June 16, 2016 0 Comments
Written By Dr. Allen Williams, Ph.D.
A champion of the grass-fed beef industry as well as cutting edge grazing methodology, Allen helps restore natural soil water retention and reduce runoff, increase land productivity, enhance plant and wildlife biodiversity, and produce healthier food. He also serves as Joyce Farms' CRO (Chief Ranching Officer). Learn more about Allen
In addition to being part of the Joyce Farms team as Chief Ranching Officer, it’s my privilege to serve on a number of industry boards and committees, including the board of directors for the Grassfed Exchange. The Grassfed Exchange is a volunteer, non-profit organization of regenerative ranchers and grassfed industry supporters that holds the largest grassfed industry conference held annually in the U.S.
Each year the Grassfed Exchange Conference brings together farmers, ranchers, industry professionals and experts, university personnel, and USDA personnel for the exchange of ideas and information through seminars, farm tours and educational presentations.
They also use the occasion to give out awards to the “best of the best” in our industry. The 2016 Grassfed Exchange Conference was held in Perry, GA on April 27-29, with attendees coming from 42 different states and 5 different countries. I’m proud to say that at that conference, Ron Joyce and Joyce Farms were unanimously selected as the Grassfed Exchange Distributor/Marketer/Retailer of the Year.
The purpose of these awards is to recognize and honor those who have made significant contributions to the production of good food and agricultural stewardship, and Joyce Farm’s dedication to offering the consumer not only healthy products that are good for the land, the animals, and us -- but also products that are tender and delicious – was one of the major reasons for their selection for this award.
In naming Ron Joyce and Joyce Farms the winners, the selection committee cited their 50+ years of contribution to regenerative agriculture, revitalization of the rural economy, production of high attribute proteins, and commitment to providing consumers with a healthy choice in grassfed beef and poultry.
Receiving this award is a significant achievement, and I’m delighted Ron and the team here were chosen. Working with them, I see their hard work and dedication to quality every day, and it’s nice to see it recognized by our peers. It’s also a compliment to Joyce Farms customers, because when you choose Joyce Farms products, you’re choosing the industry-recognized best there is.
June 07, 2016 0 Comments
We don’t rush our chickens. They eat all-natural food, roam freely, and get nice and healthy on Mother Nature’s schedule. That’s how we’ve done things for many years, but it isn’t the industry norm. So earlier this year it was a pretty big deal in our industry when Whole Foods announced they ’re supporting new Global Animal Partnership (GAP) standards that will require all chicken producers to move away from fast-growth breeds if they want to be certified under GAP’s 5-Step® Rating Program. By 2024, Whole Foods will require their chickens to have a 23% slower growth rate than commercial, factory-farmed birds.
So what’s the problem with fast growth? Well, in the last 100 years or so, standard commercial chickens have been bred to grow faster so they’re ready for market sooner (allowing the producers to increase the number of birds they sell each year) while consuming less feed (cutting the cost to raise them).
A century ago it took about four months to grow a standard chicken; today the average for most commercial breeds is 42 days. That’s great for producing a lot of chicken, but not so great for the animals or consumers.
When chickens grow too fast, they can develop before their bones are ready to support all that weight, and many develop problems with their legs and joints, some to the point where they can’t walk. So the chickens suffer. In fact, Whole Foods predicts that this shift to slower growing birds will “improve the lives of 277 million chickens.”
The shift is also better for consumers because fast-growth chickens don't taste as good as slow-growth chickens. The slower growing process gives intramuscular fat time to develop in the meat, producing a juicier, more flavorful chicken with a superior texture (which is why slow-growth birds are preferred by chefs).
We learned all this a long time ago – we have many years of experience in slow growing chickens. Our Poulet Rouge Fermier™ chicken grows 100% slower than commercial breeds (84 days vs. 42 days), which far exceeds the Whole Foods and GAP standards. That’s why we’re excited that Whole Foods and others are switching to slow-growth chickens – it’s how we think all chickens should be raised.
Does all this mean that the poultry industry is doing away with industrialized farms and returning to more natural methods? No, but it's a step in the right direction, starting the industry down a path we’ve been forging for a long time, and we’re happy to see that happen.
May 25, 2016 0 Comments
The Joyce Farms Poultry Science Scholarship was established in 2007 to support students pursuing careers in agricultural science at NC State University. Each year, students from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences submit applications and essays for consideration. One outstanding applicant is selected to receive $1,000 from Joyce Farms to help fund his or her education.
It’s a difficult task to choose just one from our many qualified candidates. We consider academic standing, past achievements, and demonstrated passion, skill, and determination.
This year, we are pleased to announce Ray Borzotra as the 2016-17 recipient of the Joyce Farms Poultry Science Scholarship!
Congratulations and best of luck to Ray and all of our impressive applicants!
Find information on how to apply for future scholarship consideration here.
April 26, 2016 0 Comments
Did you know that genetics directly affect the flavor of meat, poultry and game?
One of the major changes in the meat and poultry industry over the past century has been the development of faster-growing genetics that are cheaper to produce. These modern genetics are the industry’s response to the mass-market demand for more meat at the lowest possible cost.
The unintended effect of increased production efficiency has been the loss of flavor in the process and it has created a number of animal welfare issues with these faster-growing breeds.
This chart from the National Chicken Council shows that in 1925 it took 112 days to produce a chicken that weighed 2.5 pounds live (less than 2 pounds dressed). Today, with modern genetics, it takes only 48 days and significantly less feed to grow a chicken that weighs 6.2 pounds live (over 4.5 pounds dressed).
By using genetics of a bygone era in all of our Heritage breed animals, Joyce Farms produces table fare with superior culinary characteristics when compared to modern commercial genetics. The longer time and slower growing process allows intramuscular fat to develop in the meat, yielding a juicier and more flavorful bite, like a well-marbled steak. The texture of the meat is far superior, and the very thin skin (a characteristic of the Cou Nu, or “naked neck”, breed) is highly sought after by chefs.
Our Poulet Rouge Fermier® chicken, an authentic Label Rouge heritage chicken from France, takes 84 days and 15 pounds of feed to grow to 4.75 pounds live (about 3.5 pounds dressed).
Modern cattle genetics have also suffered at the hands of production efficiency. Steers are being grown larger and faster, but the beef does not taste like it once did. Our success in producing Heritage Grass-Fed Beef that grades USDA Prime and USDA Choice is in large part due to our focus on quality genetics. Dr. Allen Williams, our Chief Ranching Officer, selectively bred cattle to produce genetics going back to the original Aberdeen Angus breeds from Scotland in the 1840s, and the bloodline developed is traceable to its Scottish roots. This particular breed is a much smaller carcass than today’s commercial cattle genetics, and consistently finishes very well on grass, as nature intended.