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“What we place into our mouths, stomachs, and intestines are eventually transformed into our bones, blood, and brains.”

of my fi rst eye-openers as a farmer was experiencing the con- ditions and treatment of farm animals. They often live in fi lth, under overly crowded and deplorable conditions.” According to United Poultry Concerns, “Birds raised for

meat may be sold as ‘free-range’ if they have government-cer- tifi ed access to the outdoors. The door may be open for only fi ve minutes and the farm still qualifi es as ‘free-range.’ Apart from the ‘open door,’ no other criteria, such as environmental quality, number of birds, or space per bird, are required. Ritch says this is very true. Many consumers assume the bulk of the contamination occurs inside the processing plant, but in truth, you can often eat off the fl oors of a processing plant. The bacteria and problems come in from the farms themselves. This is why Ritch encourages potential custom- ers visit his organic, natural, pasture-raised farm, and see for themselves the healthy and humane conditions of his fl ocks. Ritch recently sent one of his chickens out for bacterial testing, and the testers called because they thought there had been a mistake in the readings. “Our chickens are bacteria-free, raised in bio-active soils and fed a smorgasbord of green, vegetative grasses and clovers, as well as bugs and worms, under fairly mild temperatures. The independent lab who did the testing was baffl ed. My bird was signifi cantly cleaner than the average chicken tested.” In terms of cattle, pork, and lamb, they are all raised on

10 Tennessee Valley

Goose Pond Farm’s fertile green pastures. Ritch never rushes the natural nutritional cycle. All animals fatten up in the spring in order to build up energy to mate by late summer. They usually bear the calf, lamb, or piglets through the winter months, utiliz- ing that stored energy in order to survive the winter. The con- sumer comes to learn that in order for Ritch to provide you with the freshest, healthiest meat at its peak in vitamins and minerals, there are certain seasons in which he harvests the fl ocks. “It sometimes takes a new customer some trial and error in determining exactly how much to buy based on family con- sumption,” Ritch says. “We only sell pork in the fall because piglets born in the spring will grow throughout the summer, ready to harvest in the fall. On the other hand, we harvest lamb in early spring, hopefully before Easter, because in order for pasture-raised lamb to have the highest nutritional density and taste, it must be harvested off of our best grasses, which here in North Alabama are springtime grasses.” Also raised on springtime grasses, cattle too, are harvested in late spring, while chicken season is April through Oc- tober; and of course, turkeys are raised specifi cally for Thanksgiving. Eggs are sold year round, since laying hens are rarely sold as poultry. “It seems funny that it is so tricky getting consumers adjusted back to a cycle that is actually the way it was intended it to be,” Ritch says. “But the difference in taste,

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