On Sunday, I had the opportunity to drop by a Victoria Save-on-Foods store to meet local chicken farmers Luke and Amanda. Coming from a farming family, I was excited to chat with some Island farmers. I found Luke and Amanda near the meat department, handing out samples of cooked, marinated chicken, along with recipes and colouring books for kids. They were a wealth of information about raising and eating chickens.
Luke and Amanda told me that all fresh chicken sold in BC stores was raised right here in BC (except for Maple Leaf Foods chicken). I didn’t know that and I was impressed to find out the meat I’m buying is local meat. I like supporting local farmers, but I thought I’d have to go to a farmer’s market and pay “organic” prices to do so. Nope! I can find local chicken right here, at my regular grocery store.
I also found out that all poultry raised in Canada is hormone, steroid and antibiotic free. It has been since 1963, due to strict laws here in Canada. Certain fast food restaurants are using advertising to imply that their meats are hormone and steroid free and other meats aren’t, but that’s not true. In Canada, hormones and steriods are illegal in meat production and the use of antibiotics is carefully controlled. Luke and Amanda explained that if an animal does require antibiotics, it must go through a withdrawal period after taking the antibiotics before it is used for food consumption (whether it’s a chicken, dairy cow, or any other animal).
Between serving other customers who wandered past the display and sampled the chicken (which was delicious, BTW), Luke and Amanda talked about the process of raising chickens. They do six cycles of chickens a year—essentially, a new flock every two months, from baby chicks to birds ready for market to cleaning the barns and starting over. They talked about the guidelines and regulations they have to follow in raising meat birds, the strict paperwork and records they keep for each flock. And they talked about how their three kids help around the farm.
It was easy to see Luke and Amanda’s pride in their farm. They were knowledgeable about what they do and about other farming standards as well. They told me about some of the questions they’d gotten this weekend as they met consumers at the stores—questions like “are chickens gluten-free?” (yes) and the difference between free-range (allowed to run outside), free-run (allowed to run around in the barn, as all chickens in Canada are) and organic. We talked about the fact that Canada and the US have different regulations for farming, so it’s important to know where information is coming from and which country is being referred to if you are listening to an ad or reading a report about farming practices.
I grabbed a handy brochure from them, with more information about chicken nutrition and on-farm food safety, as well as some yummy recipes that I can’t wait to try. They also had some cute colouring books for kids about what happens when chicks arrive at a farm.
Do you have questions about the chicken you find in Canadian grocery stores? You can drop by Chicken.ca to find recipes, nutrition information, and videos about the Canadian chicken industry. While I was talking with Luke and Amanda, the Save-on-Foods meat department guy was also busy behind the counter, helping customers and heating up the samples of chicken. If you have questions about what you’re buying, ask your meat department!
I really enjoyed chatting with Luke and Amanda. From my own experience, growing up in farming communities and raising a few flocks of chickens (for both meat and eggs) as a teen, I thought I knew a lot about chickens. I was surprised at how much I learned and I was glad to have the chance to meet some local farmers.
If you had the chance to speak to a chicken farmer, what would you ask them?
I was compensated for this post, but all opinions expressed are my own.