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How a Family-Run Farm Nurtures its Animals and its Community

June 24, 2022

When David Pitman says he intends to “brainwash his kids” into poultry farming, he’s joking…kind of. 

Pitman, a third-generation poultry farmer based in Sanger, California, is proud of his family business, and he has good reason to be. Established in 1954, Pitman Family Farms raises chickens, ducks, and turkeys with a focus on animal welfare and sustainability, while helping their local community thrive. Those thoughtful values—along with the superior chicken they produce—make them an ideal partner for Thrive Market.

Quick Facts About Thrive Market Organic Chicken

“Knowing where your food comes from should be extremely important to you,” says Mike Hacaga, Product Innovator for Meat and Seafood at Thrive Market. When it came to choosing a farm to source organic chicken for Thrive Market members, Hacaga says, the Pitmans’ farm was the obvious choice. “We truly feel that Pitman Family Farms is the best poultry operation in the United States.” 

Unlike most conventionally-raised, factory-farmed chicken, Thrive Market’s organic chicken is:

  • Free-range
  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet
  • Free of antibiotics and hormones
  • Global Animal Partnership (G.A.P.) Animal Welfare Certified, Step 3
  • Air chilled

Choose from organic chicken tenders, breasts, thighs, wings, drumsticks, and whole fryers. 

A Farm Where Chickens Can Be Chickens

Few people know the G.A.P. standards better than Hacaga, who helped establish them. “Animal welfare is extremely important to us at Thrive Market,” he says. “We wanted to partner with an operation that offers a Global Animal Partnership rating on their chicken.”  

Pitman Family Farm’s organic chicken operation is G.A.P. Step 3 Certified. In practice, that means the birds have 30% more space inside their houses and double the outdoor space compared to the average chicken, Pitman reports. (The extra space keeps them not only happier, but healthier too, resulting in less of a need for antibiotics.) Chickens also have the ability to venture outdoors as they please. The chicken houses and outdoor areas feature enrichments like hay bales and perches that encourage the birds to engage in their natural behaviors, like pecking, scratching, and roosting.

Organic standards at Pitman Family Farm include no use of pesticides or herbicides. Chickens are fed an all-vegetarian diet of organically grown corn and soy, and are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. “Organic improves the welfare of the birds here at the farm,” Pitman explains. “It also improves the environment.”

The farm has a number of regenerative practices in place; for instance, the bedding that lines the floors of the chicken houses is composed of the outer shells of organic rice hulls, the waste product of rice milling. Once the bedding has been used for a flock of birds, it is composted and eventually becomes fertilizer.

Better Practices, From Farm to Factory

When the time comes, chickens are transported from the farm to the Pitman factory, where they are processed and packaged.

In order to prevent cross-contamination, most chicken is water-chilled with chlorine. As Pitman explains, not only is the resulting chicken more chlorinated than a swimming pool, but the water chilling process uses a large volume of water and increases the weight of the meat—weight that the consumer pays for.

Pitman Family Farms uses a more sustainable air-chilling method. At the Pitman plant, processed chickens spend several hours cycling through a giant freezer the size of multiple football fields. This process saves more than 100,000 gallons of water a day, ensures fresher flavor, improves texture, and extends shelf life.

Pitman Family Farms is dedicated to improving conditions at every level of their operation, and that includes the more than 1,000 people who work at their processing plant in Sanger. “Providing for families here in our community is one of our key values,” Pitman says.  

Thrive Market takes its partnership seriously. Farms and other suppliers have to do more than just look good on paper to be up to snuff. “I visit every single ranch and farm that we partner with,” Hacaga explains. “I spend a large amount of time with our partners out in the field and in their processing plants, making sure that they’re the gold standard for Thrive Market members. Partnering with Pitman Family Farms was a very easy choice.”

Our Favorite Chicken Recipes

Save time at the stove and cut food waste with this trio of recipes that all start with one single organic whole chicken.

Serve this sweet and tangy pulled chicken sandwich at your next cookout.

If you’ve ever thought boneless, skinless chicken breasts were boring, these satay lettuce wraps from cookbook author and food writer Cathy Erway will change your mind.

air-fried chicken wings

Feeding a (healthy-ish) crowd? Make crispy lemon pepper wings in the air fryer, or try the oven-baked method.

Keto Butter Chicken

An Instant Pot does most of the work in this rich, comforting, keto-friendly butter chicken recipe.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Make restaurant-worthy chicken fajitas at home with our all-in-one seasoning, plus a few pantry-staple fixings.

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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