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His Poultry Are Certified Standard-Bred
Frank Reese can guarantee customers that his heritage turkeys and chickens are what he claims. That’s because his birds are certified by the American Poultry Association, which means breed judges have visited his farm and examined the birds to ensure they meet the longtime standards of the breed. It isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it to Reese.
“For many years, I was the only USDA-certified standard-bred poultry producer in the country,” says Reese, a breeder and marketer of multiple turkey and poultry breeds. “Every package of chicken or turkey I sell is labeled USDA certified standard-bred.”
Breeding flock certification was once commonplace, but for around 50 years the APA stopped offering the service due to declining interest. In 2015 it was reintroduced with Reese a major advocate. He maintains that while there are lots of people breeding heritage poultry, most are breeding for poultry shows, not meat or egg production. In some cases, they may be far different from old breed standards.
Reese puts the responsibility for the change on poultry breeders and their customers alike. While he would like other breeders to invest in certification (base fee of $300 for a flock of 100 or less, plus a dollar a bird for each bird over 100), if the buyers of their birds don’t ask for it, breeders have little reason to spend the money.
Reese advises people considering buying heritage breeds of poultry to ask for certification and more.
“Ask what your expectation for the birds should be,” says Reese. “People who raise cattle or hogs know to ask about birth weight, finishing weight, etc. When it comes to poultry, most people don’t ask.”
If planning to raise birds for the meat market, he suggests asking about feed conversion rate, growth rate, time to reach market size, live weight, and finished weight. If buying for a layer or breeding flock, he advises asking how many eggs they can be expected to lay, their fertility rate, and their hatching success.
The difference between a certified standard-bred heritage turkey or chicken and non-certified heritage birds can be night and day. One of the breeds Reese raises is the Plymouth Barred Rock, the number one meat bird in North America from 1870 to 1940. While increasingly popular today, if from a non-certified flock, birds may not be what a breeder or hatchery claims.
“I’ve been asked by people who say they raise them to look at their flock,” says Reese. “I’ve walked into a field full of birds and had to tell them there isn’t a true Barred Rock on the farm.”
Reese notes that maintaining a breeding flock is expensive. Certification is an added expense. Those buying from hatcheries have only one option as far as Reese knows.
“Murray McMurray Hatchery has made the investment needed,” he says. “If buyers respond, perhaps other hatcheries will make the investment too.”
A Murray McMurray Hatchery spokesperson confirmed they have five breeds that are certified, with the APA looking at more of their flocks this spring.
Reese is working with Jed Greenberg and others to expand awareness of certification. They founded the Good Shepherd Conservancy (GSC), named for Reese’s farm, Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch. The goal of the organization is to encourage the successful breeding, production, and marketing of heritage standard-bred poultry breeds.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Frank R. Reese Jr., 730 Smoky Valley Rd., Lindsborg, Kan. 67456 (ph 785-227-3972; turkeys@lrmutual.com; www.goodshepherdconservancy.org); or Murray McMurray Hatchery (ph 800-456-3280; www.McMurrayHatchery.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #2