Foothill Farming
University of California
Foothill Farming

Pasture-Based, Broiler Chicken Production

Pasture Raised Chickens, Dinner Bell Farm

Growing Meat Birds

To raise chickens properly, you will need to learn all about healthy flock and pasture management.   Be sure to carefully consider:

  • Finding the right genetics and hatchery,
  • Brooder management,
  • A grazing plan for your land,
  • Protection from predators,
  • Feed- type, storage, source, feeding schedule,
  • Marketing and slaughter schedule

There are a number of great resources available to help you find the info you need.  We recommend:

UCCE Central Sierra

The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

If you are planning to use any third-party certifications for your farm (California Certified Organic Farmers, Animal Welfare Approved, etc.) it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with regulations before you build your farm plan.  It is much easier to design a system that meets standards than to try and conform an existing system.


USDA inspection is required at slaughter if you plan to sell your chickens at Farmers’ Markets, to restaurants, grocery stores and butcher shops.

Federal exemption Chapter 9, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 381.10 allows a farm to process up to 20,000 birds if sales are directly from the farm.

If you plan to sell your meat chickens at Farmers’ Market, you will need to develop a label that includes: Your Farm Name, Address, USDA Inspection Legend, Safe Food Handling Instructions, Net Weight.

Chickens slaughtered and processed in the Mobile Processing Unit available in Placer and Nevada Counties must be sold directly from the farm. A sale at a Farmers’ Market IS NOT considered a direct farm sale.

Many USDA inspected poultry processing plants do not provide packaging services. If you plan to sell your chickens at a Farmers’ Market, you will need to develop a plan for safe and legal packaging. If you plan to do this internally, you will need to use a health department inspected facility like a certified commercial kitchen.

It is always a good idea to check with your Farmers’ Market managers about additional requirements that they may have regarding the sale of meat and poultry.

Additional Information:

Selling Meat and Meat Products, Linda Harris, UCANR (pdf)

Safe Food Handling, Chicken, USDA (pdf)

Understanding Federal Poultry Exemptions for the Direct-To-Consumer Producer/Grower, Brian Moyer, Penn State Cooperative Extension (pdf)

Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network

USDA Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory


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