“Pink Slime” or “Slippery Slope”

When the retail food industry demands meeting a price point and a profit margin that may mean there is not much left for the producer.  It’s exactly how we push producers to do unscrupulous things.

For example, feeding animals Hexane produced soybean meal, arsenic, and DDGS ethanol by products loaded with sulfur and antibiotics.

In the poultry industry the list of short cuts and cost cuts could fit the “pink slime” description.

Let’s start moving the bar up.  It starts with consumers demanding retailers to carry brands that follow strict quality protocols.

Corn Ethanol

Our government spent billions to subsidize and promote using millions of acres of precious American farmland to replace imported oil is unconscionable.

Now that corn is worth three times the past 20 year average at $9.00 per bushel and nearly half the U.S. crop is going to produce ethanol, we may have started a food inflation cycle that will grow out of control.

Can you believe that we slow down our oil imports and increase food imports!

We need to use American farm land for more than just fuel!

Out of desperation many animal production farms have resorted to using up to 20% ethanol by-products in their diets.  Ethanol by-products are dangerous- antibiotic and chemical laced loads of garbage! I would not feed any animal this kind of product ever.

Food vs. Fuel leadership has gone amuck!

We at Bell & Evans have not cut quality in anything we do and our plans are to continue to improve in all areas.  This year we added fully recyclable boxes to our program and just recently started our SIA system.  We now think that we have the humane slaughter method for poultry in the World.

Raised without Antibiotics vs. antibiotic-free. Is there a difference?

On December 9th, the FDA announced (http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm236143.htm) that the U.S. meat, poultry and dairy producers used almost 29 million, yes million, pounds of antibiotics on their farm animals in 2009, up significantly from just a decade ago.  As you can imagine, public health organizations are troubled by these practices, especially ‘sub-therapeutic’ antibiotics — a low dose of antibiotics that is mixed into the feed of healthy farm animals to promote faster growth.  Many scientists are concerned these practices may be linked to the new antibiotic-resistant ’superbugs’, such as MRSA and E. coli, because the more we’re exposed to antibiotics the less effective they are when we need them.

So are we.

All Bell & Evans chickens are raised without antibiotics. Raised naturally in a low-stress environment, our Bell & Evans chickens start out healthier, so we have no need to pump our birds full of antibiotics throughout their lives. There are no antibiotics in their feed, their water, or even in the egg… ever.

Some producers say their chickens are antibiotic-free, but don’t be fooled.  It only means the chickens were antibiotic-free when they’re sold. All chickens must be antibiotic-free to be sold for human consumption.  It doesn’t mean they weren’t given antibiotics sometime in their life cycle. Some producers even try to get around the issue by injecting the egg before the chick hatches. Antibiotics are antibiotics no matter when they’re administered.

So to answer the question, yes, there is a big difference in chickens that are raised without antibiotics vs. those that are ‘antibiotic-free’. You can trust in Bell & Evans chicken, raised without antibiotics, to feed your family.

This is my last entry for the year. I wish you and your family all the best for the holidays and a healthy, happy new year. Please join me again in 2011 for more reflections on raising the excellent chicken

Vomitoxin in Wheat

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the 2009 Wheat Harvest and the incidence of Vomitoxin.

Vomitoxin is a mycotoxin that may be produced in wheat heads when wet weather conditions occur during the flowering and grain filling stages of development.

There may be severe negative consequences for both human and animal consumption.

Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of this wheat moving around our industry today at distressed prices. Low priced wheat relative to corn has many poultry producers considering substituting wheat for corn in their diets.

Bell & Evans does not use wheat in our chicken’s diet even when wheat quality is good.

When you honestly raise chickens without using antibiotics, wheat in the diet has been proven to be detrimental in raising healthy birds.

When I say without using antibiotics, I don’t just mean from birth.

At Bell & Evans no antibiotics means no adding antibiotics to the vaccine injected in the eggs before they are hatched; also not in the feed, water, air, old manure, or some other creative way.

There is a lot to be concerned about when your goal is to raise a good healthy flock.

There is more to come.

Let’s talk about raising chickens!

We will start with preparing for a new flock that has just been hatched and is being immediately transported to the farm.

The house preparation actually started two weeks ago, when the last flock went to market. The manure was immediately removed. The house was de-dusted and the concrete floors swept. Disinfecting the house and letting it set empty for two weeks really helps kill bacteria, break virus cycles, and put a fix to rodents that would contaminate the birds with salmonella. Two or three days before the new flock arrives, we spread new clean wood shavings over the entire floor for a nice comfortable bedding. Baby chicks have very sensitive feet and need to start on a warm comfortable floor. We start the heat in the house a day or two before the flock arrives to bring up the floor temperature and provide a comfort zone of about 90-92 degrees. We do not need to start day one with any extra stress if we are going to raise clean, natural chickens honestly without antibiotics or other crutches.

It is very sad that the cost and profit pressures have forced most of the brolier chicken industry into alternative production methods and I do not know how they get natural labels approved. Most of these lower cost alternative production methods use ground dirt floors. If you have ever tried to clean a ground dirt floor, you know it is difficult. In the case of our organic production, we let the birds go outside and scratch in the grass and dirt but they sure like to come back into their clean protected house where their feed and water is kept. Once I tried a dirt floor in my chicken house until the rodents drilled a hole in the ground from the outside and came up in the inside of the house and attacked my chickens. Well that was enough of that!

Just to give you some idea what these alternative methods are, I will start with the flock that just went to market. The house is immediately prepared for the next flock that may be started as soon as the next day. Most of the old manure stays in the house to compost, and maybe some new litter is added. They usually take a machine through the house to break up the manure. There may be five to ten flocks of chickens in the house before the manure is taken out. By leaving the manure in the house flock after flock, there is a big challenge to manage the ammonia coming out of that composting manure that can and will cause blindness and serious respiratory problems to the chickens. I feel sorry for the chickens being raised that way.

The result of these alternative methods of production can be horrible and these chickens should not be labeled natural. I think I wrote enough for today, but there is a lot more to come.