A few years ago, Whole Foods asked us to look into pasture-raising broiler chickens; they appreciate our approach to animal welfare and the resulting quality of our eggs.
At first we balked...we believe in giving our girls the best life possible, so raising birds for slaughter was a departure for us. Yet we also know that people are going to eat chicken, and after much thought our team decided that we could bring some dignity to a practice that has been mired in controversy and inhumane practices for years. The Vital Farms Backyard Bird was born!
First, let us dispel one notion: our broiler chickens are not the same birds that lay our Vital Farms eggs. Our laying hens and broiler chickens are different in breed and body type, and are raised and processed on entirely different farms. However, all of our birds share a natural lifestyle on fresh pasture, under open skies. While the flavor profile is excellent, what we like most about our Backyard Birds are their ability and aptitude for exhibiting normal chicken behaviors like running, foraging, and perching. Sadly, most meat birds today grow so large so quickly that they are almost unable to do the things that should come naturally to them.
Like our laying hens, our meat birds are pasture-raised, meaning they roam free on grasslands during daylight hours. Their pasture space is generous, and includes shade, water, and perches to encourage exploration and foraging. In addition to grasses and other pasture goodies, they are also fed grain of the highest quality. We never use added hormones or antibiotics in their feed, or pesticides or herbicides on their pastures.
Our birds are slaughtered in the most humane way possible, at a small yet modern facility in Oklahoma, built to process birds for local family farms. USDA inspectors are always on-hand to ensure safety and quality, and the methods we use ensure that each bird is treated with the respect it deserves. Every bird is cleaned and carved completely by hand, using a vinegar and water solution as an anti-microbial agent; chlorine or ammonia never touch our birds. The dressed broilers are then air and ice-chilled, before being vacuum-sealed and shipped immediately to Whole Foods Markets; they arrive in meat cases less than 48 hours after processing.
As a result of these practices, Global Animal Partnership awarded Backyard Birds a Step 4 rating on the animal welfare scale, which is quite an achievement! We also offer a Step 5 rated bird in limited quantities in Whole Foods Markets in the Southwest region, and it’s our intention to transition to 100 percent Step 5 non-GMO fed birds in the future.
Feedback we've received on the look and taste of our Backyard Birds has been nothing short of stellar. We often hear that it's the best chicken our customers have ever tasted. This is a result of the lifestyle our birds are afforded, and the care and respect with which they are prepared for our customers. ©2013 Vital Farms, Inc.
Backyard Birds are currently sold in the Southwest, Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions of Whole Foods Market. For a full list of specific locations, please visit our page here.