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Many people across the Ozarks like to know the source of the food they’re putting in their mouths; for example, were pesticides used on these bell peppers? Or, did this milk come from cows that were given growth hormones? In Peace Valley, Missouri –that’s in south-central Missouri—KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson traces the food source of chickens that will soon be appearing in some health food stores across the Ozarks.
[Sound: boots walking through wet grass]
Farmers Jim and Judy Jo Protiva are wading through thick, green pasture that’s soggy from rain and thickened by chicken manure.
In front of us is a structure that looks like a giant, arched airplane hangar, except it has chicken wire on two sides, allowing the air and sunshine to flow through. Also, there’s no floor—it just sits on grass. It covers about 900 square feet. Inside are 475 chickens. Jim calls this the “hoophouse.”
Here at Peace Valley Poultry, the Protivas raise grass-fed poultry; their birds don’t receive any antibiotics, and they get more exercise than chickens raised in confinement farms. The key, Jim says, is to move the entire hoophouse every day so the birds always have a fresh supply of grass, clover, and insects.
In big confinement farms, farmers add more shavings or just scrape the top layer of manure away. Here, instead of machinery, the Protivas use manual labor.
SOUND: [Door to building with chicks opens]
The young chicks are kept warm in a separate building, where they eat non-genetically modified soy and corn feed. The chicks arrive through the mail from Iowa; these are five days old. At four weeks, they’ll move outdoors.
Since the 1960s, US law has allowed farmers to sell dressed poultry directly to customers. For more than a decade, Jim and Judy Jo have been packing their birds on ice and taking them to Springfield for individual customers.
“And actually this year, through some reinterpretation of the law, they’re gonna let us put our birds in retail stores, which is gonna be a big benefit,” Protiva said.
One of the stores Jim and Judy Jo are hoping to sell their chickens in is Mama Jean’s in Springfield.
The birds at Peace Valley Poultry are not certified as organic. Jim says that’s because it costs about $600 to go through the certification process with the USDA, and there’s a ton of paperwork involved. And, he says, the word “organic” has been diluted with the USDA, so that some confinement farms could be classified as “organic” if they just use natural feed.
Instead of relying on labels and buzzwords, the Protivas say they rest on the old-fashioned practice of building the trust of their customers, which comes from the transparency of how they operate their farm. Their message is: instead of trusting a USDA employee to inspect your food, come out and do it yourself.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson in Peace Valley, Missouri.
LINK: Peace Valley Poultry's website: www.freshchickenandturkey.com