Good Shepherd Poultry Institute

“The name ‘Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch’ is not just the name of my farm—it’s also a statement about my faith, my philosophy, and my approach to farming. Building the Good Shepherd Poultry Institute is an expansion of my dream to preserve heritage poultry breeds and help rebuild an agricultural system that puts animals back in the center of farming.” —Frank Reese

Frank Reese is a fourth-generation Kansas farmer with more than 60 years of experience breeding and raising heritage poultry. An award-winning master breeder and American Poultry Association (APA) judge, Frank owns and operates one of the few successful heritage poultry farms in America, the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, which has garnered praise from Martha Stewart, celebrity chef Mario Batali, the New York Times, and is featured centrally in the documentary film Eating Animals, which recently premiered at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. Frank’s lifelong mission is the preservation of heritage breeds and he remains one of the only farmers in the world currently capable of owning and operating a sustainable heritage poultry operation.

Farm Forward is helping Frank Reese share his knowledge with the next generation of farmers by launching the Good Shepherd Poultry Institute (GSPI). With Frank as its “Farmer In Chief,” GSPI will be the first educational institution of its kind.

The mission of the Good Shepherd Poultry Institute (GSPI) is to preserve heritage poultry, protect the biodiversity of livestock, and reduce farmed animal suffering by increasing the supply of highest-welfare heritage poultry.

Just one generation ago, animal agriculture in the US looked completely different than it does today—the welfare of animals, the health of the ecosystem, and the success of farmers and their communities were intimately linked. That way of life has nearly disappeared in the US with the growth of industrial animal agriculture. As giant corporate operations displaced independent farms—all in the name of efficiency and cheaper meat—treating animals humanely no longer mattered. As a result, contemporary animal agriculture is now at odds with environmental sustainability and the health of rural communities.

The incredible biodiversity of farmed animals has nearly disappeared. Until the 1940s, farmers raised dozens of heritage breeds of chickens and turkeys, each bred to thrive in different environments. Heritage breeds of chickens and turkeys mate naturally, are hardy and do best on pasture, and live long and healthy lives.  Today, industrial “hybrid” breeds, bred for speed of growth rather than for health, hardiness, or flavor, make up more than 99 percent of all poultry produced in the US.

We are at a turning point. Heritage breeds that were once the bedrock of the poultry industry are now exceedingly rare, with many breeds critically endangered. In addition, few farmers have the knowledge of how to raise heritage poultry successfully—and this knowledge is likely to be lost forever unless farmers are empowered with resources and education.  

A growing movement of farmers wants to return to a more sustainable and humane way of farming by raising genetically healthy animals outside of the factory farm system, but few have access to the proper genetics, the knowledge to maintain breed lines, and the business skills necessary to run a successful heritage poultry farm.

The Institute will preserve traditional breeds of poultry, train farmers to raise and market them, maintain an online knowledge base of practical farming and husbandry techniques, facilitate technological transfer that enhances traditional systems, and educate chefs and members of the public on the importance of heritage products. In short, the Institute will preserve an important piece of America’s farming tradition, protect biodiversity, and reduce animal suffering by providing an alternative to factory-farmed poultry products.

To build the Good Shepherd Poultry Institute we will need the support of those who believe in Frank’s vision, and those who want to support a return to sustainable higher-welfare farming.

To learn more about the plans for the Institute, visit www.goodshepherdpoultryinstitute.org