Which came first the chicken or the egg? I may not be able to answer that age old question for you, however I can give you some insight at to where your chicken comes from. If you’re like me (which I guess most households are), we don’t put too much extra thought into where our food comes from. Milk comes from the fridge and chicken comes from the store. Well, there’s quite a process to get food from farm to table. I recently had the opportunity to visit a Chicken Farmer, Mr. David Fuller of Nova Scotia to get the scoop on the chicken industry.
The Fuller Family Farm, is just that – a chicken farm run completely by the Fuller Family. The farm was originally started by David’s Dad after he moved from England in the early 50′s. David has been working on the farm since he can remember enlisting the help of his brother, children and inlaws over the years. Still to this day, everything from book keeping to barn cleaning is completely taken care of by family members. You may think it’s quite simple to run a chicken farm and sure if you had a few pens and a few chickens to feed your own family, it could be manageable. However if you’re one of the hundreds or thousands of chicken farmers licensed to produce chickens for Canadians to consume, there’s a whole lot more to the process.
Chicken farmers are always working a few months ahead to prepare for supply and demand for the future. While it may only be October, the chicken farmers have already known for a few months what their allotment will be for the Christmas season. There is a National System with a Board of Directors that decides how many chickens are going to be needed per province and then it’s divided up per Chicken Farmer by the amount of kilograms each farmer can produce.
One thing I was completely surprised by is at David Fullers Farm, they don’t also produce baby chicklets. They are actually purchased from a baby chicken farmer and are received at the Fuller farm when they are 1 day old. So, the chick farmer has to know their allotment even before the chicken farmers, this is why they are planning months in advance. Confused yet? I was, for what one would think is fairly simple, there’s a lot more that goes into planning, and I only saw one section of the process.
When I went to visit the farm itself, I was interested in seeing how the chickens lived in the barns. There are 2 groups of chickens with each round, some are kept for 32 days and will weigh an average of 1.8 KG’s while others will stay for 37- 38 days and will weigh an average of 2.15 KG’s. During their stay at the Fuller Family Farm, the chickens are fed a mixture of grains, corn and soy bean meal. The barns were surprisingly clean although they smelled fairly strong. The barns are only cleaned from top to bottom, inside and out once the chickens are taken away to be processed for the next step. If anyone enters the barn they have to be in full bio gear from head to toe, not to contaminate their living area.
I was curious about a few things, because we’ve all heard rumours about growth hormones and chickens that were so fat they could hardly walk. David assured me growth hormones have been illegal since the 60′s and when I saw the older chickens, they all seemed healthy and were waddling around in their quarters very nicely. David also mentioned how aware they are when it comes to sick chickens. A local veterinarian specializing in chickens would visit the farm at the onset of any sick chicken no matter how old the chick may be. One ill chicken could take out a flock, so the vet is on speed dial to avoid any out breaks. The chickens have heat, air, an unlimited supply of water and food and were living in a clean environment. I was a little sad to think of where these chickens were headed in just a few more days, but they were not maltreated and I am a chicken eater, so the reality is, this is where my food comes from. And, after the chickens “visit the plant”, it’s in the stores the next day to purchase, it doesn’t get much fresher than that.
David loves his job, he was once the president of the Chicken Farmers for 13 years. He’s been thinking about a retirement plan, however he’s also started a new plant called Eden Valley Poultry Limited – so he might retire from farming, but will still have his hand in the chicken industry.
It was very insightful to visit a chicken farmer, like I mentioned we as a society have become so removed from where food comes from, it was great to see first hand a part of the process. I might also like to see where the eggs comes from and then I might be able to give some insight on that old mind teaser - because in this process, the eggs do come before the chicken.
Want to meet another Chicken Farmer? Check out Wendy’s blog
**DISCLOSURE – “I AM PARTICIPATING IN THE CHICKEN FARMERS OF CANADA PROGRAM BY SHESCONNECTED. I RECEIVED COMPENSATION IN EXCHANGE FOR MY PARTICIPATION IN THIS CAMPAIGN. THE OPINIONS ON THIS BLOG ARE MY OWN.