Pasture-raised chickens in Tuscon really pasture-raised |

Pasture-raised chickens in Tuscon really pasture-raised

Chickens are out to pasture at Josh’s Foraging Fowls near Willcox, Ariz. Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

TUCSON — When you go to the grocery store and see those eggs labeled cage-free, organic and pasture-raised, have you wondered what the terms really mean and whether the chickens that provide the eggs are really raised under the conditions described?

Members of Tucson CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) don't have to wonder. If they like they can drive out to see the chickens in the pasture at Josh's Foraging Fowls near Willcox, Ariz., an old frontier town about 89 miles east of Tucson.

But they can pick up the eggs for $6 per dozen when they pick up their fruit, vegetables and meat packages at the Tucson CSA near downtown Tucson.

As shown in the accompanying pictures, Josh Koehn, the Mennonite farmer who provides the eggs, really lets them live in the pasture though the chickens usually lay their eggs in a laying house.

“Our products are beyond organic, local fresh and seasonal. They are environmentally sustainable, socially fair and humane.” Philippe Waterinckx, Tucson CSA

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Koehn said his fences and the laying house and the feeding equipment are also moveable. When the chickens have eaten all the grass in one area of the pasture, he moves the equipment and the feed and the chickens follow.

Koehn said he sells the eggs as pasture-raised but not organic because he does not buy organic feed for them. Getting USDA organic certification is expensive and laborious for small farmers, he added. He keeps the chickens for about 18 months and then sells them as stewing hens, often to Vietnamese immigrants who buy them live and slaughter them.

I visited Josh's Foraging Fowls with Paul Durham, a former Washington attorney who was elected in November to the Tucson City Council.

Tucson CSA was founded by Philippe Waterinckx, a Belgian who discovered the CSA concept when he was a graduate student in geography at the University of Arizona. He was researching the redemption of coupons for fruits and vegetables in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children known as WIC.

Through that research, Waterinckx learned about CSAs. The CSA model, he said, provide farmers a stable market for their production and they earn more per share than if they sell to grocery stores, but they still work terribly hard. Consumers also get more produce for the dollar than in farmers markets, he added

Tucson CSA members pay in advance for "shares" of organically grown produce, bread and cheese (in season) and can buy grass-fed meats and pasture-raised eggs in addition.

"Our products are beyond organic, local fresh and seasonal," Waterinckx said. "They are environmentally sustainable, socially fair and humane."

–The Hagstrom Report