“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.

What Our Chicks Eat




At the beginning of the new year, we all make resolutions to eat healthier. I thought it would be a good time to tell you about our chickens diet, because well-fed chickens are happy and less-stressed. The Bell & Evans Animal Welfare Standard guarantees our birds always have access to fresh water and our specially-blended feed.

The Bell & Evans Diet
Our birds thrive on our scientifically-formulated, all-vegetarian diet. The feed is Bell & Evans’ special blend of locally-grown corn and extruded and expeller-pressed soybeans, supplemented with three times the recommended vitamins, including A, D, E, K, B-12, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. To bolster our young chick’s immune systems, they are fed a special starter diet, containing 15-times the recommended amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant.

Each batch is electronically monitored to make sure it meets our formulation standards, plus our feed is routinely lab-checked to assure its nutrient value remains constant. We also take the extra step to pelletize the feed, because it makes it more digestible and less likely that contaminants can enter the food chain.

Unlike commodity-produced chickens, we never feed our birds junk food such as rendered meat scraps; bone, feather or fish meal; animal fats; expired bakery goods; used cooking oils or grease; or feed additives containing arsenic. That doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? We don’t think so either.

You may ask…
Why are extruded soybeans and expeller-pressed soybeans so important?
Our special soybean processing method is environmentally friendly and produces soy meal that is richer in healthy nutrients such a lecithin, linoleic acid and vitamin E than the commonly used hexane solvent-extraction process. Nearly all soybeans in the United States are processed using the hexane solvent-extraction method. As part of this process, hexane gas is released into the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency categorizes hexane as a hazardous air pollutant. Residuals from the hexane potentially remain in the final meal. Though solvent extraction is more economical, we believe that raising a healthier chicken and protecting the environment far outweigh the costs.

Growing Organic
Our organically-grown chickens dine on an all-vegetable, organic diet made from grains grown in the United States. They get their energy from locally-grown extruded soybeans and expeller pressed soybeans, enhanced with corn and amino acids, that provide additional protein and fiber essential for growing the most tender and flavorful organic chicken. Did you know some poultry producers purchase cheap, questionably “organic” grains from China? For more information: http://www.cornucopia.org/2009/05/soy-report-and-scorecard/

Bell & Evans organic farms are certified organic by Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a USDA-accredited certifier.  PCO performs regular on site plant inspections, assuring you we continue to meet the USDA’s stringent requirements for organic certification.

And, of course, all Bell & Evans chickens receive no growth hormones or antibiotics, including Ionophores, in their feed, their water, or even the egg…ever.

In my next entry, I want to talk about how The Bell & Evans Humane Animal Welfare Standard impacts transporting our birds from the farm to the plant.

Feed and Grain

I recently participated in the opening of a new Whole Foods Market Store in Centennial Colorado, an area just south of Denver. My participation consisted of 3 days of cooking and sampling our Bell & Evans chicken nuggets to thousands of customers. This is a great format that allows me to answer questions that customers have and ask questions that I have for the customers. Sometimes I am able to convert Vegetarians back to eating chicken. Often they just need a little education and some good honest answers.

Participating in hundreds of these events over the years has helped me in the direction of how we operate at Bell & Evans. A popular concern I had from many in Colorado was the GMO issue and Organic Certification.

In recent years, large seed companies unloaded their GMO seed on famers in a big way. Those farmers were told GMO seed was the answer to feed the growing world’s population. Now they are told that we need GMO seed to produce enough corn ethanol to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

All of the certified Organic corn and soybean we purchase is of U.S. origin and the farms that produce these crops plant non-GMO seed. The best certified Organic grain farmer cannot build a wall high enough to prevent pollen from drifting from a nearby conventional field from spreading across his Organic field. So to say our organic grain is 100 % GMO free would be wrong.

Now we have the lower cost certified Organic grain grown in China coming in through Canada and possibly other avenues. I don’t have any reason to believe their Organic certification has any value. Many in the poultry and livestock production have resorted to this grain to buy market share because of its lower cost. I am disappointed that retail buyers haven’t helped stop this wrong.

We can grow all the certified Organic grain we need right in the U.S.A. I like to know what I am paying for especially when I am paying a premium. There is more feed stuff to come.

Talking About Our Chicken Feed.

90% of our diet consists of corn, extruded and expeller pressed soybeans. The remaining 10 % consists of vitamins and minerals.

Many years ago, we were struggling with a bird health problem. I thought maybe its cause was from mold in the rail car transporting soybean meal. I went to the feed mill and asked the mill operator to open the rail car unloading door to watch it unload and inspect for mold. As the door opened, this odor poured out. It smelled like model airplane glue. I asked the mill operator what the awful smell was. He said that’s Hexane, a cheap efficient solvent to extract the oil and vitamins from soybeans. I immediately made my mind up that anything that smelled like that was not going to be part of our future chicken feed. My next step was a lesson in soybean processing.

Soybean extraction/processing – The procedure involved in the separation of the oil and the protein meal from the whole soybean.

  • Solvent extraction (Hexane) – The process where by the oil is leached from flaked soybeans.
  • Pressing process – At elevated temperatures, using expellers or screw presses which utilize a worm shaft continuously rotating with a pressing cylinder or cage to express the oil from the beans after they have been ground and properly conditioned.

What is Hexane?

Hexane is a Petroleum by product of gasoline refining. It is a highly explosive toxic chemical. Hexane is a major air pollutant. In fact it is classified as a HAP- Hazardous Air Pollutant by the EPA. Hexane also steals our vitamin E.

At the end of this separation process the livestock producer buys the protein, and fiber. The oil may be further processed into consumer grade.

My question to you is – how can producers and retailers market chicken as naturally raised when one of the two main components of the diet are processed with a toxic chemical like Hexane?

There is a lot more chicken feed to come.

For further information, please feel free to read the Cornucopia report.

Let’s talk about chicken feed!

I am constantly asked what we feed our chickens that make them so different. Well let’s start with our philosophy.

Goal #1
Feed needs to be of the highest quality ingredients and properly formulated to grow a healthy bird without adding stress.

Goal #2
When we eat the bird, we should be proud of the quality of its life. The taste and tenderness should be excellent. A quality protein we enjoy that also nourishes our bodies.

I don’t like the idea of eating chicken that was fed a lot of junk and might even end up smelling or tasting like what it ate. Many of our competitors and especially some store brand chicken have a different philosophy in mind. It’s all about cost and margins. They sometimes forget that someone is going to eat this stuff. Usually, we are talking about least cost formulating feed and it usually isn’t pretty. They need to grow big and fast and cross the finish line alive.

Protein, fiber, energy, vitamins and minerals are the main components of a chicken’s diet. Our Bell & Evan’s chickens get all the protein, fiber, and energy from our corn, extruded and expeller pressed soybeans. I will stop here for today because I next want to get into the details of our feed ingredients and that will be a big story by itself.