What you need to know about livestock feed

In line with my constant ramblings about chickens — they are new– I have so much to say about them — I thought it was appropriate to move into what to feed these birds. When we were in the adoption process for our dog, I literally spent HOURS looking up dog food. I am mindful of what I put in my mouth, and wanted to make sure what I was feeding my new best friend was good for her. Likewise was the case for my birdies.

This issue is so timely. Livestock feed is a hot topic right now, especially with Heath Canada’s plan to reduce the amount of antibiotics in feed for the purpose of “growth promotion” — i.e. artificially fattening, so animals are bigger, faster = more $.

Sounds good no? While a step in the right direction, most of the antibiotics used in the livestock industry, which have been linked to antibiotic resistance in humans, are used to preventive illness on-farm, and would not be covered under this new initiative.

From U of Ottawa's Medical site

From U of Ottawa’s Medical site

So our birds were started on medicated chick starter — it contains amprolium — which in my research can be both an antibiotic and non-antibiotic in various forms. It is used to prevent coccidiosis, a deadly intestinal disease. However, this disease is largely a problem in massive hatcheries and poultry farms which house dirty conditions. So, now that they are 6 weeks old, we have switched them to an organic grower feed until around 18 weeks, when we will out them on organic layer feed.

meat

So no antibiotics in feed — CHECK

Next point of order — GMOs — we are nipping this issue in the bud by buying certified organic feed, as one of the mainstays of certified organic is non-gmo ingredients. I will be diving further into GMOs in another article as well.

Let’s try this again:

No antibiotic in feed — CHECK

No GMO in feed — CHECK

Triple the price — CHECK

…. while this was a simple and important decision for us to make – we need to point out that the organic food was TRIPLE the cost of the ‘traditional’ feed. This also points to an interesting and timely issue – that of artificially cheapened food. We are in semi-rural Southern Ontario, and a 10 minute¬†drive out of the city yields acres and acres of corn and soy. This stuff is grown in massive quantities. Everywhere. It needs to.

corn

For farmers to make any money off of corn (which is featured mostly in livestock feed, and ethanol — not your peaches n’ cream variety here!), they need to grow a lot of it. This is not to mention the incredibly expensive machinery that needs to be invested in to manage these HUGE quantities of corn. But when every one is growing one type of thing – the “market” can become flooded – too much supply. When there is too much supply, prices go down (regardless of whether the farmer is losing money on growing the stuff…). So they need to grow even more.

The price point is artificially created as it doesn’t reflect ‘cost’. Not how much the farmer should pay him/her self in wages, not how much oil costs to run machinery and to transport corn globally, not how much seed, and water cost — just the price that is set on this “market”.

So does¬†organic cost more – yes. Should it – yes. Do we need to think about true ‘cost’ vs. ‘price’ – absolutely.

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