"Why do chickens smell so bad"?
This is a question that a friend at church recently asked me. I'm sure the look on my face was dubious. My chickens don't smell bad. Let me repeat that, my chickens DO NOT SMELL (maybe the pigs but not the chickens). He went on to tell me that he was talking about a confinement poultry farm outside of town. If you've ever driven past one of these "farms" you will see many bleak white hoop house like structures, most have no windows and can be smelled from a great distance. If you were allowed inside (which is usually not allowed) you would likely find tens of thousands of chickens crammed into the tight space with barely enough room to turn around. If the chickens were mature enough you would notice many are too large to move anyway due to fast growth rate and inability to properly build muscles for movement. The ones that could still move would be walking over chickens in various states of decay and some would even be pecking at and snacking on their recently deceased friends. Unless, of course, they've been de-beaked (a process in which a large portion of the bird's beak is painfully cut off to prevent cannibalism and pecking injuries when birds are crowded). De-beaking is more often reserved for egg layers.
Meat producers (I refuse to call them farmers) instead use dim lighting, (remember the lack of windows?) to discourage these behaviors and decrease energy expenditure. The smell comes from these crowded inhumane conditions. With limited room to move these chicken's just wade through their own (and their neighbor's) waste. The build up of ammonia, manure, and decay creates the odor so often associated with chicken farms. New favorite candle scent anyone?
Is there a solution?
At The Rugged Cross Farm our chickens are raised very differently. Our animals are allowed to move freely and engage in natural behaviors. Although many have shelters to protect them from predators, they all have access to fresh green pastures 24 hours a day. We expect our chickens to behave like chickens. They scratch at the ground, stretch their wings, jump and fly, roll in the dirt, chase bugs, eat grass, and lounge in the sun.
Because our birds are raised this way they experience lower stress, and almost no incidence of disease or lameness. They live a happy life right up to processing-which happens on the farm to reduce the stress of being crammed into shipping crates, thrown into the back of a truck, hauled off to a strange sterile environment, and then getting shocked to death- you read that right. Look it up.
In addition, studies consistently show that pasture-raised animals produce nutritionally superior meat and eggs. When compared to food from animals that were fed grain and raised in confinement, food from animals raised on pasture has better fat quality and increased levels of essential vitamins and nutrients. Recent research has even found a more extensive increase in vitamins and nutrients than previously believed. There is an increase in healthy fats that have been shown to help with neural health, and can be protective against cancer and obesity. Food Animal Concern Trust (FACT), reports that pastured poultry has 6% more protien, 15% more collagen, and 1.3x's more Vitamin-E than conventionally raised poultry. According to American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) pasture-raised chicken meat tends to be higher in iron, Omega 3's, have a lower Omega 6:3 ratio, and be higher in antioxidants like Vitamin E.
So if "you are what you eat" is correct, who do you want to be: the stinky, flabby, mistreated, poorly nourished bird living in darkness or the one building lean muscle by foraging for yummy treats and playing in the sun? I know who I'd want to be.