Thursday, January 12, 2012

What's in Chicken Feed?

Several of my neighbors eat my chicken eggs, and one of them wanted to know what kind of chicken feed I use.  Here's what I told her.


They've been eating organic feed since they were two days old.  Until six weeks ago it was a blend that relied on soy for its protein component (around 17% by weight).  I've since switched to soy-free organic layer feed for two reasons.

First, because of the levels of omega3 fatty acids available in soy-free feed.  Those fats make their way through the chicken and show up in the eggs. You might have seen the egg cartons in the supermarket that make statements about the eggs having omega3 fats.  My eggs are now the same.


The protein in the soy-free ration now comes from flax meal, fish meal, and crab meal.  Still organic, but has those good fats.

Also, I think letting the chickens forage for bugs in my sideyard can only help round out the nutritional value of the eggs.

The second, maybe equally important reason, is that soy may be harmful.
Originating in China, soybeans have been consumed by humans for thousands of years. It’s only been in the last century that the way we eat soy has changed dramatically. Fermentation is how soy was first prepared for eating. It was a side dish that complimented the rest of the meal. Raw soy is not fit for consumption and can be considered toxic. Today’s soy is processed in variety of methods (not fermented) which denatures the proteins and increases levels of carcinogens.

Soy is a prevalent ingredient in almost all processed foods. Those with a soy allergen (it’s one of the top eight food allergens for humans) know this best. It’s in fast-foods, baby food, processed meat, breads, etc. Unless you are very conscious of everything you eat, it is easy to consume an unregulated amount of soy products every day.

Perhaps you are not allergic to soy, here are some other findings that may be important to you. Soy is not a complete protein (as commonly believed), lacking some important amino acids. Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D. Soy increases levels of estrogen (possibly simulating the growth of related tumors) and decreases levels of testosterone. It has been related to pre-mature sexual development in females, and delayed development in males. Animal studies show soy foods causes infertility in animals.

Because soy is a prolific food allergen, the FDA requires it to be listed clearly as an ingredient in processed foods. At this time the FDA does not require meat, raised on soy feeds, to be disclosed. People highly allergic to soy are affected by this.

Soybean is the human choice for animal feed, thus covertly making it another avenue into our daily consumption of it. Chickens receive the highest level of exposure, and it is retained in their meat and eggs.


The wholesaler is CFS Specialties located in Cashton, WI

You can find an image of the feed bag by choosing Poultry Rations from the menu on the left side of the page -- then click on No Soy poultry rations

The retailer is Backyard Chicken Run.
John, the owner, also sells some nice, though expensive, dog and cat foods.  The best part of the deal is that "free" delivery is included in the price.  That price, at least for chicken feed, was the same as I was paying at the previous supplier (The Feed Store in Summit, IL).

I think his business is well worth supporting.


More on the nutritional and dietary fats found in chicken feed.


Jim said...

I was wondering how much you sell your eggs for? $24 for feeds sounds like it would be tough to make money. I am paying about $20 per hundred pounds and at that I dont really think I am making money? I have 15 hens. Thanks Jim

Bruce said...

Hi Jim,

I sell them for $3.50/dozen, all to friends and neighbors, who understand they're getting a deal. With feed costs about $0.21/egg*, I'm left with about $1/dozen in "profit". That doesn't take into account all the other expenses or my time, so you're right, it's not much of a business.

On the other hand, I'm lucky enough not to have to do it for the money. Also I'm learning, among other things, that I will never get paid what I think the eggs are worth.

*Rough numbers I used to calculate feed costs/egg:

.25 lb of feed per chicken per day
Cost of organic feed = $0.50/lb
Each chicken estimated to lay 220 eggs per year.

They'll probably lay that many for another year or so. Then I'll have to decide if they'll become stewing chickens and start over with a new batch of chicks.

H2 said...

Just wondering: could you bring in a rooster to fertilize the eggs at the end of the hens' laying life to produce your next batch of chicks?

Bruce said...


I suppose it's possible. Not sure how to go about doing it though.

I hope they keep laying for a good long while so I don't have to find out how I can get a hold of a rooster.

elfriide tramm said...

soy is definitely not good or considered as a food at all. in addition to that, soy is one of the main GMO crops and it means treated with roundup and other chemicals. this means that traces of these toxins are in the soy.

but also a fish is not a proper food for hens - naturally they don't eat it. but as opposite, flaxseeds are very good and also a natural food for hens. if you feed them with a natural pure food (for expample cabbage leaves (raw or steamed), weeds and oatmeal (boiled)) and they are free range chikens, they just naturally produce omega 3 fatty acids to their eggs. factories are feeding their hens with fishmeal and other crap, because in these sick conditions chickens are not available to produce omega3's naturally.

Bruce said...

Good point elfrïïde.

The non-soy feed I'm using now does have flaxmeal, but it also has the problematic fish and crab meal.

I'm not sure of the percentages of the latter two, but going from the ingredient list, there is more flax than fish/crab in the feed.

Here's what the feed label says, with higher on the list corresponding to a higher percentage of the whole mix:


For now this is the best I can do, but hopefully I can get away from the "unnatural" products.

cpoole said...

dont forget fresh fruits and vegetables. try going to neighborhood grocers and asking for their 'scrap out.' it will probably not be organic but grocers throw out tons of perfectly good lettuce, kale, cabbage, other greens, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, all of which your chickens will love.