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Illinois Farm Needs Help To Fund The "Chicken Freedom Project"

By Anthony Todd in Food on Nov 14, 2012 3:30PM

2012_11_14_ChickenFreedome.png Do you like eating sustainable, humanely-raised chicken? Even better, do you like eating affordable, sustainable, humanely-raised chicken? We definitely do. We're also pretty horrified every time we read about the inner workings of a commercial chicken farm. But, people keep telling us that's the only way to raise lots of chicken. They can't all be running around free on a farm, right? Slagel Farms is out to change that.

Slagel Family Farm has long been a local leader in sustainable meat production, supplying beef, veal, pork, chicken and lamb to restaurants and markets all over Chicago. The meat is humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic free, and actually gets to move around on their farm in Central Illinois.

Recently, a commercial chicken farm came up for sale. Commercial chicken farms, frankly, are kind of scary places. Combine a horror movie insane asylum with a salmonella breeding machine and you've pretty much got the idea. Over 100,000 chickens were housed in this one building, stacked in cages six high.

What's to be done? Slagel Farm wants to buy it and convert it into something better. They've launched the "Chicken Freedom Project."

"After seeing the facility in person, we were determined to find a way to buy the property and destroy the caged bird system so it could not get into the hands of another factory farm and continue to operate...We immediately made the decision to try to purchase the farm for several reasons. First, we want to take the farm off the market so it cannot be used in this form again. It’s hard to imagine the poor quality of life these birds had on a farm that housed 100,000 laying hens in a single building. Secondly, we would be able to rip all the cages out of the building and add doors and windows so we could use it for a cage-free chicken house similar to what we operate at our family farm now. After destroying the cages in the current building, we would house 35 laying hens in the same square footage that would have previously housed over 600 hens."

Why is this good for the consumer? Well, chickens raised in facilities like this will taste better, be less likely to harbor serious germs and won't put more antibiotics into the food system. Even better, the more small farms like Slagel can expand their capacity, the better the prices they can offer to us consumers. Everyone wins!

They're running their own little miniature kickstarter-style campaign through their own website. They'll take donations of any size, but if you donate $50-100, you can get a discount off of your next online order from Slagel. If you donate $250, they'll kick in a ticket to a farm dinner. Think of it as investing in quality chickens (and probably lower prices) in advance. If you're a big fan of Slagel, it might be worth it to you.