We are a relatively new, small, family operated farm that strives to provide the utmost of care and quality of product. Processing costs money, whether you purchase the equipment to do it on farm or take the livestock to a facility. Each species has its various fees associated with it. The 'on the farm' costs must also include the additional time and packaging expense that a farmer incurs. Processing the animal whole is currently the least expensive option for us. We do pay extra to have the feet and organs packaged seperately and we feel it is worth it as these are of great benefit to our customers when offered that way.
This technique allows us to help control our expense and use those funds that make up the difference in processing costs to provide exceptional care and an overall better product for the money.
Any carcass that is to be marketed whole must be of the highest quality. The skin must be intact, all parts must still be jointed, not broken and still attached. There must not be any tumors, growths, abnormalities or bruising of the meat. Whole birds are 'Grade A'.
Grade B carcasses can have one broken and one disjointed bone, though not protruding through the skin. They may have one-third of skin on any part missing. Over that amount, it becomes a grade C. Bruising is not mentioned.
Inferior, disfigured and damaged carcasses are used in the 'parts' section of the meat cooler. These are 'Grade C'. They may have parts missing, such as a wing or leg, the skin might be torn and if there is a section that is abnormal or bruised, it is simply cut away. The remaining 'healthy' parts are then packaged and sold at an increased cost to the consumer under the assumption that cuts such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts are worth over twice to three times the price as they are the most healthy choice for your family. Hardly!
Where do many of the birds who are too diseased or damaged go? They are processed for pet food. Some may also be used in soup and pre-packaged products such as chicken nuggets or patties.
1. Grow your own if there is any way possible.
2. If you can't grow your own, purchase local meats provided by producers you trust. Investigate their practices by asking lots of questions and when appropriate, tour their farm. Ask about feed, housing, stocking rates and processing. Dig into the actual practices and move beyond the popular phrases such as 'pasture raised', 'non-GMO' and 'organic'.
3. ALWAYS BUY WHOLE whenever possible. This enables you to see the overall carcass quality. Is the skin clean and intact? Are the bones in place? The farmer's every day care is reflected in the quality of that meat.
4. Don't assume that all small farmers/farmers markets are producers only. Make sure the person you are purchasing from has intimate knowledge about the care that animal was given and the processing method that was used. If he/she doesn't, don't buy it.
been at play for that animal to become bruised in the first place? This situation does not occur postmortem. What were the living conditions like?
Our practices are easily visible in the quality of food we bring to the market. There are no diseased birds. All are inspected and deemed safe for human consumption BEFORE we pick them up from the processor.
Our animals are not bruised, dismembered or disfigured. If for some reason one becomes injured, it is either treated if healing is possible or it is humanely euthanized while still on the farm. We have personally witnessed a local farmer allowing chickens with broken legs to live through processing time as a means of not losing money on their original investment. That happens more often than people realize.
If one of our carcasses is damaged during processing (such as a wing accidentally being broken, etc), they are packaged whole by our request and set aside for our personal consumption. They do not go to the market. Period.
We deliver the livestock to the facility ourselves and are present through the critical, beginning stages of the process. We know first hand how it is done. We make sure plant employees are aware of our standards as well. We do not leave the facility until all are humanely killed and the preparing of the carcasses has begun.
We are God's stewards of these creatures and it is our honor and responsibility to see that things are done properly. Thanks to all those who have purchased from Walk Ahead Farms. Your support is allowing us to continue our work of providing nutritious food, educating the consumer and growing in knowledge ourselves as we make our way on this amazing journey.
Walk Ahead Farms, Inc
'Growing All Things Beautiful'
Source for information concerning meat grades: University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension as well as the National Poultry Judging Manual published by the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference Extension Committee, which was revised by Phillip J. Clauer from The Pennsulvania State university.