This is a topic I will rant about all summer and continually educate you on.
Free range simply means the birds aren’t caged up. To many industrial producers, such as Tyson or Gerber, that means free range within a large chicken barn. So 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.
While this process is more labor intensive anddoesn’t scale as well, I think you will notice the quality difference in these birds!