My response to the video posted by the Radical Group TryVeg/COK

It has come to my attention that the radical Washington based activist group TryVeg/COK planted an undercover agent at our hatchery with the goal to challenge Bell & Evans leadership in humane treatment of animals.  The TryVeg mole was planted in our hatchery for two weeks with the goal to stage an attention grabbing media show.

Over my 40 years as a chicken farmer I always strive to be the leading advocate of humane treatment for all animals.  At our hatchery we’ve never strayed from humane animal best practices.  It is our first priority and responsibility to euthanize only the sick and lame birds that would otherwise suffer.

Most recently Bell & Evans installed the Slow Induction Anesthesia (SIA) system, endorsed by Temple Grandin as the most humane process in the world.

I invite the leaders from TryVeg/COK to meet face to face and discuss their concerns.

I will continue to be the humane animal leader that I have been over the past 40 years for the next 40 years.

Raised without Antibiotics vs. antibiotic-free. Is there a difference?

On December 9th, the FDA announced (http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm236143.htm) that the U.S. meat, poultry and dairy producers used almost 29 million, yes million, pounds of antibiotics on their farm animals in 2009, up significantly from just a decade ago.  As you can imagine, public health organizations are troubled by these practices, especially ‘sub-therapeutic’ antibiotics — a low dose of antibiotics that is mixed into the feed of healthy farm animals to promote faster growth.  Many scientists are concerned these practices may be linked to the new antibiotic-resistant ’superbugs’, such as MRSA and E. coli, because the more we’re exposed to antibiotics the less effective they are when we need them.

So are we.

All Bell & Evans chickens are raised without antibiotics. Raised naturally in a low-stress environment, our Bell & Evans chickens start out healthier, so we have no need to pump our birds full of antibiotics throughout their lives. There are no antibiotics in their feed, their water, or even in the egg… ever.

Some producers say their chickens are antibiotic-free, but don’t be fooled.  It only means the chickens were antibiotic-free when they’re sold. All chickens must be antibiotic-free to be sold for human consumption.  It doesn’t mean they weren’t given antibiotics sometime in their life cycle. Some producers even try to get around the issue by injecting the egg before the chick hatches. Antibiotics are antibiotics no matter when they’re administered.

So to answer the question, yes, there is a big difference in chickens that are raised without antibiotics vs. those that are ‘antibiotic-free’. You can trust in Bell & Evans chicken, raised without antibiotics, to feed your family.

This is my last entry for the year. I wish you and your family all the best for the holidays and a healthy, happy new year. Please join me again in 2011 for more reflections on raising the excellent chicken

The Quest for the Excellent Turkey.

This time of year, the question I’m asked most often is, “How do I cook my Bell & Evans turkey and not ruin it?” There are many schools of thought… low and slow to deep fried. Here is one of my favorite ways to cook our all-natural turkey:

Preheat the oven to 425°F approximately 30 minutes prior to putting the turkey in the oven. (Test your oven regularly to make sure it is calibrated correctly. Some ovens are off as much as 100°.)

Start with a turkey that is at refrigerator temperature. The colder it is when placed in the oven, the longer the roasting time. (If you’re starting with a frozen turkey, follow the thawing instructions on the package.)Rinse the turkey inside and out, then pat dry.

If you choose, stuff the cavity and truss the legs. Do not stuff ahead of time and make sure the stuffing is thoroughly cooked before placing it in the turkey.  If you choose not to stuff, rub the cavity with salt and pepper.

Cut cheesecloth to a length that will cover the turkey and unfold to a single thickness.

Melt 1/2lb. butter in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp. each of dried sage, thyme, marjoram and crushed rosemary. Place the cheesecloth in the pan and saturate completely.

Place the turkey, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan and put in the oven. (The type of pan determines roasting time, the deeper the pan the longer the roasting time.)

Reduce the temperature to 325°F. After 15 minutes, completely cover the turkey with the butter and herb-soaked cheesecloth. After an hour, baste the turkey with the remaining butter mixture every 15 minutes to keep the cheesecloth moist.

Roasting times will vary depending on the size of the bird and whether it’s stuffed. (Refer to the package for more instructions.)

For a crispy skin, remove the cheesecloth for the last 30 minutes of cooking time.  Although our birds have pop-up timers, we suggest you use a meat thermometer, placed in the thickest part of the thigh. When the internal temperature reaches 178°, remove the turkey from the oven.

Allow the turkey to rest on the counter for about 20 minutes before carving. This allows time for the juices to be absorbed evenly and the meat will be much easier to slice. Now all that’s left is to enjoy with family and friends.

Our Bell & Evans family wishes you and your family the happiest of holidays.

Life on the Farm.

Our peeps arrive at the farm within 24-hours of hatching from their eggs.  We place the chicks and their starter feed or ‘crumbles’ on kraft paper, right under their water-delivery system. This way the feed doesn’t get lost in the bedding and, within moments, the chicks relax and start to eat and drink. You may wonder how a chick knows how to drink, since there is no mother hen to show them. The water dispensers have little stainless steel balls at the bottom, where the water comes out, and the chicks peck at these shiny objects.

Once they’ve eaten, then the fun starts. Small groups of chicks run here and there, exploring their big, new world.  The farm families provide ‘toys’ to keep their birds active.  Would you believe our young chicks love to play in-and-around cardboard tubing? As they get older, the chicks peck at and climb on straw bales, ramps and perches. These activities encourage the chickens to jump and play…building healthy bodies and strong muscles.  Since our chickens remain active throughout their lives, they rarely suffer from breast blisters. This condition is caused when birds have not developed strong leg muscles and spend too much time resting on their breasts. Active, healthy chickens have much less stress.

Because we provide a low-stress environment, our chickens remain calm and non-aggressive. They’re not stuffed into an overcrowded house, they always have plenty of feed and fresh water, and we never put them through the pain or stress of being de-beaked or de-spurred.

On our organic farms, the chickens are free to go outside, scratch in the dirt, look for bugs in the grass, enjoy the sunshine when it’s warm…. or take shelter inside the house when the weather’s bad.  Our outdoor pens are enclosed so no predators can attack the chickens and our farm families always make sure the chicks are safe and secure in the house at night.

Look for my next entry, when I explain what we feed our chicks…and why.