In the early 1800s millions of Bison roamed the plains of the United States. Less than 100 years later their numbers had been reduced to a mere 541 animals. While early conservation efforts helped raise this figure modestly, it was only when American farmers began raising Bison for their meat that their population grew into the hundreds of thousands.
Much like the early Bison, the millions of healthy Standardbred chickens and turkeys which used to occupy the American landscape are now on the brink of extinction. Their populations have been replaced by a sick monocrop of over 9 billion industrial hybrids which live short and difficult lives. The breeder parents of these birds are kept in total confinement, while their living conditions and compromised immune systems have led to dangerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
But thanks to Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch and farmer extraordinaire Frank Reese, efforts are underway to save numerous breeds of heritage chickens and heritage turkey that are so important to our gastronomic history and food safety through their diverse genetics. Frank’s chickens and turkeys are for sale at HeritageFoods.com, and soon the Good Shepherd Conservancy will start a training program for other farmers to raise these important heritage breeds locally. As we like to say, “we must eat them to save them.”