We are switching our laying flock over to Organic grain. This is something that we have thought about doing off and on for as long as we have been farming, and we have decided that the time has come to make the switch.
We were using locally produced chicken feed from two farms, Maple Acres in Chesterfield and R & R Wirtes from Lanesboro, MA (near Pittsfield). Both farms grow grain, but also buy in a significant percentage of grain to supply their feed businesses. We feel strongly that it is important to support local farmers and small businesses, and so while we had concerns about bought-in commodity corn and soy, we felt that it was better to source our chicken feed as locally as possible.
Grain from these two local feed suppliers cost significantly more than commodity grain from a major corporation, such as Blue Seal, but still cost significantly less than organic grain. Part of our previous decision to use local, non-organic grain was the desire to keep our egg price lower.
Why are we switching to Organic now? There have long been concerns about negative health effects from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). We knew that it was just a matter of time before problems surfaced. Well, that time is up. Scientists recently identified a tangible threat, and, frankly, it’s scary. What’s even more scary (though not surprising) is that the USDA is completely ignoring their research.
Researchers at Purdue University identified a new pathogen of a type that has never been seen before. It appears to them to be a micro-fungus – a fungal organism that is the same size as a medium sized-virus (which, if we remember our high-school biology lessons, are small enough to penetrate cell walls). And not only is this type of organism previously unknown, but this micro-fungus appears to be pathogenic in a wide array of both plant and animal species. Very very few pathogens affect both plants and animals.
What is the GMO link? This pathogen was identified in, and seems to mainly be associated with, Roundup-Ready crops. It is too early to tell whether it is the Roundup that it likes or some genetic trait in the GMOs. But the researchers found that it is associated with the GMO Roundup-Ready trait, and the pathogen was found in crops, feed, and in livestock fed feed containing GMOs. Read more about this pathogen here:
For those who aren’t aware, Roundup Ready Corn and Soy are widespread in the commodity grain system, and so anything containing corn or soy from a commercial, industrial source (i.e., the grocery store), unless it is Certified Organic or tested and labelled as GMO-free, should be assumed to contain GMOs.
So for now, we are switching to Organic Feed from Green Mountain Feeds in Vermont. Our egg price has to increase to reflect our new costs. We will continue to look for a more local source of organic feed for our chickens, but this is the best source we have found so far.
None of our other livestock are fed grain. We have long avoided non-organic corn and soy, but with this new information will be even more attentive, and encourage others to also avoid GMOs.