They divide the chicks into multiple sections of the brooder house where fresh wood shavings await the new arrivals. Heaters and fans are suspended from the ceiling to regulate the temperature at roughly 85 degrees, and overhead lights dim and intensify to mimic the sun. Roll up wall panels allow for airflow and let in plenty of natural light. As each day passes the temperature in the brooder house is adjusted down a few degrees to slowly acclimatize the chicks to the outdoor and evening temperatures as their downy coats start to fill in.
A certified organic feed regime is fed through a system of overhead augers and food trays all spaced evenly to keep the chicks well fed and spaced out. Multiple workers diligently watch over the flock adjusting the watering lines and ensuring the temperature and light is properly regulated.
For the first 3 weeks, the chicks roam freely in the brooder house safe from the elements and predation (Texas has about every predator you could think of that would make a chicken an easy meal including: fox, coyote, raccoon, skunk, snakes, owls, hawks, chupacabras, etc).
During those 3 short weeks the chickens grow incredibly fast at which time they are transferred to the mobile chicken tractors lined up in the pasture, just to the east of the brooder house.
The custom built,100 foot long, chicken tractors have rollup sides and removable shade cloths covering the top. This mobile chicken coop is lined with chicken wire to keep all the predators out while affording the chickens with a full outdoor living experience with ample protection from the elements.
The 3 week old birds are divided up across the multiple mobile chicken coops to ensure that they have enough space per bird to exceed pasture-raised regulatory standards. Each morning, their big red tractor hooks up to each coop and carefully drags it 100ft to put the birds over fresh grass and pasture.
The lush pastures at Greener Pastures consist of native, Bermuda and Rye grasses that are allowed to go to seed before the chickens graze down the grass and eat the seeds all while fertilizing the pasture in the process.
Even in the winter the pastures are still loaded with grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and other bugs, which are the super foods of chickens. Despite the abundance of pasture nutrients, the chickens still need supplement food where they continue to receive rations of 100% organic corn, soy, grains and alfalfa.
At Greener Pastures the process of raising a chicken takes 6-7 weeks. This is because the chickens are more active, have a diet of grasses and bugs and are supplemented with food versus given endless rations.
In comparison in the world of conventional chicken farming (yes this includes Organic Chicken that isn’t pastured raised) where they raise hundreds of thousands or even millions of birds on a single farm, a chicken will be ready for market in roughly 4 weeks, and they will never see anything but the tight indoor confines of a chicken house.
Every week the process at Greener Pastures starts with chicks coming in, and birds being sent to the processor providing a year round supply of high quality, pasture raised chicken.
Once the cycle ends, all the saw dust, hay and other natural bi-products are collected and sent to a local company to turn Greener Pastures waste into compost and fertilizer.
We knew Greener Pastures was doing something unique, but now that we laid eyes on there operation, we have a whole new appreciation.