Raised with access to outdoors: The Freedom Ranges and American Bresse at Voodoo Farm spend most of their time outdoors, roaming 15 acres of hilly forest and dining on an all-natural, protein-rich diet of insects, frogs, newts, clover and spoilage from newly planted fruit trees. The birds are encouraged to find their own food, causing them to live longer, more active lives than commercially raised chickens.
Voodoo’s owners, Oren and Cybele Ritterband, both first-generation farmers, chose their stock carefully. “When Oren was doing his research, he found the terrain here is very much like the Bresse area in France,” says Cybele, with a nod toward the mountains of nearby Worthington State Forest. “You always see these wonderful farmers with green pastures, but really the natural environment for a chicken is the woods, where they can eat bugs and hide from predator birds.”
Antibiotic free: According to the Food and Drug Administration, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are given to farm animals—not humans. Often these antibiotics are used not to cure sick animals, but to accelerate growth as well as to compensate for dirty, crowded conditions common in factory farms. Fed to animals at low levels day after day, they kill the weak germs, leaving behind the ones that are hardest to destroy. Over time, these drug-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs,” multiply and spread.
At Voodoo Farm, our birds are never routinely given antibiotics. They are allowed to forage outdoors, live in coops that provide ample space per bird and grow naturally to their full weight over time.
Feed grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides: Voodoo’s chickens forage in the forest for food most of the year and their diet is supplemented by feed grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Land stewardship: Like most small family farms, Voodoo Farm takes pride in taking care of their land. “Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmer produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.” — Wendell Berry
Locally raised: When you purchase chicken from Voodoo Farm, you know it hasn’t been transported by a truck or container ship for days or weeks. What’s more, when you buy local, more money stays in the community. The New Economics Foundation, an independent economic think tank, compared what happens when people buy at a supermarket vs. a local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA) program and found that twice the money stayed in the community when folks bought locally.
Humane, clean and safe harvest: Oren and Cybele Ritterband learned to dress their birds at a chicken processing workshop hosted by Hard Cider Homestead, a small backyard farm in rural East Amwell that gives lessons in butchering, wheat production, garlic braiding and other small-scale farming skills. They consider the slaughter a responsibility, both to eliminate the stress of transport on the birds and to keep sight of every part of the process. As the daughter of a strict vegetarian and the son of a rabbi, Cybele and Oren take pains to slaughter respectfully, in the middle of the night, when the birds are half asleep.
Oren processes the birds himself – with a kosher blade – and then air chills them. Cybele does the butchering. They’re happy to show you where and how they do it. The air chilling process does not cause the chewy tastelessness that the water chilling process can cause. It also prevents the spread of bacteria from chicken to chicken.