Exciting news about healthier chicken
Friends and Patrons,
We are nearing the time to order chicks for our July 20th processing day and I am pleased to announce that this batch of chicken will be experimental!
If that doesn’t get your attention, nothing else will, but let me assure you that it is far from sinister. Part of the problem with better food is that it is more complicated to explain, so please bear with me while I unfold this story.
I have focused on providing good, healthy chicken that is more affordable to the “common man”, that is, more expensive than the supermarket but not as expensive as all organic, pasture-raised heritage chicken. I am somewhere in between those two extremes, something I call the 80% solution. I use the same breed of chicken as the supermarket (as do other pasture-based farmers, like Joel Salatin), but it is raised outside on green grass and fresh air. I provide fresh, non-medicated feed from a local mill. I process them quickly and humanely in small batches for improved sanitation (no bleach bath required). It is a very good solution, and not as expensive as the 100% solution, which makes it possible for many of you to eat more healthfully.
One of the areas I have wanted to improve is the feed. The two major ingredients of my current feed are corn and soy, two of the most common genetically modified or “Roundup Ready” crops in America (somewhere between 88%-94%). There is a lot of information out there on GMOs, but what is truly unsettling is how much information is missing. Not enough research has been done and the real effects of these plants cannot be known until they have been fairly studied. The research that has been done by independent groups is troubling to say the least. I encourage you to do your homework and make up your own mind on the issue. I was not eager to learn more, but I finally read a book from Jeffrey Smith and was able to understand what all the fuss is about.
Here is the question I asked myself: how can I reduce the amount of GMOs in my feed without causing my prices to skyrocket? There are several sources of all organic feed available, but it has to be shipped in from at least several hours away (not exactly local) and it would increase my prices to roughly $4.25/lb, certainly putting it out of reach for some of you. So I started a conversation with Bob Long at Big Spring Mill in Elliston, who has supplied my feed for the last three years. Bob, whose family started the mill in 1937, was sympathetic to my quest and really went above and beyond to help me. He let me know a couple of weeks ago that he had come up with a solution, a new feed that I can custom order.
The new feed still has soy beans in it (other sources of protein are very expensive), but he found a local grower of conventional (non-GMO) soy. He also took out the corn and replaced it with additional wheat and oats, which are typically conventionally grown. The final product is one that is basically “Low-GMO” feed, much better, but without the cost of something that is “certified”. I will purchase this new feed as a custom blend, just for Haelen Farm! It will only increase the price of the chickens from $3.05/lb to $3.25/lb, which was very exciting to me.
Since chickens are real animals and not little eatable machines, I want to start slow and see if they thrive on this new feed before making a full switch. We are going to do a batch of chickens with the new feed and see how they come out. Our second batch of this year, processed in July, will be raised on the new feed. We’ll see how that goes and make our decisions about the 3rd and final batch based on our experience and your feedback.
If you would like to join the experiment and try chicken raised on low-GMO feed, please respond by April 16th with your order. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let me know!