Wise Organic Pastures – The Poultry Farm
Now it's on to the Farm – a 50-mile drive from the plant.
As city dwellers, we did not know what to expect at the “chicken” farm. Wise Organic Poultry contracts with farmers willing to raise chickens to its high specifications – combining humane methods, proper feed, and ample space. To visit one such farm, we traveled to a picturesque well–maintained farm, owned by a grower in the Susquehanna Valley of Central Pennsylvania.
We donned disposable shoe coverings, a full body protective bodysuit, and head apparel. Prior to entering the main area where the chicks are kept, we stepped into an antiseptic, granular shoe disinfectant and proceeded into a large temperature controlled barn where the little chicks are raised. The birds, in this case Cobb chickens, were 8,000 in number. The chicks are vaccinated at the hatchery one day after birth, prior to their arrival at the growers. The vaccine dye shows up as pink on their backs to show they have been vaccinated. Although no antibiotics are ever used, vaccines are administered at the hatchery. A vaccine builds the birds’ immune system, allowing it to resist certain diseases. Think of it as similar to our “flu” vaccinations. When we exited the barn, we again stepped into the granular shoe disinfectant, removed the disposable covering and deposited them into a large disposable plastic bag.
The chicks are kept primarily indoors until they are three weeks old and then, weather permitting, given protected outdoor access. They are then considered “free roaming” and can come and go as they please. The barns have 8 hours of darkness every evening, “sleeping time”, a rule for growing organic birds.
Issac selected this grower because of the grower’s long time family farming history, his excellent reputation, and his dedication to a fully organic program. Theirs is a high–tech organic facility monitored with the latest equipment for health and welfare of the chickens.
A computer controls temperatures in each barn: It is automatically adjusted depending on the age of the chicks. The temperature usually starts at 92 degrees and is gradually lowered to 70 degrees as the birds age. Layers of saw dust cover the floor about 2–3 inches deep and the covering remains for the duration of the life of the particular flock.
To monitor the health of the flock, official monthly reports are required: barn record sheets are kept daily with documentation relating to temperature, litter quality, health, air quality, rodent control, and water. Organic birds are required to each have one square foot of space in the barn as compared to .34 square feet for commercial birds.
Automatic feeding and water systems run the length of area. There is a stainless steel "nipple" for water. The steel glistens and attracts the birds to the water. The chicks are not handled until they are hand caught for shipping. Most of Wise Organic Pastures’ chicks are shipped for slaughter at 6-8 weeks of age. Isaac processes 10,000 chickens per week, and he tries to increase production by at least 10% for holidays
Organic poultry is usually more costly than conventional poultry. Why? As we observed first hand, there are more stringent growing conditions. The feed must be organic and there are multiple space and atmosphere considerations. Not only is Issac Wiesenfeld concerned about the quality of the feed, the sanitation and health of the birds, but he is currently working diligently to add an additional label to his kosher, organic chickens; a humane notation on his label, indicating that the birds were raised in accordance with an officially recognized Animal Welfare Policy.
In the twelfth century, the writings of the Jewish physician Maimonides, detailed the medicinal properties of chicken and chicken soup. We hope that we have informed our readers, so that they can choose just the right healthy, delicious and nutritious chicken for every pot.
For more information about Wise Organic Pastures, visit WiseOrganicPastures.com. To learn more about David Elliott poultry, call 570-344-6348.
Special notes from KosherEye:
For our Poultry Series, parts 1, 2 and 3, We contacted the following three kosher poultry producers:
Wise Organic Pastures – We are very appreciative to Issac Wiesenfeld for welcoming us to his processing plant and farm and giving us complete access to both facilities.In addition, we are grateful to Moshe Fink of David Elliot Poultry for sharing detailed information about kosher processing and allowing us to tour his processing facility.
Chai Poultry – We appreciate the cooperation of CEO Charles Weinberg who was interviewed by phone - since Toronto, home of Chai Poultry, was not on the kosher tour this time.
Empire Kosher Poultry – After several telephone calls, messages and emails to the company, we received no response from Empire. In the interest of providing a comprehensive kosher poultry feature for our readers, we followed up with a request to Empire’s media representative who sent us the following Empire response: “The chickens are raised at dozens of growout houses in central PA, with (sic) a 100 mile radius of the plant. Due to health and safety rules, there are no visits to them. Empire is very strict about who can enter and be in contact with the birds.”
We look forward to hearing from Empire as we explore future features. Empire has recently acquired one of our favorite brands of poultry, Kosher Valley. Our lines of communication are open. We would like to know about this acquisition and how it will affect the product.
This list, from Consumer Reports, of Common Industry Chicken Terms, is very informative.