5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare & Wellbeing
We adhere to, have designed our animal operations around, and train our team and partners to maintain these Freedoms for the animals we raise.
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
- Freedom from Discomfort by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
We truly invite you to watch and follow our daily routine with all of our animals. And for a quick glance, we’re launching our daily dashboard that tracks and reports all of your animals’ activity.
How much space do my chickens have?
The Short Version
The short version is that your chickens will have:
- In their brooder: up to 208% and 167% more space than conventional or Organic regulations require, respectively.
- While on their free-range: 186% more space than Organic regulations require in the case of free-range production.
The Long Version
It’s important to understand there are multiple methods to production in Ontario, just as there are multiple customer segments, and while Organic standards go above and beyond the minimal standards, the minimum standards have been continuously improved, especially over the last 10 years, and in our opinion are being very well managed.
We’ve spent dozens of hours studying the regulations and it’s clear the intent has been, and continues to be to dramatically increase the welfare of the chickens being produced in Ontario. Many improvements have been mandated for new and existing operations and you should feel confident that the chicken you buy off the typical store shelf had a very good chance to have led a good life.
Ultimately though, some people care deeply about the space their chickens have to live and express themselves; and we believe that there is a deeper role to play involving a management-intensive rotational pasturing of the land that allows the animals the freedom to live as their genetics intend while fulfilling their role in a regenerative production system. To this end we’ve planned our production in such a way that creates an excellent living environment for the animal while intensively rebuilding the soil.
So when it comes to space, there are two time-frames to think about:
- Brooder time: the space in which time they’ll spend indoors from day 1 till about 3-4 weeks old, or until they’re feathered enough to be outdoors.
- Their outdoor free-range time where they’ll spend the remainder of their lives with us.
Brooder time: The longest we typically keep them in their brooder is 28 days, typically only in the colder months of September and October. We might place them outside as soon as 18 days old in July or August if the weather looks good.
So given the longest brooder time, 28 days, the flock will weigh a maximum of 840lbs., while their brooder space remains constant at 226 sq. ft.
This translates to our maximum “stocking density” during the time in their brooder of 3.72 lb. / sq. ft.
The maximum regulatory stocking density allowed in Ontario is 7.76 lb. / sq. ft. assuming production is automated with smart sensors and computer controlled ventilation to ensure absolutely no ammonia or carbon dioxide build-up and a tightly controlled humidity profile.
The maximum Canadian Organic stocking density indoors is 6.24 lb. / sq. ft.
So while in their brooder, and at the very maximum, we’ll never stock any greater than 48% of the province of Ontario regulated maximum density nor greater than 60% of Canadian Organic standards.
How about when outside on free range pasture?
Our last flock averaged 7.25 lbs. ‘dressed weight’. We use a .75 conversion to estimate ‘live weight’, so at 300 birds, that’s a total flock weight of 2,900 lbs., while our field pens provide 696 sq. ft. of space.
Again, conventional standards are up to 7.76 lb. / sq. ft. whereas our density within a field pen at the end of the 35 days will be 4.17 lb. / sq. ft., or 53% of conventional standards.
Organic regulations limit free-range production to 1000 birds per total acre of pasture space over the outdoor life of the flock, and recommend the flock is moved at least once a day, while requiring a move at least once every 4 days. There are 43, 560 sq. ft. per acre, which means 43.56 sq. ft. minimum space dedicated to each bird over their entire free-range time.
Our field pens provide 696 sq. ft. of space and are moved daily for 35 days, for a total of 24, 360 sq. ft. of fresh pasture for each flock. At 300 birds per flock, that equates to 81.2 sq. ft. dedicated pasture space to each bird over their time outside. At minimum, our flocks receive 186% the space required by Canadian Organic standards.
Does this matter? On the surface, probably not, as the organic standards are quite good, however within the context of a regenerative, intensive pasture rotation, we believe it does, and we’re tracking our soil and animal welfare results to quantify if indeed, and by how much.
What are my chickens fed?
Your chickens are fed a 100% organic and non-GMO feed. This is the case both when they're in their brooder and once they're feathered enough to be moved outside.
We try to get them outside as soon as possible. That's where they'll thrive the most. They have full access to transitional organic pasture. This means the soil they're regenerating is being returned to organic standards, and the forage we've planted for them to eat has come from a 100% organic forage seed, a mix of high quality legumes (for protein) and grasses (for fiber and other nutrients).
Most importantly, as soon as they're outside they get access to a full range of insects as well, and we make sure to move them early in the morning, while the dew is still wet, so the insects haven't had a chance to fly off just yet.
Why do we grow our meat chickens so large?
First, for the chicken, it’s a longer and better life experience as they’ll spend most of their life outdoors rather than in a brooder waiting to grow out their feathers thick enough to be outside full time, day and night.
Second, it’s more regenerative for the soil as the chickens get more time rebuilding a fresh 696 sq. ft. patch of pasture every day.
Third, it’s overall more energy and time efficient, especially in the pre and post efforts of hatching and processing, which translates to a better carbon footprint.
Fourth, it reduces the number of animal deaths required for the same amount of protein.
There is a drawback for those who aren’t used to roasting a whole chicken; you’ll have to pick up that skill, but the reward for batch-cooking a large whole chicken is much less meal-prep time, which means more family time, not to mention the personal satisfaction.
Your chickens' 'one bad day'
You can confidently tell your partner, kids, friends and family that not only did your chickens live an excellent chicken's life, but they were treated calmly, honourably, and with respect in death.
Warning: There is some graphic description of how we collect and process your chickens ahead. While difficult to read at first, many have told us that they find the deeper understanding gives them a sense of thankfulness at meal time that translates into wasting less and making the most of every part of their chicken.
Our animals are collected the morning of their slaughter while they’re still calm, and not quite active for the day. They’re placed in cages that allow them room enough to move and remain comfortable; never too many per cage. They have less than a 1 hour travel time to the processing facility. Fresh air and ventilation during transport is very important, and the vehicle we transport them in is managed to ensure they’re never exposed to extremes of wet, cold, or heat. They’re to be kept dry, comfortable, with constant access to fresh air the entire journey.
Upon arrival, They’re immediately and calmly unpacked and placed upside down, hanging by both feet (not just one foot, and not paired with another chicken, both of which can cause injury). They’re quickly stunned with a regulatory approved electric stun to the temple, rendering them completely unconscious.
The animal welfare science behind how to stun an animal is robust, including location, duration, and amperage required to render the animal unconscious as quickly as possible; in the vast majority of cases, instantaneously. The processor is trained and their equipment validated. Verifiable signs of unconsciousness such as complete lack of eye movement or reflex are confirmed prior to the animal’s slaughter, which is then immediately performed to ensure the animal does not have an opportunity to regain consciousness. A sharp cut to their carotid artery is executed such that they then bleed out, and die, very quickly, without physical or mental anguish.
The entire process is done under the supervision of the Province of Ontario regulatory agent, who confirms both the transportation and the slaughter is conducted appropriately.
Any injury to an animal prior to being rendered unconscious is documented and reported, of which we take very seriously, conduct a root-cause analysis, and make the changes required to prevent that mistake and any others like it in the future. We’re a learning organization, and the changes are encoded into our Standard Operating Procedures.
We make any such reports available and verifiable here on our website.
We’re not perfect, but we intend to be, and we’ve put the culture and process in place towards that outcome.