NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced a $151,100 grant to Farm Forward that will be used to promote humane poultry welfare at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, Kan. Good Shepherd, which is run by farmer Frank Reese, raises pasture-based, vegetarian-fed heritage breed chickens and turkeys free of unnecessary antibiotics in spacious, welfare-friendly conditions.
Heritage breeds are slow-growing, naturally reproduced, and come from genetic lines established prior to World War II that, unlike almost all commercially available chickens, have the genetic ability to live healthy outdoor lives. After the war, birds began being intensively bred for unnaturally accelerated weight gain. This trend has continued and intensified to date, forcing chickens and turkeys to grow beyond their skeletal capacities. Many factory farmed birds, living in extremely cramped confinement, suffer lameness, chronic leg pain and deformities, and heart failure due to the genetically-induced rapid growth they endure to reach market weight in an unnaturally short period of time. Some birds even drop dead from heart attacks due to their excessive weight gain.
"More consumers are making conscientious choices to support and consume humanely raised poultry," said Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA’s farm animal welfare campaign. "By providing this grant, the ASPCA hopes that in addition to other welfare improvements, Mr. Reese’s approach will be embraced by the wider poultry industry and that we will be able to significantly reduce the cruel treatment of the billions of birds raised in this country for meat each year. As long as people continue to consume poultry, birds should be treated with compassion and respect and suffer the least amount of pain possible."
Good Shepherd is currently the market leader in the sale of chicken and turkey products that come from birds raised entirely outside of the factory farm industry. The ASPCA's grant will be used to build an additional barn for Mr. Reese that will yield the following benefits:
- An immediate impact on at least 17,000 birds that will be raised in accordance with high-welfare protocols, including ample time and space outdoors to exhibit natural behaviors, rather than on factory farms.
- The development of a grower operation that will become a prototype of a humane heritage chicken operation. Mr. Reese has already achieved this with his heritage turkey operation.
- A substantial source of heritage breed birds with which to supply the larger poultry industry. Currently, the lack of heritage breed birds is a significant barrier to the development of high-welfare poultry rearing. Eventually, the new barn resulting from this grant can ameliorate that problem by functioning as a hatchery to provide heritage breed baby birds and eggs to other farms. Presently, Mr. Reese can produce 72,000 chicken eggs and 30,000 turkey eggs per season; with the new barn converted to a hatchery, he will be able to increase this amount to 600,000 chicken eggs and 100,000 turkey eggs per season.
"For an animal protection organization like the ASPCA to provide this generous grant demonstrates tremendous foresight; humane poultry rearing is the way of the future and farmers need support to meet consumer demand," said Reese. "There are other farmers out there who want to do the right thing and raise their birds humanely. This grant will help enable them to do that while providing a model for farms across the country."
Non-profit farm advocacy organization Farm Forward will be administering the grant and managing the overall progress of Good Shepherd's expansion. "Mr. Reese is a pioneer in this field and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others within the farm community," said Aaron Gross, founder and CEO of Farm Forward. "As progressive farmers begin to follow his lead and consumers demand more humanely-sourced poultry, it will not be long before we see a transformed poultry industry where the emphasis is on humane production."
For more information about the ASPCA's stance on the treatment of farm animals, please visit http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/farm-animal-cruelty/where-we-stand-on-the.aspx. To learn more about Farm Forward's work with Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, please click here.