The great chicken food debate
Since starting The Farmstead the handsome man and I have gotten very involved in researching the conversation around food. We're not educated enough to form a truly solid opinion at this point, but I do one thing.
GMOs scare me. GMO stands for genetically modified organism and the United States is the largest grower of GMO crops in the world. Which we think, isn't good. These GMOs have been created to be more resistant to herbicides and even more nutritious (hmmm...I feel like fruits and veggies are pretty nutritious on their own).
The best known example of this is the use of B.t. genes in corn and other crops. B.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects such as the European corn borer. Source.
So what's the problem? I don't know about you, but when a plant can artificially defend against a predator something feels out of whack. I love a good zombie flick (as long as it's not too scary) but this all seems like the beginning of a post apocalyptic film...
The Farmstead's laying flock is finally eating enough that we can buy in bulk. We recently bought a ton (as in 2,000 pounds) of organic chicken feed. It comes in a big sack which honestly a small family could live quite happily in. This organic food wasn't cheap, but it's in the right price range so that we can still makes our eggs affordable. Imagine my surprise when I was looking over the ingredients...MADE IN CHINA.
Ugh! My precious organic food was made in China?
As a Nation we've created a large demand for the "organic label". But, for many reasons farms (especially small farms) aren't getting certified (this is a blog post for another day, which I will cover soon as we are one of those farms that will not seek organic certification even though we raise and grow organically). So as a Nation we're doing what we normally do. We're outsourcing organic.
I'm not convinced buying organic feed from China is the answer, but buying organic feed that is "local" in that it came from Eastern Washington isn't really sustainable for us. Right now we want to cap our price for a dozen eggs at $4, hopefully less. In the supermarket you can buy "cage-free", "natural" eggs for $3.49. We think our organically raised, pastured eggs are worth way more than that in taste alone let alone our chickens lead much happier lives than those of "cage-free" hens. But, we want to encourage our community's decisions to support local farms, which means we need to keep our price point reasonable. And so, we can't afford the next highest food tier.
Of course our ultimate goal is to grow our own food for our chickens, which we've already done by planting organic seeds: corn, amaranth, comfrey, sunflowers, melons, spinach and cucumbers just to name a few. Maybe after this season the discussion around what to feed Farmstead hens will be moot point.
But I'd still like to know your thoughts. What's more important to you, organic or local? Do you trust organic food coming from outside the US? How do you feel about GMO foods?