Nancy from Gleason Ranch offered to write a letter to our guests explaining the lack of their chickens in our meat case over the last few months. Talk about one of our amazing producers trying to connect with our guests in the most direct way they know! I hope you’ll take a moment to give it a read–it gives such a great picture of the challenges faced by the ranchers who work hard to bring food to our tables day in and day out. The good news is that we also have Gleason Ranch pastured pork, which is a great way to support them while they work on their poultry supply!
Dear Loyal and Faithful Customer,
First of all, we would like to thank you for discovering our family ranch and supporting our efforts towards preserving a tradition over 150 years and 6 generations long. Raising grass-fed meats has simply always been a part of life in our family, even back when we were a dairy operation, and our philosophy and methodology are those passed down to us through the generations.
We know that many of you make a special trip to Bi-Rite Market with the specific intent and expectation of being able to purchase our pastured meats. Recently, you may have noticed that for several weeks we have not had a consistent supply of our Gleason Ranch Pastured Chicken, which we are perhaps best known for. We would like to share with you some of the recent challenges we have faced this winter, which have had a profound impact on our supply.
Our first big hit actually happened towards the end of last August when we were struck with a severe heat wave with temperatures souring well above 100. Chickens simply don’t do well in this kind of extreme temperature. We learned that even the large commercial operations, with their temperature- controlled housing, were loosing thousands by the hour, much like us. Then, not but a few weeks later, the rainy season began…and it kept coming! The unrelenting downpours not only affected the birds that were out in pasture, but it inhibited us from releasing birds from the brooders as soon as we normally would. We were confronted with a catch-22 as indoor brooder space became more and more premium. We then reduced the number of birds we were receiving from the hatchery in order to control over-crowding. Now we encountered a processing issue.Whereas Fulton Valley Farms (which closed last June) would take just 60 birds if we had them, we now must drive 3 hours to the nearest USDA processing plant, which won’t process anything less than 300! On top of it all, our family received a huge blow with the sudden passing of our father in late August. Since, every fence that is busted, piece of machinery that breaks,pipe that bursts, addition that needs to be built… you name it, has fallen upon my mother, sister, and I. Needless to say, the three of us combined are no match for my father, even on his worst day!
If we were raising the fast-growing Cornish Cross breed, our recovery time would be much faster. However, we do not believe in raising this genetically engineered commodity breed, which grows at an unnatural rate and to unnatural proportions. Instead, we raise the heritage Freedom Rangers that take twice as long to grow, nearly three months.
As we get closer to our consumers, and you get closer to the source of your food, not only a new understanding happens, but also a new relationship is formed. In order for us to continue doing what we do, we must ask and rely on you to weather the storms with us. We are truly working as fast, diligent, and efficient as we can; twelve to fourteen-hour days without weekends, holidays, or vacation, in order to get our product back in the market on a consistent basis. We ask you to simply bare with us.
We would like to especially thank the good folks at Bi-Rite Market who have been so incredibly supportive and patient. It is no easy tasks to do what they do, actually walking their talk by working directly with farmers & ranchers, remaining faithful while meeting such supply challenges. Lucky for us, we are a diversified farm and have other Gleason Ranch products to offer in the meantime (just like our grandparents would have had to do!). While we work on improving our poultry supply, please try our Gleason Ranch Pastured Pork, which will be featured throughout the month of February, and look for some of our other products as well.
Again, thank you for your continued support. We owe the future of our legacy to you!
Nancy Prebilich, Gleason Ranch