21661 Staley Rd. Paris, IL 61944 Google Map (217)-275-3491


Pasture Raised Chicken… What does that mean?

Have you ever been confused by the variety of labels you see at the grocery store? Do you know what “pasture raised” and “free range” labels mean?  Are they different or do they mean the same thing? How about when something is labeled “natural?” We consumers are persuaded into believing these labels, and we often have a preconceived image of what they mean.  Farmers may also have different definitions of what these labels represent for them.  I feel when most people hear “free range,” “natural,” or “pasture raised” chickens, they picture chickens roaming freely outside scratching, pecking, or chasing bugs in the grass.  The only legal label defined in poultry rearing in the United States is “free range” or “free roaming.”  The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) definition of FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING states that producers must demonstrate to the agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.  That’s it!  No more specific details mentioned. Their definition does not state if the poultry needs to have access to grass or pasture, or how large of an area the chicken has to roam.  Free range chickens may only have access to a small chicken door at the end of a large commercial chicken building.  This would “allow” the chicken to go outside, possibly on a bare dirt lot.  We have raised chickens long enough to know if you leave them on grass for an extended period of time, you will end up with a bare dirt moonscape rather quickly.

Has this changed your image of “free range?"

Natural is another term or label the USDA defines. Their definition is a minimally processed product containing no artificial ingredient or added color. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural, such as "no artificial ingredients” or “minimally processed.”  Does that tell you how the chicken was raised?  Did it mimic a natural model?  When I think of natural, I think of nature, not minimally processed or no artificial ingredients.  What comes to your mind? L&A Family Farms uses the term Pasture Raised because we feel it describes our rearing method better. We are not able to say grass-fed like we do with our beef because chickens are omnivores; they will eat more than grass.

Our broilers are raised different than CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) broilers.

Factory broilers are raised in buildings that are normally 400’-600’ long and 30’-40‘ wide, although dimension vary depending on the number birds produced.  These broiler buildings may house between 24,000-45,000 birds in each structure.  Foot baths are used to disinfect your boots when entering other buildings to keep disease or bacteria from spreading between buildings.   Commercial chicken houses are computer controlled and highly automated systems. They control and monitor the temperature, humidity, water consumption, and light brightness.  Medicine, like liquid aspirin, is given to the birds through their water.  The chickens never see the sunshine while in the buildings.  Different lighting levels are used to manipulate the chickens.  As the chickens get older, the amount of light is reduced.  Less light equals less movement which helps reduce heart attacks.  Lights are only turned off for a few hours each night. It takes about five weeks to produce a four pound dressed broiler.


In our pasture raised system, we use Cornish Cross broilers.  These are the same birds raised in large confinement buildings.  Therefore, you are familiar with them; however, the taste and texture will be different.  Each batch starts with 200 – 300 day-old chicks.  They are raised in the brooder for three weeks under heat lamps.  During the third or fourth week, they are placed outside on pasture, depending on the weather. The chickens are provided with a portable shelter, giving them shade and protection from the weather. The broilers are raised inside electrified poultry netting.  This electrified enclosure allows us to rotate the chickens to fresh grass and helps protect them from non-flying predators.  The portable shelters are moved each morning to give them fresh grass to eat and a clean spot to loaf.  To help prevent heart attacks, we restrict them from having access to their ground feed.  We feed them at 7 a.m. and take the feed away at 7 p.m., but they have access to forage at all times.  All work is done with human hands, no automation needed.  Sunshine and day length determines the light intensity they recieve. We grind our own feed using our own non-GMO corn mixed with bean meal and other essential vitamin and mineral supplements.  By raising our birds in smaller quantities and in healthier environments, we do not need medicated feed.  At seven or eight weeks of age, the chickens are processed at Central Illinois Poultry Processing in Arthur, Illinois, a USDA inspected facility. The packages you will receive are pre-wrapped whole, whole cut-up chickens, or specific cut parts.  Their sizes range from three to six pounds dressed.  The chickens will be sold frozen unless pre-ordered and scheduled for pickup on processing day.  We recommend you try some of our fresh, non-frozen chickens.  Call us for the processing dates.


Our chicken can be purchased by clicking here.

    $ per lb.       $ per lb.
Bnls. Sknls.   Breast  $9.95   Whole Chicken  $3.49
Thighs    $3.70   Cut-Up Chicken  $3.69
Drumsticks  $2.79      
Leg Quarters  $3.20        
Wings    $3.19        
Necks &   Backs  $0.95        
Liver &   Hearts  $2.45        


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