Do You Really Know What You Eat?
Do you know where your food comes from? How the animals live? What about how they are supposed to live?
I took my family to Primal Pastures farm in Murrieta, CA on a farm tour for my early Mother’s Day present. This tour was nothing short of amazing.
Primal Pastures was started in 2012 on a small scale by a group of brothers who were passionate about finding a way to produce healthy animals in a responsible way. They quickly realized many others shared their passion when they sold out their first group of chickens. They've been slowly building their operations ever since, taking care not to outgrow their land space.
Our tour group was led by Farmer Paul and Farmer Amy. They employ a “regenerative agriculture” technique, which means their farming practices rotate the animals to new plots of land DAILY to allow for the soil to heal and the native plants to grow. We were led to the pastures where we got to see pigs contentedly resting in the shade while the group took pictures and the kids petted them. Next to that was the mobile chicken enclosure. They explained that the chickens roam freely inside but are somewhat covered from the elements and natural predators, such as the hawks which live nearby. This enclosure is moved every day so the land it had been on can restore itself. The chickens eat, poop (fertilize) the grasses and weeds. It will be 90 days until chickens are on the piece of land they stood on today.
They do not spray any pesticides, use any chemical fertilizers, or use any sort of traps or poisons to kill the nearby predators, mainly coyotes, which come in from the hills surrounding the farm. Instead, they allow the animals to help maintain the land by grazing, fertilizing and guard dogs to protect the farm. While at first they had 300-plus losses, once they had the dogs outside 24/7 to watch over the land, the losses fell to zero. The dogs’ natural protective instincts deter, rather than kill, the coyotes, allowing them to pass through the land in search of food without harm. How cool is that?
Once we finished admiring the chickens and pigs, we walked a short distance to the next pen over and saw the dairy cow and a herd of sheep. Their moveable pen also changes daily so they always have fresh grass and weeds to eat.
The farmers are able to regenerate the land without much need for watering. The grasses and weeds grow tall, so the sun doesn’t penetrate down to the earth below. Farmer Paul mentioned that in the heat of summer, they can easily go ten days without watering and still need galoshes to walk on the pasture.
Another interesting fact is that their farmers ensure proper processing of their animals. It is not done on site, so the farmers go to the processor to ensure that their animal meat/parts are not mixed in with anything else, including another one of their animals. They take care to use all parts of the animal so that nothing goes to waste.
He pointed out their field of ornamental animals like turkeys, horses, and alpacas next to where the sheep, chickens and pigs were kept. That land is mowed and watered daily and shows the huge difference between a traditional farm and what they have going on in their pastures.
Next we went to a tent-like structure called an “MRC” (mobile rotating coop) and saw baby chicks. We were invited to hold them as they told us about how the coop, which was on skids, is moved daily by its length to fresh grass. There is plenty of ventilation and a mister is installed if they need to keep it cool in summer. Chickens are fed soy-free, organic, non-GMO corn as a supplement to the bugs and weeds they peck on. This is to ensure they grow large enough to accommodate the customers they supply.
The tour culminated with a demo by Chef (aka Farmer) Eric on how to break down a chicken. Yes, it was a quick culinary lesson that assured me I reallllly need to sharpen my knives. It seemed as though he barely touched the chicken and it cut right open. He showed us how to split the chicken into 10 pieces and even shared other recipe tips and ideas. We were then each given a frozen chicken to take home and cook up later.
Transparency is so rare yet super important when it comes to our food. As it’s been said: You are what you eat, ate. Food literally becomes a cellular part of you and to see this type of farming in action is so inspiring. ALL communities should have something like this: locally, humanely-raised animals that make the earth BETTER. You’d be hard-pressed to find a farmer who would allow anyone to enter their farm, let alone invite them in on a tour, field a ton of loaded questions about their farming and encourage you to pet their animals. We had a great time there and learned so much about regenerative agriculture. I highly recommend checking them out on their website, primalpastures.com if you’d like to learn more or place an order.