All meats and eggs used by Fresh Fork Market are 100% pasture raised. This means that the animal is free range and on organic pasture land. For ruminant animals, such as cattle and lamb, they get 100% of their diet from grass. For other animals that cannot completely digest the cellulose found in plant matter, their diet is substituted with the appropriate grain mixture for that animal. These include things like corn, oats, barley, legumes, wheat, and minerals. These other animals include hogs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. You never have to worry about our animals being fed animal by-products. All grains are locally grown and milled and non GMO.
All the meats purchased from Fresh Fork Market will come to you frozen, with the exception of our turkeys at Thanksgiving, which are all fresh (be ready to cook!).
One thing we do at Fresh Fork Market is look at new opportunities and heritage breeds. In 2013 we began our farm raised venison program, and became the first retail seller of venison in Ohio. It took over a year and a lot of paperwork on our part, but we managed to make it happen. Also in 2013 we decided to start raising Red Wattle hogs and Mangalitsa pigs. These are heritage breeds that are in danger of being lost due to lack of interest. Smaller farms still raise them and they are prized for various characteristics. Red Wattles have a distinct flavor and Mangalitsas have a more marbled flesh and higher fat content. This makes them ideal for charcuterie.
Large agricultural producers limit their stock to those who produce the most meat with the least amount of time and feed. This has led to a reduction in genetics in American pig stocks. Some breeds, like Berkshires, are rapidly making a comeback and are enjoying a renaissance among chefs and farmers alike. We have worked almost exclusively with Berkshires for several years.
Free Range vs Pasture Raised
Free range simply means the animals aren’t caged up. While all our animals are pasture raised, most commonly you will see these terms when referring to chickens and eggs. To many industrial producers, such as Tyson or Gerber, free range means within a large chicken barn. In some operations, they are still crammed in their so tight that they are still barely able to move around. They never see green grass!
Pasture raised means that the birds are outside on pasture. The device you see in the photo above is chickens in a “chicken tractor.” This is a 14’ by 14’ cage with an open bottom. The cage contains about50 birds and is moved twice per day; the cage protects the chickens from predators and promotes high density grazing, which is good for both the birds and the pasture. When the cage is moved it looks like the grass has been mowed, hence the name chicken tractor.
The idea behind this is that the birds receive fresh air, sunshine, and can eat all the grass, clover, and bugs they can find in the organic pastures. In general, the chickens get about 30% of their diet from this forage. The chicken manure left behind is in turn great fertilizer for the pasture. Some of our farmers have dedicated fields for birds and they have cover from a tent or a hen house.
While this process is more labor intensive and doesn’t scale as well, we think you will notice the quality difference in these birds.