After learning more about the "military-industrial" food complex in the US, I feel like every trip to the grocery store is just inviting dilemmas and stress. My average time from door to checkout has almost doubled, thanks to the extensive reading I now do. It's not just the nutrition label, but the ingredients, too, and if available, information on the producer. Then there is all the lingo- "organic", "all-natural", "humane", "local", "no artificial flavors", "low-fat", "non-fat", "better for you".... It's a nightmare. I need both a dictionary of terms and a spy cam to see what is actually going on. After reading that some "organic" producers of chicken basically use the same awful and inhumane methods as the non-organic, but merely swipe the regular grains for organic grain- I was disheartened. I mean, "organic" just doesn't mean much these days. So, I need FOOD busters. And I figured this blog was a good place to start. I have done some research on the following companies, and can, with some certainty, recommend them as better than the rest. This is not a complete list, but a start. As I find more, I'll update!!
These folks get the gold star. They let their cows out to pasture every day, feed them grass, and strive for "beyond organic".
They'll even let you visit. Call to set up a day at the farm, and see where your milk comes from firsthand. Any other NY'ers interested in a field trip???
Stonyfield Farms http://www.stonyfield.com/farm_cam/index.jsp
These folks are so confident you'll like their farms, they have a "farm cam" video diary blog where you can see for yourself what life is like on one of the small farms they contract with!
Hatfield Meats- http://www.hatfieldqualitymeats.com/about/sustainability.aspx
This PA based pork company is based in Amish country. They work with local, traditional farmers and are committed to humane handling and animal welfare, as well as environmental sustainability. Check out their report.
Epicurean Farms- http://www.epicureanfarms.com/ourstory/philosophy.shtml
Another PA based company that works with small local farmers and strives to go beyond current USDA standards. We have had a bird from these folks, and I can vouch for the flavor!
Bell & Evans- http://www.bellandevans.com/index.cfm?act=minimal_stress
In a world where sometimes you have to know the "lesser evils", you could do A LOT worse than these folks. No, the chickens are not allowed out on the farm, but they are kept in hi-tech houses that have more room, and WINDOWS. Again, like hatfield, this company works with local PA family farms, and goes beyond current USDA standards.
Nature's Yolk: www.naturesyoke.com/
These folks, also out of PA (YAY my home state leading the charge....) Are cage free AND have outdoor pastures. They also carry fertilized eggs, if you want your laying hen to have a sex life, too. I give them my top nod.
Nellie's Cage Free http://www.nellienest.com/cagefree.php
Again, we need to abandon the fantasy of roaming free on the farm, but they DO provide free roam in the shed, and space. They are certified humane, and they post some pictures of the hens.
Pete & Gerry's Cage free http://www.peteandgerrys.com/family_farmers.php
These eggs come from three New England family farms. Hens are free to roam in the barns, photos on the site, children are allowed in the laying barns, clearly not scary.