RSF Pastured Heritage Chicken

Taste Tradition

We raise chicken the way it used to be, chicken your grandmother would recognize and be proud to serve.

99% of the commercial chicken you'll find in stores and restaurants today is the Cornish Cross, a bird engineered in the 1950's for unnaturally fast growth to maximize profits. 

Red Shirt Farm's pasture-raised, heritage chicken brings back tradition and is different in so many ways:

(Click the points below for more info.)

+ Healthier for you

Compared to factory-farmed chicken, our birds are raised outdoors in the sunshine with access to their natural diet of insects and fresh forage. As a result they are:

  • Higher in vitamin E
  • Higher in monounsaturated fat
  • Higher in healthy omega-3 fat
  • Lower in omega-6 fat
  • Lower in the ratio of omega-6's to omega-3's

We supplement their diet with freshly ground, certified non-GMO, local grain. And we never use antibiotics or growth hormones.

+ Superior flavor and texture

The commercial Cornish Cross chicken grows to maturity in about 40 days; whereas, our standard-bred heritage chickens have a natural rate of growth an mature at 120 days. This slow growth combined with a mineral rich diet and abundant exercise on pasture produce incredible flavor and firm texture that sets the heritage bird apart from the bland, soft poultry you'll find in the supermarket.

The Slow Food organization has listed our Buckeye chicken on its Ark of Taste catalog recognizing heritage foods that are sustainably produced, unique in taste, and part of a distinct ecoregion.

+ Supports animal welfare

The industrial breeds of chicken have been selectively bred to grow so large so quickly that they can collapse under their own weight, have difficulty walking in the final weeks of their life, and have musculoskeletal, heart and lung problems. They are essentially obese infants at slaughter age and most would not survive long beyond their programmed 7-8 week lifespan if they were not slaughtered.

Moreover, commercial chickens are customarily raised in huge, crowded warehouses where artificial light, feed, water and airflow are carefully controlled to optimize growth. Even so-called "free range" chickens are raised primarily in these warehouses the only difference being that they have access to a small, outdoor porch.

By contrast our heritage chickens have incredibly robust constitutions and can live for several years as breeders if they are spared from the freezer. They are extremely active and have plenty of room to run outside, to dust bathe, loll in the sun and otherwise express their natural "chicken-ness."

An ugly truth of the commercial poultry industry is that male birds of egg-laying breeds are routinely (and often inhumanely) euthanized as day-old chicks because they have no economic value. Our heritage birds have the advantage of being dual-purpose (providing both eggs and meat) so we honor the life of the cockerels by letting them enjoy life to maturity before they meet a relatively stress-free end on the farm and provide meat for us and our customers.

+ Preserves endangered breeds

Because of the overwhelming predominance of the Cornish Cross in the market, heritage breeds are no longer being raised on farms and are literally becoming extinct. Our Buckeyes and Black Australorps are listed on the Livestock Breeds Conservancy's Conservation List as "watch" and "recovering" respectively. By raising these birds, we are preserving their unique genetics. By purchasing and consuming these birds, you are ensuring that their genetics will persist to help rebuild our currently unsustainable poultry industry.

+ Sustainably produced

Eighty percent of all chicken produced globally — some 44 billion birds — come from one of three companies: Cobb-Vantress, Hubbard, and Ross. These three multinationals control the genetics and thus the future of commercial poultry. A problem with the genetics or a disease outbreak could be devastating.

The chicks that are raised for broilers must be shipped long distances from a small number of large hatcheries which stresses the birds, adds environmental costs and creates a critical dependence on the shipping system for the viability of the entire poultry industry. Ultimately, this is an unsustainable model.

By contrast we breed, incubate and hatch right here on the farm. We select the best birds from our flocks as breeders for future generations that are best adapted for our regional conditions. Our chicks go straight from the incubater to a brooder for a few weeks and then onto pasture where they enjoy the balance of their lives doing what chickens are meant to do.

We close the circle by processing our chickens right on the farm in our State licensed mobile processing unit. The stress level of an animal at the time of slaughter is critical to the quality of the meat—stress hormones have a negative effect on taste and texture. Most poultry is shipped long distances in cramped crates to processing plants, so they are stressed at the time of death. We avoid that stress because our chickens start and end their lives right here on Red Shirt Farm.

We believe that this is a truly sustainable model that can be perpetuated and replicated to provide poultry products to the Berkshires for years to come.

A Buckeye rooster keeps close watch over his hens. Heritage poultry can naturally reproduce—unlike their commercial counterparts.

A Buckeye rooster keeps close watch over his hens. Heritage poultry can naturally reproduce—unlike their commercial counterparts.

Our heritage Buckeye chickens foraging on pasture.

Our heritage Buckeye chickens foraging on pasture.

What is Heritage Chicken?

Heritage poultry have these characteristics:

  • They can run, fly and reproduce naturally.
  • A slow growth rate that promotes optimal health.
  • Capable of living long, productive lives outdoors.
  • Come from standard-bred birds recognized prior to 1950.
We selectively breed, incubate, hatch and brood our birds right on the farm.

We selectively breed, incubate, hatch and brood our birds right on the farm.

Order your RSF Pastured Heritage Chicken Today!

• Fresh or Frozen Whole Bird: $5.90 / lb

Note: We offer fresh chicken for three days after processing.

Please contact us for availability.

• Fresh or Frozen Chicken Liver: $7.00 / lb

• Chicken Feet: 6 for $2.50 or 12 for $4.50

Call: 413-822-9250 or email: info@redshirtfarm.com