‘clean chickens’ offer alternative
By Carrie A. Mizell
Start the new year right by choosing to eat wholesome clean food. That is the message Bill and Robin Popp are advocating.
The Popp family moved to Gilchrist County a year ago, and are now raising pasture-based chickens and turkeys on their 10 acres of land in north Gilchrist County.
“Our vision is to raise happy livestock the way God intended: with fresh grass, natural grains and minerals, and lots of sunshine,” stated Bill and Robin Popp on their website. “We give our animals the best so they can give us the best.”
After five years spent dreaming of owning their own land, the Popp family moved from Clearwater after purchasing their property, which is 10 miles north of Trenton off State Road 47. Motivated by Joel Salatin, a noted farmer and lecturer who has written multiple books including, “You Can Farm” and “Salad Bar Beef,” the Popp family started Laughing Chicken Farm.
According to Wikipedia, Salatin “raises livestock using holistic methods of animal husbandry, free of potentially harmful chemicals, on his farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.”
Robin Popp explained that she and her husband purchase up to 100 biddies at a time from hatcheries in Texas or Ohio. According to Robin Popp, the biddies are what the commercial industry considers a narrow breasted chicken, which were popular in the 1930s and are typically referred to as Cornish Cross.
Once the two-week-old chickens arrive at the farm they are grown out, a process that lasts six weeks. Initially the biddies spend time in a brooder prior to being released on the ground inside a chicken tractor, which is a movable chicken coop that has no floor. Each day the chickens are moved from one location on the farm to another giving the chickens free range with access to fresh grass, weeds, and bugs. The chickens on Laughing Chicken Farm are not vaccinated, Robin Popp explained, because their environment prevents them from becoming diseased.
At six to eight weeks old the chickens are processed on the farm, a process that includes killing the chickens, de-gutting, wrapping and labeling the chickens before they are placed in the farm’s freezer.
“We do not process our products in a permitted facility and according to current government guidelines we must sell our products as pet food, not for human consumption,” Robin Popp explained.
Laughing Chicken Farm currently holds a Florida Department of Agriculture Master Feed Distributor license (#1533).
On Wednesday the Popps were expecting not only a new shipment of biddies, but also ducks to go along with the turkeys they are also raising in the farm’s tractor.
Laughing Chicken Farm sells whole chickens as well as custom cuts of chicken such as: breasts, bone in; breasts, boneless/skinless; leg quarters (drumstick and thigh); back and necks; hearts and livers.
Though the farm has a website and a mailing list that goes to 70 homes, Robin Popp said that most of their customers come from farmers markets where they set up booths each week. On Thursdays Laughing Chicken Farm has a booth at the High Springs Farmers Market from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays the family sells their meats and vegetables at the Alachua County Farmers Market from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information on Laughing Chicken Farm, call (352) 472-1315 or visit: www.laughingchickenfarm.com