Yorkshire Valley Farms: Organically Grown Food At Its Best
Setting industry standards regarding organic farming for the poultry business may have been game-changing, but for Yorkshire Valley Farms, it was simply the right thing to do.
True industry leaders take the initiative and set standards for others to follow. Such is the case with Yorkshire Valley Farms’ organic approach to raising chickens and turkeys and its launching an organic, pasture-raised egg program for 2017.
For many years, Peterborough’s Yorkshire Valley Farms has raised free-roaming hens in smaller flocks on a network of farms throughout southern Ontario that think organically. The pasture-raised, organic eggs come from hens that spend a minimum of six hours outdoors each day foraging on organically managed pastures.
They are grain-fed with no genetically modified grains, raised without antibiotics, and are pesticide- and herbicide-free, with no animal by-products. Yorkshire Valley Farms intentionally set out to create a set of industry standards to which all participating pasture farmers must adhere. While this leadership role is indeed impressive, for Yorkshire Valley Farms, it was more about doing the right thing.
“We very much believe in the adage that ‘you are what you eat,’” says Krysten Cooper, Yorkshire Valley Farms’ director of strategy and sustainability. “I think people are more curious today about where their food is coming from, and organic aligns with many principles which are important to many people. Personally, I find that type of food just tastes better and is a better overall food experience, both in consistency and in flavour.”
Yorkshire Valley Farms came about when the Ahrens and Ambler families, both independent poultry farmers in the Peterborough area for many years, realized that merging would provide them with the size and scale required to service larger retailers. They could also better expand a network of farmers who shared their desire to grow organically. The original founding farmers have since passed daily operations on to the next generations of their families.
Today, Yorkshire Valley Farms produces and markets fresh and frozen organic poultry products, including chicken, turkey and eggs, and has grown to become one of Canada’s leading organic poultry companies. Today, the company’s products are available at such fine retailers as Summerhill Market, Coppa’s Fresh Market, Fiesta Farms, Longo’s, Metro, Sobeys in Peterborough, Fortinos and Real Canadian Superstore, among many others.
The chickens and turkeys of Yorkshire Valley Farms and its network all feed on a grain-based diet of wheat, corn, soy and other nutrients to balance out their nutritional needs. Since no antibiotics or medications are used on the flocks, it’s important the birds stay very healthy.
The farmers also adhere to a standard of offering a pasture of 20 square feet per hen. When consumers buy a Yorkshire Valley Farms product labelled “pasture,” they know that it comes from animals that have truly spent time outdoors during the warmer Ontario season of May through October, foraging on pastures.
Of interest to consumers would be a 2016 CBC Marketplace report. The authoritative television program conducted a nutritional analysis of a range of eggs and found that eggs from hens that spend time on pasture have higher concentrations of fat-soluble vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. In particular, eggs from Yorkshire Valley Farms growers had more than double the amount of vitamin D and 3.5 times more vitamin E.
With various studies on organically grown foods ongoing, Cooper offers a reminder about the newness of this approach. “Organically grown food is an emerging field still in its infancy, and we are all learning and growing with it.” Yorkshire Valley Farms will continue to lead in that learning and growing for the many benefits organic food offers its customers.
photos courtesy of yorkshire valley farms