From Feed to Farm to Fork with Springer Mountain Chicken
There’s chicken. And then there’s Springer Mountain Farms chicken. Our responsibly-sourced partner has raised chickens humanely in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia for more than 60 years and have proved they’re the best of the best. All Springer chickens are 100 percent natural, meaning they are raised without any chemical medicines, antibiotics, steroids or hormones. We visited on a warm winter day to see for ourselves out what the “Springer Difference” really means.
A Poultry Process Perfected
Springer claims to produce “the most delicious, purest, and nutritious chicken possible,” and we were there to witness the truth behind that statement. In one day, we were able to tour Springer’s on-site vegetarian feed processing mill and a nearby farm (just one of 350 they partner with!). It’s rare that a company of this size produces everything in-house, but Springer has perfected the system.
People ask: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We like to think it starts with the chicken feed! All Springer chickens are fed an all-vegetarian diet of American-grown, pesticide-free grains with natural vitamins and minerals – never animal by-products. Before the feed gets to the chickens, Springer tests every single batch that leaves the mill. And before that, they test the ingredients used in the feed for pesticides, fibers and minerals before being sent over to the mill. If the ingredients or finished batch doesn’t make the cut, they’re not used.
The ingredients for the feed are locally grown in the mountain valley as well. 20,000 tons of feed a week is needed to feed all of Springer’s chickens! We also learned that the birds even get specific feeds based on where they are in their life cycle, whether they are chicks, pullets (a.k.a. mother hens) or fully grown.
No Fowl Play
If there’s one thing Springer prides itself most for, it’s their work with the American Humane Association, one of the oldest animal human organizations isn the U.S. Since 1997, Springer has adopted AHA’s program and became the first poultry company in the world to be American Humane Certified. It’s comforting to know that they truly care about how they are raised.
We took a nice drive on the backroads to visit Po House Farm, one of the many farms Springer partners with to grow chickens. In each coop, Springer chickens live in a low-stress, climate-controlled environment. Farmers visit three times a day and veterinarians visit around every six weeks to inspect and ensure the health of the birds. They have access to fresh mountain water and vegetarian feed that gets replenished automatically when emptied, plus vitamins and minerals that help ward off disease naturally. The feeders are also specified for males and females, placed at different heights and widths so they don’t steal each others’ food.
The coops allow the birds to roam freely and are warmed in the winter and cooled in the summer. All possible threats are eliminated as well. Chickens get antsy and nervous when exposed to too much light. We learned that if you shine a flashlight across a ceiling in the coop, they think it’s a hawk or other predator’s shadow! Adrenaline affects product quality because stress means tougher meat. Springer also raises less birds per house than their competitors because less birds equals less stress.
Gainesville, GA, where several of Springer’s farms are located, is the chicken capital of the world. You would think that with seven other major chicken companies in the area, jobs would be plentiful – and they are! But working for Springer is the company of choice for most farmers – the company has a waiting list of people wanting to farm specifically for them.
The ones that have been working for Springer stay working for Springer. Some of their farmers are 4th generation, having been around for 60 years. Springer’s farmers are also required to live on the farm they tend. “The chicken business is good for the people of this area, and it’s fun to watch the families we work with grow as our business grows,” said Ken Martin, Broiler Production Manager.
Springer’s growers produce mother hens that hatch 160 to 170 eggs a year (that’s a lot of peeping chicks!), so proximity to feed mills are key. All mills and farms are located within 60 miles of Springer’s headquarters – and for good reason. “When we want to address problems, we can do so the same day, the same hour. We go straight to the source,” Ken said. They also have veterinarians on staff, a benefit farmers working for other companies don’t have access to. “Our growers are our partners. We want to treat them with respect and give them the proper resources they need to do their job,” Ken said. “We’re all about caring for our product, people and community.” We couldn’t agree more!