You've heard that "you are what you eat." It's also true that your food is what your food eats.
That's why I was excited to have an opportunity to connect with Kevin Fletcher, vice president of New Country Organics, a provider of premium, soy-free organic feeds.
Kevin built the largest organic farm in Virginia and has provided leadership in all areas of organic, sustainable, and local farm development. He is an expert in certification, sustainable farming techniques and organic farming best practices for health and for profit.
Some of you may be familiar with New Country Organics. I’ve sampled their feeds before and my hens loved it. For those who haven't heard of the company yet, New Country Organics is based in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and recently acquired and is in the process of restoring an historic, 1925 mill in Lubbock, Texas. (Wouldn't I love to go down and take a look at that?)
This means folks in Oklahoma and the Southwestern US can now have New Country Organics products shipped directly from Lubbock, saving a lot of money on New Country Organics feeds.
I took advantage of the chance to pick Kevin's brain about why the company’s organic feeds are all soy-free, and I think you’ll find his answers interesting.
Why Soy-Free Feed is ImportantOak Hill Homestead: Kevin, why is it important to use soy-free feeds?
Kevin Fletcher: Soy is very high in phytic acid, and monogastric animals like chickens and pigs (non-ruminant animals) don't produce the enzyme phytase that breaks up the nutrients in phytic acid. As a result, when raw soy is fed to a monogastric animal, they cannot efficiently extract the nutrients – proteins, fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals – from the soy.
This not only poses a problem for the animals, but also for the environment. In the Delmarva Peninsula on the East Coast, the use of chicken poop as a fertilizer has been outlawed because the chickens are fed soy-heavy feeds. So much soy-trapped phosphorous passes through their systems it has created a serious phosphorous pollution issue. Industrial chicken farming and soy have created an industrial pollution problem.
Feeds that have soy in them are also likely GMO – 96% or more of soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Non-GMO feeds are a better alternative, but they can use just as many chemicals as GMOs, a fact that surprises many people. For those concerned with GMOs, if you eliminate soy, corn and alfalfa you eliminate most of the possible sources of GMO.
Organic soy-free feeds take this one step further. Organic grains are grown from seed that has not been genetically modified. GMO grains have yet to pass muster on scientific scrutiny. Organics have not been treated with any neonicotinoids, chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. Organic farming practices are better for the environment; compost-based, biological farming is ecologically and fundamentally more sound than unsustainable, polluting, chemical farming. You don’t create unhealthy nutrient runoffs when you are growing organically.
KF: Today, soy is in everything. It has become an industrial food ingredient. Anything that is packaged likely has soy in it - oil, meal, as well as solvent style ingredients like soy lecithin. Americans consume more soy than traditional soy-eating cultures.
One of the problems with soy is it contains a high level of trypsin inhibitors. Trypsin is an enzyme that helps break down many different proteins. Inhibition of trypsin contributes to allergic reactions. The prevalence of soy consumption has been linked to an increase in allergies. GMO-soy can contain up to 25 percent more trypsin inhibitors than non-GMO soy.
Another problem with soy is it has high levels of phytoestrogens in it, which have been linked to girls’ experiencing puberty at increasingly earlier ages.
The Weston A. Price Foundation provides more information about problems associated with soy, including infertility, breast cancer, thyroid diseases, issues with the nervous system and the kidneys, and pancreatic disorders.
KF: Absolutely! Organic feed provides the healthiest animal you can possibly grow (or buy). When you feed a chicken quality organic feed, you will see a transformation in the chicken. It will be the healthiest chicken you've ever seen: more active, beautiful feathering, keen-eyed. The overall appearance of the chicken will improve. You’ll see an animal at peak health.
And it’s no surprise that that chicken is going to lay eggs that are more nutritious, healthy and delicious.
KF: Yes, a conventional, low-cost formulated feed is likely to be almost exclusively soy. Conventional feeds with soy might be 20 percent protein, while soy-free feeds might only be 17 percent protein. But with soy you’re wasting nutrition due to indigestibility.
So while the price of a bag of feed with soy filler may be cheaper, you’re actually getting a lot less for your money than it appears.
And the cost of organic feed is higher, sure. But wouldn’t you pay more for something you know is better? People also tend to forget the indirect costs conventional feeds pose to people’s health and the environment. Do you want to pay a bit more for high-quality food now, or pay health care costs later? Many of our customers have had major health scares and are doing whatever they can to get the best, cleanest and most organic food. They understand it: disease in, disease out.
KF: I urge you to try real organic feed with your birds. I say this not because I’m part of an organic feed company. But because I’m confident that – if you give it a couple of months – you’ll see a remarkable difference: nutrition, health and taste. You can learn more about organics here: http://www.newcountryorganics.com/care/
But I also urge you to be wary of claims. Non-GMO products for example are likely to be grown with all the synthetic and toxic chemicals available in conventional farming. All the Non-GMO label signifies is that no GMO’s were used. Everything else is fair game.
Finally, New Country Organics is part of the organic community, and we are dedicated to serving as a resource whenever possible. We welcome your questions and suggestions on ways we can serve: email@example.com
Chicken feed isn't all that New Country Organics produces. They also carry feed for four-legged critters including goats, alpacas, swine and more.
If you'd like to know where to find New Country Organics feeds, check the website for the location nearest you. If you're fortunate enough to live in Virginia, you can take advantage of Driver Dan's delivery routes. In Oklahoma, Southern Agriculture stores in Tulsa, Owassa and Broken Arrow carry the brand. They are working hard to expand distribution, but if there is no retailer near you, Kevin suggests forming a buyers’ club with your friends, family and neighbors so you can bulk ship to one farm and distribute from there.
I was NOT compensated for this post. Answers to my questions were provided by
New Country Organics. Any opinions or conclusions are my own.
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