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Former cubicle dweller embraces his passion as a chicken farmer

Paul Greive was tired all the time. He had joint pain. And brain fog.

At 26 years old, having just wrapped up a deployment in Iraq, the Marine Corps intelligence officer was now being told by doctors that the Lyme disease he contracted in sniper school might linger forever. Get used to it.

This was 2009 and the anti-inflammatory paleo diet was all the rage. What did he have to lose?

“Two weeks in, I felt like a kid again,” says the former All-American college track and field star. “My joint pain was gone, my energy levels were up.”

His wife and brothers saw the minor miracle and joined him.

“My whole family went on this food adventure,” he says. “My father-in-law lost 100 pounds.”

Bread and dairy were out. Protein was in. But the more closely they read about the factory-farm meat they were buying, the more hoodwinked they felt. Free-range, for instance, doesn’t necessarily involve the outdoors.

“Sometimes they use labels to trick people,” he says. “There’s a lot of shenanigans and nonsense out there.”



At a 2012 Easter dinner with his in-laws, Greive joked that they should raise their own meat. His brother-in-law Rob jumped up from the table and 15 minutes later returned to announce he had just ordered 50 chicks online.

They busted out laughing.

“We were like, ‘No way, dude! What are you talking about?’”

As the chicks grew, the family realized 50 was maybe more than they could eat so they made a Facebook post, thinking they could sell a few to offset their costs. All 50 sold within two weeks. So they ordered 100 more.

“Same thing happened,” he says.

Their next order was for 250 chicks. Then 500. Then 1,000. A waiting list was forming.

“We thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is crazy,’  he says. “We realized this is probably a business.”

It was kind of perfect timing. Greive, who was juggling his accounting job and the MBA program at UCLA, was sick of commuting to Los Angeles from his Corona del Mar home.

“And my soul was just dying slowly in a cubicle,” he says.

So in 2013, shortly after he and his wife Lynsey had their first baby, they left Newport Beach and moved in with her parents in Temecula. So did Lynsey’s two brothers. Everyone quit their jobs to go all-in on the farm dream. There were nine of them, living together in a 1,700-square-foot house with a bunch of chickens running around in the backyard.

“It was like this madhouse, chaos at all times,” Greive says, laughing. “It was gnarly.”

With no regular paychecks, they bought chicks on credit cards and launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising $60,000.

“Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer” Joel Salatin became their guru. His books became their Bible, his Youtube videos their classroom.

A newspaper story on their adventure drew reality TV to their Murietta farm like worms draw chickens after a rainstorm. Animal Planet, Showtime and HBO came knocking.

After some pilot filming, though, the family decided the celebrity life wasn’t for them. Turns out they didn’t need the fame anyway. Pasturebird Inc. has grown into the largest pasture-raised chicken producer in the country.

There are roughly 900 pasture poultry farms in America, but 95 percent of them are small family-owned (often Amish) farms with 50 and 500 birds. Pasturebird has almost 100,000 birds on three different farms at any given time.

“Our goal is to revolutionize the poultry industry,” says Greive, who now goes by Farmer Paul. “We want to end factory farming. Not by imposing governmental regulations, but by implementing a market-based solution to a massive problem within our food system.”

That solution: Rotational grazing.

“We’re trying to replicate nature,” he says. “In modern conventional agriculture animals are in a stationary environment. In nature, animals move. We’ve gotten really far away from that.”

Pasturebird no longer farms in Murrieta but has 140 acres in San Diego County, 100 acres in Lodi and another 60 acres in Georgia.

“Every day the birds graze, poop, which fertilizes the ground, and then move to a different plot. Our chickens hit every square foot of land four times a year.”

The pastures are irrigated so that the chickens are always on grass or weeds or flowers. A mobile tent serves as a giant chicken coop to protect them from heat and predators.

This is Salatin’s “symbiotic cycle of feeding” model. His Virginia farm is featured in the documentary films “Food, Inc.” and “Fresh.”

By keeping the soil healthy, the birds stay healthy; and antibiotics are not needed. The day Greive met a reporter he was wearing a T-shirt that read “Bugs not Drugs.”

Additives are not necessary either; no gluten grains. “Just sunshine, fresh air and grass,” Greive says. And seeds and worms. “It comes through in the flavor.”

Pasturebird chickens have more dark meat, more thigh and slightly less breast. They’re also healthier. According to Greive, tests show his birds have more vitamin A and E and omega-3s than factory-farm birds.

“We work with tons of families going through health stuff, a lot of people battling auto-immune disorders,” he says. “It’s such an honor to be their medicine.”

In 2016, the Lakers team chef contacted Pasturebird to provide them with chickens. “Kobe was struggling with health problems,” Greive says. “Then the strength coach at Dodgers found out about us, so that was super cool.”

Wolfgang Puck is another celebrity client. The Pasturebird website touts a plug from the famous chef, saying the chickens remind him of the ones he grew up eating in Austria.

Pasturebird currently ships to butchers, grocery stores and clients in 50 states. Electric City Butcher in Santa Ana and The Butchery at Crystal Cove buy from them. Noble Bird Rotisserie, an elevated chicken-centric restaurant, in Long Beach, orders from them exclusively.

Owner Sidney Price said they did a deep dive into poultry purveyors before opening last year.

“After visiting Pasturebird we were truly blown away,” she says.  “Their commitment to regenerative farming … and the quality of their chickens is unparalleled.

Greive says the only time he worried that maybe he shouldn’t have given up the cubicle life was when coyotes started snacking on the birds.

“Six to nine months in we lost over 1,000 chickens,” he said. “It was super bad.”

He spent his last $200 on a livestock guardian dog to chase the predators off. Now 20 guardian dogs roam the farms.

“They single-handedly saved the business,” he says.

The farms also have grazing sheep and cattle to keep the pastures trimmed. “They’re living lawnmowers,” Greive says.

Miniature grass-eating pigs graze, as well. “They’re the clean-up program,” he says. “And the bacon program.”

Source: Orange County Register

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