Raising healthy breeds of animals yields better tasting meals

Published 1:54 pm Thursday, November 19, 2015

Modern food production is narrowing the number of fruits, vegetables and livestock species, genetically-modifying and then “owning” these species, and favoring only those offering maximum output in a controlled environment. Because of this the health, tastes and viability of much of our food is in danger with many traditional breeds and varieties nearing extinction.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (albc-usa.org) founded in 1977 and based in Pittsboro, works to conserve rare breeds and genetic diversity. These traditional breeds are not only essential parts of the history of American agriculture, the flavors from their meat, from Tamworth pigs to Delaware chickens and Bourbon Red turkeys, are richer and tastier, happier and healthier when pasture-raised to live out as natural a life as possible.

Local yard-bird raiser, and Polk County’s agricultural economic development director, Dawn Jordan of Restoration Farm in Green Creek, is one of several local pastured meat-raisers and organic growers in the area who favors the more traditional way of farming with the traditional breeds of healthy animal including the Bourbon Red Turkey and a wide-variety of chickens for both meat and eggs. She lives and teaches the sustainable life to anyone who wants to learn it and most recently had Polk County High School animal science students help process this year’s Thanksgiving flock of heritage-breed turkeys.

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Dawn comments, “Thanks to some great help from these students, we processed 30 turkeys last week. I think I would have some birds to process each year just for the opportunity to work with the high school students. They are enthusiastic, respectful and willing to do whatever is asked from them. And they say this is their favorite field trip of the year!  How great is that?!”

You can contact Dawn Jordan to arrange your bird order and pickup at 704-692-4358 or Restorationfarm@hotmail.com. Four years ago, I interviewed Dawn Jordan about raising heritage breed flocks, and late fall is a good time to plan for what could be your new hobby or line of business because by early spring, it is time to begin!

Follow along in this “Poultry 101” Q&A session with Dawn to learn more.

Q: How do you house chickens? A: There is no right or wrong way, though there are some basic design rules. They can range freely in your yard, they can be moved around in portable pens, or they can have a permanent coop. One of the easiest coops is a converted dog lot. They are readily available, used or free for removal and have door which keeps out most predators.  Install some type of roof, roost poles, and a nesting area.

Q: How do you choose your breed? A: Your choice of breed includes your preference and your purpose.  Some chickens are better egg layers, some are primarily good meat birds, some are both. There are chickens that do better in a specific climate, some that do better free-ranging and some that are more friendly or docile and range of colors are endless! Go online and get a wealth of information. Almost every breed has its own website. Think about your needs and your goals and then just get started.

Q:  When do you purchase your flock? A: In early spring. You will see chicks a plenty in farmers markets and garden supply stores. But start your research now and then have an immediate game plan as these cute fuzzy creatures grow fast! Try to purchase within your geographical area and then learn to hatch your next flock yourself, as these seem to be the most hardy and disease resistant.

Q: What do you feed your flock? A: A local source rather than a national supply chain is the best source. There are organic options in which all the ingredients come from strictly organic origins. There are no-grain blends and local grown products. Some feed comes with antibiotics added so read labels and ask questions.

Continue this conversation with Dawn Jordan of Restoration Farm and order one of her heirloom Red Bourbon Turkeys for the tasting!