HARRISONBURG, Va.–When Shenandoah Valley Organic first started five years ago, Corwin Heatwole faced a lot of naysayers. A chicken farmer himself, he set out to flip the business model that has dominated the U.S. chicken industry on its head, partnering with other farmers to create a new farmer-grower contract. They saw a world where farmers were struggling, and in many cases going bankrupt. Farmers were under the thumb of big corporations, with fierce competition and little power. As a result, they started Shenandoah Valley Organic (SVO) and created the Farmer Focus brand to build a new, progressive model for the chicken industry.
“We wanted our farmers to be partners, not contractors as in the typical industry model. This means farmers own their chickens, have more control over their farm, and earn a better living for their hard work,” stated Jefferson Heatwole, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. “This new business model not only benefits the farmer, but it also guarantees a happier, higher quality chicken,” he added.
Have you ever known exactly where your chicken came from? Consumer interest in knowing where food comes from and how it was produced has skyrocketed. There is a growing demand for transparency, and consumers are rewarding brands that deliver. Evidence shows consumers are interested in a brand’s commitment to transparency, but not always in researching the specifics. While it can be disappointing to the brands that go to great lengths to provide them, consumers are comforted by knowing they can access it at any time. Every package of Farmer Focus Organic Chicken includes a four-letter Farm ID that curious consumers can enter into a farm locater at FarmerFocus.com to discover which SVO farmer raised the chicken they are buying.
For example, you may get a chicken from Jason Daugherty, a fourth-generation farmer who has been part of SVO for over a year. “It’s nice to be part of a company that actually puts the emphasis on the animals’ health and their safety…and they actually care about the farmers who are raising them.”
While farmers are a focus of the SVO Farmer Focus core values, the company looks at every aspect of the process and ways they can improve. Farmer Focus chicken is Certified Humane, USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. Their easy-open package is nearly 100% recyclable with less waste than typical chicken packaging. “We consistently examine our entire business operation and are constantly improving how things are done,” Heatwole added.
Chicken has become the most consumed meat in the U.S., and for good reason. It is extremely versatile and delivers more protein per calorie than other animal proteins. In 2019, SVO is taking off the training wheels. Farmer Focus will extend into cooked and value-added products that meet consumer demands for simple and fast meal solutions. Seasoned fresh chicken, cooked sausages and meatballs, and even broth will be available to consumers who are seeking quality organic food from a company that leads with transparency.