When a surprise order of chickens was placed in 2008, Marine veteran and former accountant, Paul Greive, had no idea he was about to embark on a life-altering journey that would start with 50 chickens and no farming or agricultural background. Dismayed by the deceptive practices and labeling loopholes in the poultry industry, Pasturebird grew rapidly as they began to fill a demand for wholesale pastured poultry. Motivated by making an impact and leading by example, Paul and his family-run business are changing poultry farming with their transparent practices, emphasis on regenerative agriculture, and a welcoming open-door policy on their farm in Murrieta, California. With the motto of "Inspect What You Expect," Paul is telling all about how we're being deceived with labels and the exact steps you can take to be a conscious and responsible consumer. We love our partners at Pasturebird and we know you will too.
"The problem was, the more we jumped into these labels the more we learned that they were complete BS. Free Range chickens never actually went outside, and Antibiotic Free birds actually got a bunch of antibiotics. Oh, and organic, that just dealt with a single certification for the feed. Wait what?"
Hey Paul. We’re HUGE fans of yours here at Model Meals. Obviously we know some of your story, but for those who don’t, can you share with us how you went from accountant to poultry farmer?
Thanks! Yes, I’m just your standard college athlete turned Marine Corps Veteran turned Newport Beach accountant turned farmer story. Honestly though, my life really changed back in 2008 when I started getting some serious health problems like arthritis and low energy.
As a Crossfitter, I'd heard the hype about Paleo but never committed to trying it out. I finally gave it a go and after two weeks, I felt like a kid again. I could breathe through my nose, joint pain was gone, energy levels were up, and my sleep came back to normal. My wife and her whole family even jumped on board. People were losing weight, feeling better, and just overall healthier and happier. We were working hard to find good, clean foods and spending a lot of extra money on fancy labels like "grass fed", "free range", "organic", and "antibiotic free". The problem was, the more we jumped into these labels the more we learned that they were complete BS. Free Range chickens never actually went outside, and Antibiotic Free birds actually got a bunch of antibiotics. Oh, and organic, that just dealt with a single certification for the feed. Wait what?
We were pissed. Honestly. We felt cheated, misled, and lied to.
So in April of 2012, we were sitting around over Easter with the family joking around about getting some chickens for the backyard. Nobody had any type of farming or livestock background, so I thought it was just a big joke. But sure enough, my brother-in-law Rob disappeared from the room for about 5 minutes and returned with a big grin on his face.
"Guys, I just ordered 50 chicks and they'll be here in 2 weeks" Rob said.
"You WHAT!?!?" we all exclaimed.
And sure enough, the business was born.
What a story. You just totally took the plunge. We love that! We know you’re big on transparency in your business, which is something we admire. What made this become so important to the way you run Pasturebird?
After we started and over the next few years, we continued to realize that there was a huge gap in the market for pastured poultry into wholesale accounts like restaurants, grocery, butcher shops, and online retail. People wanted it, but the actual product didn't really exist. So we grew. And grew. And grew. And now, we're the largest pastured poultry producer in the USA (and maybe even the world).
My vision has less to do with size and more to do with impact. I want to leave a positive mark on global agriculture. I want to see environmentally destructive factory farming come to an end. I want to see antibiotics, especially prophylactic antibiotic use, come to and end - preferably before a major outbreak of antibiotic resistance caused by livestock. I want to see a future that's regenerative, where manure is an asset and not a liability; where we're building soil organic matter, producing a nutrient dense chicken, and giving animals a high level of welfare that we can be proud of and transparent to.
We go by the saying, “Inspect What You Expect.” We want you to come see your food for yourself, and meet your farmers. We want to build a relationship with you that goes beyond he said/she said, and gets back to the core - seeing for yourself.
You’ve mentioned rotating chickens to fresh pasture and putting an emphasis on the diet of the chickens. What impact does this have on your birds?
Pastured Poultry = chickens that live outside in a natural habitat (on grass, in the fresh air and sunshine with plenty of space to roam and forage). By rotating the chickens to fresh pasture every single day, Pasturebird chicken is not only healthy and delicious but also goes beyond sustainability to rebuild healthy, regenerative soils and grasslands.
Left to their own devices, chickens will forage for grass and seeds, and supplement their diet with a hearty portion of insects. Animal welfare or environmental considerations often motivate consumers to seek out pastured poultry, but increasingly, they can look to nutritional studies to see that there really is a nutritional difference between conventional poultry and the pastured-poultry that we raise here at Pasturebird.
Give us the scoop: what makes your chickens different from what we might find in our regular grocery store and why is that important?
The differences between our chicken and conventionally raised chicken are numerous. We use the term “Always Outside” to note the fact that our chickens don’t just have ambiguous “access to pasture”, but actually live outside on pasture 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Instead of debeaking the chicks, our birds use their beaks and talons to peck and scratch for bugs, worms, grass, seeds, and more. Instead of using antibiotics to fight disease within the flock, we use a healthy environment of pasture, sunshine, fresh air, and space to prevent sickness. Instead of marketing vegetarian-fed chicken (chickens are not vegetarians), we want our chickens to eat as many bugs and worms as possible. And instead of hiding our farm from the public, we know that our best marketing is transparency, so we regularly open the ranch for tours and events.
Part of the Model Meals team visiting the Pasturebird farm
Is there any nutritional difference in your chicken than what you call “conventional” chickens?
Not to brag, but our chickens are nutritionally superior because of the way they are raised.
Pasture-raised poultry has 21% less fat than conventional chicken, and 30% less saturated fat. It's what happens when they're outside running around all day. They also have 50% more Vitamin A compared to conventionally raised broilers. Forage much? Our birds are eating grass, bugs, seeds, and worms 24/7/365. Our birds also contain 3 times more Omega 3 than conventional, free range, or industrial organic chicken. That's because they have a species appropriate diet and a good life outside on pasture. The proof is definitely in the numbers.
What are you biggest suggestions to those that are looking into their own food sourcing, meat product or otherwise. What should we be concerned about learning?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's labeling for meat and poultry products can be misleading. For example, the label "free range" chicken simply require producers to demonstrate that the birds have access to the outdoors. Regulations do not state how much space the flock must be given or require that the chickens have access to a pasture diet.
Educating yourself about sourcing and exactly where your food items are coming from is extremely empowering. When you know how, what, and where your meat is coming from and under what conditions the animals are raised, you can make the decision to invest in food for yourself and your family that is contributing positively to your health and the health of the planet.
We love your mission and your “Why.” How can us, as consumers, contribute to the improvement of the farming industry? Does it start with what we buy?
It starts small, just like us. Change things a little at a time if you can’t commit to changing everything all at once. Even choosing one product that is an improvement over another, say switching brands to support a small, local farm that you know participates in regenerative practices, can be a good start. Starting with where you invest your money is an excellent place to begin. Educate yourself, learn, and share with others can help support a transition to responsible farming and consumer practices as well.
Thank you so much for sharing with us about your mission and the way you are affecting change in your industry. We are so grateful to be able to support your goals and to include you in the meals we deliver to our customers.
To learn more about Pasturebird, their farming practices, or to purchase some of their truly amazing, nutritionally superior pasture-raised chicken and other poultry products, visit Pasturebird.com and make sure to keep up with them on social media on Facebook and Instagram. PS check out this awesome video to see the farm!
We'd love to know! Did you learn something from Farmer Paul? What surprised you the most? What will you be doing to encourage responsible farming practices? Tell us with your comments.
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