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American Consumer Food Choices Action vs Claims

April 30, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s difficult to talk transparently when what we see in action doesn’t match what people say they want. You see, when people talk we are listening. I also read – from Joel Salatin to Donald Trump and Gene Logsdon to Dan Kennedy.

We look for new things to offer based on talk, and find that often what people say they want and what they will actually support not only doesn’t meet, but is worlds apart. Galaxies!

One of the things people get upset with is the reports and videos showing male chicks being killed in a less than humane manner. So we thought we can make a small dent in that – raise a couple thousand per year for meat birds, and they don’t get ground up, suffocated or drowned. People will support that right?! Wrong.

And as it turns out we weren’t the only ones thinking that. And we’re not alone in the response.

Even people who touted themselves as real heritage aficionados didn’t want these non-hybrid birds. We used the white Plymouth Rock cockerels, 12 weeks old, and called them Marco Pollos (pronounced in Spanish poyo) – Old Country birds. Here was the shtick: “You may not have been able to sail with Magellan around the cape. You may not hae been with Columbus. But you can smell the smells and see the sights, direct from te galley, with the Marco Pollo.” It didn’t sell. After three years, we discontinued it; simple as that.” ~ The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer – Joel Salatin

Now if Joel Salatin, with all the customers and notoriety can’t get these marketed, what chance do we have? And if people won’t *buy* the products we offer, why should we keep offering them? Similarly, we offered a great deal on these excess cockerel chicks – and not one person ordered. People look at the offerings and choose the Cornish cross. They might criticize “factory farms” and these same birds in barns, but when it comes down to it, that is what sells *even to critics*!

Because that chicken grew slower, we had twice as many pastured shelter move days – twice as much production labor in the birds. Since they were older and more exercised, they were tougher and therefore much harder to process. In the time we could do 100 pounds of 8 week double breasted broilers, we could only do 50 pounds of the Marco Pollos. When the tissue is tougher, everything from knife cuts to evisceration to tucking the legs in at the end is harder.

Double the labor in production. Double the labor in processing. And when we were done, instead of a carcass that averaged 4 pounds, we only had one that averaged 3.5 pounds. The only part of this bird that was cheaper was the initial chick cost. And that was frankly part of the allure for me, because hatcheries just kill most of the cockerels since the demand is for the pullets. As a result, these non-hybrid cockerel chicks – remember we used white Plymouth Rocks – only cost about 23 cents a piece. All in all though, we needed nearly double the price of the regular industrial Cornish Cross to make the same return to labor.

Now with three years doing it, I’m going to take that as an honest effort. We’ll still offer some, but it will be a niche within the niche, and is doubtful people will buy, no matter how much they say they support small farms and what chicken used to taste like…they don’t buy those birds *now*!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe didn’t put the story to it, but have the same issues with labor, time, profit. And yes, folks, we must make a profit. To eat like grandma used to eat we must be able to raise it at a profit, or you must raise them yourselves.

Whether it’s traditional chicken, GMO, heirloom or a host of other food related issues, action really does speak louder than words. If you buy processed food with GMO ingredients, please don’t wave the banner of having the support of small farms in the other hand. If you aren’t willing to equally finance what small farms do, that’s just feel good handouts.

Like many others, we don’t want handouts. We want to make our own way. If you want to sponsor, great. Remember what you buy speaks. That’s what will continue to grow in sales, no matter what people say to the media or in polls.

After all, we can’t pay the feed bill on poll statistics. That takes cash.

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