The demand for locally produced meats is well-documented, and there are farmers eager to produce it. Too often the bottleneck in this scenario is simply an absence of independent processing facilities. A new report by Food and Water Watch explores the reasons behind this absence and the changes that would be needed to rectify it. Entitled, "Where's the Local Beef?," the report describes an monopolistic industry that favors large operations at the expense of smaller ones. Despite a large number of small start-ups, the authors note that most of these will go out of business. The current regulatory and industrial climate is just not designed for independent slaughter plants - existing or planned. Among the obstacles faced by smaller plants (defined as having fewer than 500 employees) are: scale-inappropriate regulations, lack of skilled personnel, and a near absence of competition in the industry. For instance in 2005, the top four beef-packing companies controlled over 80% of the market...
Fifth Crow Farm is owned by three partners: John Vars, Mike Irving and Teresa Kurtak. Though they are relatively young for farmers, each have over a decade of agricultural experience. The trio are graduates of the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems program, where they met and devised a plan to start their own farm one day. Today, their dream is realized and they farm 80 acres in the Cloverdale Valley, 45 miles from San Francisco and 35 miles from Santa Cruz. They sell primarily to farmers’ markets and restaurants in San Francisco and San Mateo county, and also operate a 200-member CSA.
Fifth Crow Farm consists of 80 acres, with 30 acres of row crops to supply their vegetable CSA, a 24-variety apple orchard, a young pear orchard and a pastured egg operation, consisting of two flocks of about 350 “beautiful ladies.” They raise all traditional breed hens, including Rhode Island Reds, Americaunas, Black Australorps, Welsummers and California White Leghorns. “Our hens are more than free-range. They go out daily on nutritious, insect-rich pastures of clover, alfalfa, chickory, plantain and grass,” explains Mike. “Each week they are moved to new land. We supplement their natural diet of insects, seeds and vegetation with locally milled organic feed from Modesto Milling, crushed oyster shells (for calcium) and organic veggie scraps.”
Fifth Crow Farm is committed to encouraging the natural behaviors of their laying hens, raising them outdoors on pasture where they can flap their wings freely, run, dust bathe, and peck and scratch for grubs and seeds. Pasture-based management not only provides the highest welfare conditions for the hens, but also produces healthier eggs containing three times as much vitamin E, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the omega-3 fatty acids as industrial eggs—not to mention, delicious tasting eggs!
“Our chickens are an integral part of our farm management plan. By allowing them to forage not only do they help us with insect control, but they add natural fertilizer in the form of their manure to the soil that we rotationally grow produce on,” says Mike.
Fifth Crow Farm is also passionate about educating their customers why the eggs are more expensive than grocery store varieties: “Our eggs require more labor and might cost more, but there are great benefits. The animals are treated with high-welfare practices, and our farming system made more sustainable. In addition, the resulting product is more nutritious and tastes better.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW chicken eggs from Fifth Crow Farm are available at various farmers’ markets between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit fifthcrowfarm.com and follow the farm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.