Fili-West Farms is a small, family owned/operated, Pastured Poultry farm in Vance, SC (Near beautiful Lake Marion). This farm is a land healing outreach and represents our take on Pastured Poultry as pioneered by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Here's a rough outline of how our operation works...
We order un-vaccinated Cornish Cross Broiler Chicks from Mt Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio (There is no local hatchery, as local food/farm economies have been choked out by Big Ag). After the birds arrive at the local Post Office, we go pick them up and bring them back to the farm. Upon our return, we carefully transfer the chicks to the brooder house. This is a warm, clean, dry, custom-built shelter for them to grow up strong and healthy in for the first 2-3 weeks of their lives on the farm. We put fresh wood shavings down daily to keep the place clean and dry. Furthermore, we supplement the water with Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to help promote overall health and efficient digestion.
After the chicks are big and hearty enough to handle the environmental pressures of being out in the "Big Bad World", we transfer them into airy, spacious, portable field shelters on our organic pasture (Non-certified). The birds then stay out on the pasture, being moved to fresh grass daily, until they are approximately 8 weeks old (Factory farms average only 6 weeks before slaughter). With 75 birds per 10' W(x)12' L(x)5'6" T shelter, each bird has a personal space of 1.6 square feet (This is dramatically greater than the space allotted to factory-farmed chickens). While out on the pasture, the birds are free to forage for whatever type of bugs, grasses, seeds, etc they care to eat that day. No worries if one of their buddies gets their favorite morsel before them, as they will be moved to a fresh salad bar the next day. This forage accounts for up to 20% of their diet. However, their genetic potential will not allow them to survive on forage alone. The Cornish Cross, as with most modern chickens, requires a "high-octane fuel" to keep it growing steadily. This "fuel" comes in the form of a fresh, locally-sourced, unmedicated feed from Bartlett Milling in Florence, SC. The feed has no drugs, as they are rendered unnecessary in our clean, healthy production model. The feed is also free from animal by-products (ie, Ground Chicken Parts. YUCK!). On the contrary, the feed is fortified with a proprietary blend a vegetable extracts which act as Natural Prebiotic, Anti-fungal, and Anti-microbial Intestinal Secret Agents, covertly increasing the health and vitality of our birds one bite at a time. This healthy food and forage, coupled with a lack of negative inputs, space to exercise, and a longer lifespan, leave us with a healthy*, delicious chicken with actual texture and taste. Our chicken tastes like CHICKEN! This is food fit to eat. Even better, the production model we use helps to heal the earth through proper nutrient cycling on our pastures. The chickens aerate the soil and put down their intestinally-brewed fertilizer one 10'x12' paddock at a time. This free labor is invaluable and, when paired with roaming ruminants to keep the grass down, actually builds healthy soils and pastures rather than depleting them like so many other modern farming methods. We are Grass Farmers, Soil Builders, and Pasture Rehabilitation Specialists!:)
*More Vitamin A, More Omega-3 Fats, Less Saturated Fats, etc...
Our Pastured Layer Hens are Hy-Line Brown "Rescue Rangers" from the Hy-Line International layer hen production facility in NC (The spawn of our tragically/negligently centralized agricultural system). After all the factory farms orders have been filled for ready-to-lay pullets (Young Hens), the Hy-Line facility sells some of its over-run birds to us little guys (Special thanks to Celeste & George Albers of Green Grocer Farms for assisting us in this rescue operation). Rather than being euthanized, the birds are given a wonderful life on our farm with 49 of their closest friends! What could be better!? Our Rescue Rangers are raised in much the same way as our Broiler chickens, but with only 50 birds per shelter (They eat much more forage and like more personal space than Broiler Chickens). A nest box is also added to the shelter design for them to lay their eggs in. Eggs are gathered at least twice daily in order to help keep them as clean as possible. They are later washed by hand using a vinegar-based, all-natural cleaning solution.
The vitality of these hens vs what is found in factory farm hen batteries is remarkable. Simply allowing these chickens to forage, roost, lay, and play encourages unbelievable health and resiliency. We have yet to lose a single Hen after a whole year of raising them. Despite multiple harrowing escapes, cow attacks (Yes, COWS!), and seemingly injurious run-ins with less than careful farmers, these birds WILL NOT STOP! I have yet to find the compartment housing their Energizer batteries, but will keep you all posted.;) The large volume of greenery and bugs eaten by these birds enables them to produce the healthiest, tastiest eggs possible. The shells are strong, the yolks sit upright and shine brightly orange,the whites are fluffy, and the eggs stay delicious for at LEAST 2 Months! (Higher antioxidant content keeps them fresher and nutritionally viable longer). Even better, since our eggs aren't shipped cross-country, they arrive in your kitchen faster, fresher, and with all the full flavor a farm fresh egg has to offer. How about THAT!:)
Last, but not least, are our Pastured Broad Breasted White Turkeys. These are seasonal only and sell out fast due to their rarity and quality. These birds are raised in much the same way as the chickens. However, they are given MUCH more personal space due to their large size and voracious appetite for forage. We put just 15 Turkeys in each shelter. They are raised in the Brooder House for a full 4-6 weeks, as they are extremely fragile in their infancy. After they are transferred to the pasture, they are moved daily until they are 17 weeks old (Industry standard is a mere 12 weeks). Once again, this long life in green pastures means more texture, a more complex flavor, greater health (For the Turkey AND You!), and a farm experience that leaves us guilt free, knowing that our Turkey was raised humanely and allowed to fully express its natural "Turkeyness."
All our birds are processed at our local, Certified Humane processing facility, Williamsburg Packing Co. The birds are put to sleep with Co2 prior to killing them, rendering the process painless/relatively stress-free for the birds. At the end of this process, prior to packaging the birds, they are Air Chilled rather than thrown into the typical large vats of ice water chill tank goo (Or "Fecal Soup", as Joel Salatin puts it). This leaves us with a cleaner bird, zero water retention, and no contaminants from someone else's potentially tainted products. Our chicken is made out of 100% chicken, NOT retained watery mush.
Farm tours/visits are always welcome. Just call first to schedule (Not recommended Nov-Feb, as the farm is largely dormant at that time). Thanks!