The life of a Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge Fermier chicken begins in a state-of-the-art hatchery housed in the processor’s Winston-Salem, N.C., facility. From there, they are raised among small flocks in roomy barns with a minimum sanitation period of 21 days between flocks. They are fed a vegetarian diet of grains from regenerative farms, and at six weeks, provided outdoor access from 9 a.m. until dusk. After growing for 84 days, they are transported back to the processing facility, where they are processed to exacting standards, air chilled, and then packaged for e-commerce and such chefs as Michael Schwartz, Frank Stitt and Steven Satterfield.
The result of all that time and dedication, Joyce Farms proclaims, is the “best tasting chicken in the world.”
The Poulet Rouge, explains Chairman and CEO Ron Joyce, is a conscientious response to long-developing trends in U.S. food production. Since World War II, he says, there has been a gradual diminishment of flavor and nutritional value in the nation’s food supply, and as a result, Americans are eating more to satisfy their appetites while gaining less actual nourishment.
“How many people grill a chicken without putting a sauce on it? How many people eat a steak without steak sauce?” Ron asks, citing the research of author Mark Schatzker and others. “So, as our meats, poultry, tomatoes and vegetables have lost flavor by mass production, the flavoring companies have put flavor back in to make the food taste good.”
For Joyce Farms, whose motto is “Welcome back to flavor,” the starting point for achieving good taste and higher nutritional value is the right genetics and the proper care of animals. It’s been a journey, though, that has bred in the multi-generational company a passion not only for stewardship of animals, but also of the careful manner in which their meat is harvested and of the very ground that grows their feed. While regenerating soil, Joyce Farms also is regenerating what had been a dying premium foodservice market — and creating new ones.
“We’re a small company filling a niche market,” says Ryan Joyce, Ron’s older son, who recently took the helm as Joyce Farms CEO (a position his father held for 40 years). Ryan and his brother, Stuart, now manage the company. “We’ve got to have something that’s special, that is worth the money. If you spend more money on a piece of meat and you put it in your mouth and it’s terrible, what’s the point of it? So we’re always after flavor. That’s the main thing. And we found out over the years that better genetics — the old heritage genetics and better farming practices — produce better tasting meat.”