About our farming practices
Chestnut Farms is passionate about quality meat which means great animals. Our animals enjoy fresh air, green grass, and sunshine on a daily basis. We strive to ensure a high quality of life and a low stress for our livestock. Our farming practices are animal centered with a focus on land stewardship. This includes rotational grazing, moving our chicken buses, not using the same pig pasture two years in a row and soil testing prior to amending our fields. Numerous studies have shown that animals raised on pasture are healthier themselves, healthier for us to consume and much better for our environment.
Pasture Raised Livestock: Better for you:
Chestnut Farms livestock eats farm fresh pasture, hay (dried pasture), nuts, bugs and worms. The green plants in our pasture provide our livestock with more accessible nutrition than they would get from grains, so their products contain more vitamin E, beta carotene, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E and beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, are powerful antioxidants that, among other functions, help our bodies cope with toxins. Conjugated lineoleic acid prevents many types of tumors and breast cancer in post-menopausal women. The above nutrients also promote heart health in both men and women.
All meat has some fat. However, our grass fed meat offers more of the good fats- the Omega-3 fatty acids – essential in our diets and less of the bad fat – the omega-6. This has been linked to reductions in obesity, cancer, asthma and depression (because these acids cross the blood-brain barrier and help brain cells function). A pasture based animal diet produces beef and other livestock products that have a ratio of omega-3 to -6 that are far healthier for humans. The meat is also naturally higher in vitamin E. Products from pasture-fed livestock also are lower in total fat than products from grain-fed animals.
Pastured lamb has less fat and more protein than grain-fed lamb
Poultry also benefits from being raised on grass. Pastured broilers have higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed broilers. Eggs from pasture-fed hens have more folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin E and carotenes – especially lutein and zeaxathin, which reduce macular (center of the retina) degeneration – than grain-fed. Turkeys benefit even more than broilers from pasture, because they naturally tend to forage more and they live nearly three times as long from hatch to harvest. A broiler will generally go from hatch to harvest in 9 to 11 weeks while a turkey will grow from hatch to harvest over 22 to 30 weeks. The quality of the food the bird eats directly affects the meat we will eat and the nutrients in that meat.
Pasture Raised Livestock: Better for the Animal
Beef cattle raised on pasture generally have fewer health problems, easier births and longer life expectancy than those raised on grain. The ability to freely walk around and go from barn to pasture means that the cattle are healthier and calmer (the downside is the escape over the hills and through the neighbors pasture!!) Grain-fed cows have a propensity toward acidosis (a blood condition in which the bicarbonate concentration is low), because they cannot digest the grain easily. Acidotic cows often have liver problems, laminitis, and can be “off feed.” A grain diet also increases liver lesions in cattle.
The improved health of pastured animals has an additional advantage: Our animals are much healthier and antibiotics are not generally used – We will only use one to save the life of an animal and in almost two decades of farming are still on our first bottle of penicillin. We think our experience is proof that a happy cow is a healthy cow!
Pigs are naturally curious and do lots of rooting and digging. While they love pasture, a small herd of 20 hogs can turn a five acre pasture into a moonscape in a matter of days. Thus, we pasture our hogs with a small amount of grass but lots of nuts, berries and trees. Our pigs love a green salad and we make sure they get regular doses of fresh cut hay. Research has shown that milk from sows on pasture has more vitamin E and selenium than grain-fed, as does pork from those piglets. A study reported in Applied Environmental Microbiology showed that pasture-raised pigs had less antibiotic resistant bacteria than confinement-raised pigs.
There is a plethora of research on eggs and chicken – the summary is that a chicken with access to fresh grass and forage will lay an egg with a YELLOW yolk that is full of good vitamins and omega – 3s. Similarly, a chicken that is farm raised with room to crow and move will taste amazing and cook in 1/3 less time as we do not inject saline solution into our birds as a “flavor enhancer”.
Pasture Raised Livestock: Better for the Environment
The Institute for Environmental Research and Education showed a gain of one-half ton per acre per year of carbon on land that is converted from tilled cropland to grassland. Native or planted grasses remove CO2 from the air by photosynthesis and store it in the soil as organic matter or rotting plant parts. This reduces greenhouse gases. Grassland ecosystems evolved with animals and produce a natural flow of nutrients.
The environmental impact of livestock production is reduced with pasture-raised animals: Less fossil fuel is required to raise and harvest feed or spread manure. With grain-based systems, more animals are kept than otherwise could be supported by the farm without purchased feed and supplements. The resulting excess manure applied to the limited land area of a farm overwhelms the soil ecosystem, and leached nutrients pollute.
Earthworm numbers in the soil of a permanent pasture system are much higher than in one rotated with field crops. This is just another good indicator of the positive environmental impact of pasture-raised livestock.