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  • Writer's pictureCullen Heater

Granja Familiar Soriano: On Conscious Consumption

I tried to be a chicken farmer once, in my own small way. It was not a success. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you grow accustomed to the accumulation of small failures. It started with a plan, a drawing sketched out on my whiteboard of what I thought the perfect chicken coop would look like. My flock began and ended with three patio chickens given to me by a neighbor. My cat, Bellaco, killed two of them. I don’t blame him- they were annoying and kept eating his food. I killed the third in a moment that I am not proud of. To be fair, the chicken had some sort of mystery disease which caused its head to swell in a lopsided way and I had just recovered from a previous zoonotic infection; I was not willing to risk a second. It was then that I decided to quit the chicken business and move to the big city.

Fortunately, just outside of Panama City, south of Lago Gatún, there is a man who understands chickens. A man who takes pride in his work. José Soriano owns and operates Granja Familiar Soriano, a free-range chicken farm that is home to 3,000 laying hens. José is dedicated to providing a quality product, free of chemicals and full of flavor. At heart, José is a family man; he purchased the farm with his mother in 2004, and together they launched various businesses: cattle ranching, chicken farming, plants and decorative palms, landscaping.

“This year," said José, "my wife and I started Granja Familiar Soriano to feed healthy food to our 3 children, including free-range chicken and eggs- zero chemicals, all natural. Our goal is to produce 90% of the food that we consume, starting with the ecological production of vegetables without pesticides.” As Granja Familiar Soriano continues to grow, José hopes to share the same care and quality not only with his family, but also with yours. “When you’re planning a barbeque, you only buy the best steak, the best sausages. Chicken should be no different,” José said, as he handed me the vacuum-sealed package of chicken wings from the ice-chest in the back of his truck. But José’s vision goes beyond the barbeque.

“The industrial management of our food supply is very harmful for human beings and for the environment. We maintain a balance on our farm so that there is always an equilibrium between the pasture, the insects, and the animals. This way we can maintain the ecological balance that we work for every day in order to keep our children and the planet healthy.”

Every action is a choice. Being a conscious consumer is not easy, but we all need to do a better job of asking ourselves where our food comes from. By taking the easy way out and not making the conscious choice to live more ecologically, we are not only supporting but actively participating in unsustainable and deleterious environmental processes related to industrial agriculture. If you have ever driven past an industrial chicken farm, you would know. The stench is almost unbearable; chickens are by far the smelliest farm animal. According to a study published by Dr. Pierre Gerber, Senior Livestock Specialist at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), "The use of large facilities associated with higher concentrations of poultry, has given rise to environmental concerns that are not only limited to the local production settings, but extend to environmental problems at regional and global scales." These problems include:

  • Contamination of both surface and groundwater caused by wastewater runoff and the leaching of nitrate, pathogens, pesticides, drug residues and hormones

  • Soil contamination with heavy metals such as: arsenic, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc which are added to feed to prevent disease, improve weight gain, and increase egg production

  • Impacts of pollution on nutrient-sensitive ecosystems resulting in biodiversity losses

Since the reopening, I am consciously making the effort to diversify my purchases in order to support local farmers and small-business owners. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. And I am starting with my breakfast. The eggs from Granja Familiar Soriano taste better; they are more filling, more nutritious, and have less of a negative impact on the environment. The meat is tender and juicy, free from harmful chemicals and full of hearty flavor. You and your family deserve the best, right? Choose Granja Familiar Soriano, and you will be choosing the best product for them and for the environment.

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