Farm history • farmer stories • farming

“Jungle” Chicken

Written by Christian Ebersol
6 Minute Read
Published on Apr 12, 2024

Introducing Tree-Range® Farms

Have you ever wondered about the origins of domesticated chickens? It may surprise you to know that these birds were originally found in the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they were known as junglefowl. About 3,500 years ago, as humans began farming rice, these junglefowl started to inhabit the areas around rice fields and gradually became used to human presence. This historical backdrop sets the stage for an innovative approach to chicken farming being pioneered by Tree-Range® Farms, 99 Counties’ exclusive partner for chicken moving forward. 

Based in the upper Midwest of the U.S., Tree-Range® Farms is taking a cue from nature by raising chickens in an environment akin to their natural habitat. In addition to conventional farming practices, they're cultivating thickets of hazelnuts and elderberries, fostering ecological diversity in an area where it's needed most. This approach isn't just about providing chickens with a diverse diet of seeds, insects, and grasses. It's also about offering them protection from predators by being able to seek refuge under shrubs and even perch on lower branches to enjoy safety from both aerial and ground threats. Arnulfo Perrera, Farm Director and Supply Chain Manager at Tree-Range® Farms, is at the forefront of this regenerative farming movement. People like him are successfully enabling farmers to raise chickens this way, and those farmers fulfill a significant role in the regenerative ecosystem: they are changing landscapes in the upper Midwest through perennialization – one of the many reasons why 99 Counties is partnering with Tree-Range® Farms to offer you the domesticated version of “jungle” chicken.  

99 Counties Ambassador Wendy Johnson sat down with Arnulfo Perrera and his wife Gloria to learn about their adventure and how they came to this regenerative work. 

Arnulfo and Gloria grew up in farming communities in Belize, a beautiful tropical country located in Central America between Mexico and Guatemala. They were surrounded by food products grown on a much smaller scale than is common in the U.S., such as tropical fruits and vegetables. Gloria grew up on a farm, where she spent her days playing under avocado trees and helping her dad with his bee hives, corn, and vegetable fields. She learned about food entrepreneurship at an early age. In fact, she used to take some of the food they produced and sell it directly to consumers, which is how she paid for her high school tuition each year. Arnulfo, on the other hand, was raised by a single mom and was the youngest of 12 kids. He says that what keeps him driven is remembering the hardships that his mother endured, raising all of them by herself, and always keeping food on the table. "How can I complain about anything, knowing the struggles my mother had to face?" Arnulfo says, emphasizing his mother's image of resilience. 

Growing up pretty destitute drove Arnulfo to achieve a full-ride scholarship to study agriculture at Escuela Agricola Panamericana el Zamorano, an agricultural school in Honduras. After completing his studies, he worked as a fertilizer salesman before being offered a job by a large agricultural company in the U.S. The company relocated Arnulfo and his wife Gloria to North Carolina, where Gloria decided to pursue a nursing degree to increase her career prospects. The company moved the couple several times over the next decade, from Missouri to Illinois. Meanwhile, in 2021, regenerative rumblings were happening in Iowa, with Tree-Range® Farms purchasing their first processing plant in Staceyville, Iowa, the northeast part of the state. Arnulfo's former college friend, who was promoting Tree-Range® Farms' regenerative system, invited Arnulfo to join him in this work by hiring him as the processing plant manager. And there it happened: Arnulfo and Gloria made Iowa their home.  

When asked why he left his very successful corporate job to move to Iowa and manage a regenerative chicken processing plant, Arnulfo said he saw it as a challenge and an opportunity. "In a corporate setting, you work for someone else, and there's only so far you can go; there's a ceiling, especially for people not from the U.S. You are completely replaceable. With Tree-Range®, I have input to create impact. I can be part of the systems change that is so badly needed in Iowa." And to that, we say, "Hallelujah!" 

As a Farm Services Director and Supply Chain Manager, he supports farmers interested in the system, including those already in the supply chain of Tree-Range® Farms. He helps them connect the farmer to the chicks, to the materials for the barns, to the feed, and the processing while offering guidance along the way. He also helps support the current plant manager. Tree-Range® Farms, currently in its third full year of business, now processes around 75,000 chickens annually and works with 14 farmers within three hours of the processing plant.

 “The success of Tree-Range® Farms is that we build relationships with everyone along the supply chain first. The farmer has to want to be a part of the change, to connect and understand the need and want to be a part of it. Trust in the farmer is the basis of this work.”

– Arnulfo Perrera.

Tree-Range® sets itself apart from any corporate chicken production system by putting the farmer first, being fully transparent and honest, and connecting the farmer to every part of the process. The farmer is the core of this system, and they are highly valued due to the ecosystem changes they are making to the landscape they are transforming – all while growing delicious, nutrient-dense food for people. Iowa is extremely lucky to have Regenerative Food Processing (Tree-Range® Farms processing plant) here, with people like Arnulfo at the helm, and 99 Counties is excited to partner with them to supply you with some of the best, most humane chicken in the world. 

By partnering with Tree-Range® Farms, 99 Counties is proud to continue offering consumers a taste of the best ethically raised chicken while supporting a pioneering approach to farming. As Arnulfo continues to crack the nut of sustainable agriculture in Iowa, we believe that the future looks brighter for both farmers and consumers – it’s all part of the virtuous circle that partnerships like this create! When you purchase chicken from 99 Counties, you support everyone, from the farmers that Tree-Range® works with to the employees at their certified organic processing plant in Iowa. In fact, our partnership will enable us to bring you new products, such as ground chicken and chicken bone broth, which will be available soon. Thank you for continuing to support our mission to change our relationship with farming and food by connecting customers with the highest-quality, regeneratively-grown meat.

 Watch Arnulfo's story here!

Older Post Newer Post

Meat the way it’s meant to be

Sign up for exclusive deals, juicy recipes, farmer stories & more.
Missing required field

By signing up, you agree to receive marketing emails from 99 Counties at the email address provided. We respect your privacy.