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Meet the Founders

Meet the Founders: Chef Micah Wexler and Debbie Rocker of Pasture Project

Chef Micah Wexler and Debbie Rocker of Pasture Project

When James Beard-nominated Chef Micah opened his Los Angeles restaurant Mezze, Debbie was his trusted meat supplier, providing him with all the best cuts available. Inspired by their shared passion for pasture-raised animals, the duo collaborated to create Pasture Project. Focusing exclusively on slow-grown, heirloom chickens, they’re on a mission to change the game of farming and agriculture so that we can better live in harmony with nature. From spatchcock chickens to tender breast meat, each Pasture Project product is entirely GMO-free and sourced from chickens that are raised right. 

Chef Micah has also put his culinary skills to work by creating three flavorful marinades that take these juicy and tender chickens to the next level, resulting in a delicious and easy-to-make meal that the whole family will love.

Recently, we caught up with Debbie to learn more about their journey and hear her advice for fellow entrepreneurs.

pasture project chicken

1. Why did you start Pasture Project?

Micah and I had worked together for years in the past and we wanted to find meats that made us proud to sell and serve. We realized that pasture-raising animals is crucial for healthy and humane animal care, and that means tastier, juicier, and healthier chickens for us to eat at home while doing the right thing. Taking better care of our livestock equals taking better care of our people. 

As experienced foodservice operators, we used our meat industry knowledge to create a company selling only pasture-raised meats, starting with everyone’s favorite…chicken. The bottom line is that we need better chicken in America. Micah and I did our research by eating every high-quality, pasture-raised chicken we could find, and found that only slow-growing, heirloom chicken is noticeably more flavorful, tender, and juicy. Heirloom chicken also offers a higher nutritional value across the board.

Almost all of us currently eat industrialized, genetically modified, cornish-cross chicken that is grown unnaturally fast (in under 30 days), putting profit over everything else. This is our default chicken breed in the US, so Micah and I decided an upgrade in quality was well overdue. After cooking and eating every heirloom chicken we could find, we discovered the best one right in our NorCal backyard! Using Micah’s world-class chef talents, we then decided to bring it all home by hand-marinating our heirloom chicken in one of Micah’s perfectly balanced marinades — we do all the prep, you take a bow.

2. What obstacles did you face along the way?

We created a seamless process where our chickens are brought to LA, marinated, and packed for retail. We offer single marinated spatchcocked chickens, which are available in three flavors, as well as three flavors of heirloom marinated breast packs with three beautifully trimmed and marinated pieces per pack. This is usually the hardest part, but because of our industry experience and relations, we were able to use the processors we wanted. Another challenge is educating consumers about the benefits of heirloom chicken, as not everyone knows what “heirloom” means. 

chicken dish

3. What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Your customers need to trust you and it can take time for people to decide to try your offering because of that. Hang in there. It will likely take more time and more money than you originally thought. You may likely need to revise or revamp as you learn more about your customers through your sales and feedback. Stay loose. We all go in thinking we know what the customer wants to buy — that’s why we are making the product. Micah and I both wanted delicious healthy chicken for ourselves and our families, and we assumed most people want the same. However, everyone’s priorities are different, and you may need to find a way to present your message differently for those who prioritize quick and easy over, “Where does my chicken come from and how was it raised?”

4. What’s on the horizon for Pasture Project?

More pasture-raised heirloom chicken parts coming soon including boneless and skinless thighs, wings, and drumsticks. We are also putting our incredibly delicious Eureka Lemon, Spicy Bomba, and Smokey Red Garlic marinades in bottles for sale soon.

chicken cooking on bbq

5. How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

Work hard (I love it), get away (I fully unwind and love it more). I love working in an industry that has so much room for improvement and NOT subscribing to standard industry fare. We choose authentic and healthy practices such as raising on pasture, slow-growth heirloom chicken, and using our own handmade, all-natural, chef-crafted marinades. What drives us now, too, is acknowledgment. It’s the reaction we get from our customers. “I love your chicken!” “Never had chicken like this before, I can never go back.” Those words are wonderful to hear, so thank you for that.

Chicken Meet the Founder