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Do You Feed Your Birds GMO Feed?

We never feed any of our organic cage-free birds any GMO grain; this is not allowed. (In case you don’t know, GMO means Genetically Modified Organisms.) However most of our other birds are fed corn and soybean meal that was grown using genetically modified technology used to increase production by preventing a variety of problems such as insect damage and disease tolerance. You may be interested to know that according to data from the USDA, 85% of corn, and 91% of soybeans grown in the U.S. are from GMO seeds. Crops grown organically often yield less than conventionally grown crops.

This seems to be another big gray area because there are significant environmental and crop production advantages to genetically modified seeds. The first area referred to above is the yield potential of organic compared to conventionally produced crops. We have grown some commercial organic grains on our own farm land and know that most organically produced crop yields are less than conventionally grown crop yields. Because of this well-known yield reduction on many commercially produced grains, the country would have to plant many, many more acres of crops to produce the same yields as conventionally grown crops. Could we do it? Yes, we could, but at what cost? Where would this acreage come from? In both the U.S. and throughout the world, human population continues grow, but the amount of land to produce the food to feed those people does not; in fact, farmable land is decreasing as more people need more places to live. Farmers could plant more acreage, but doing so would require planting on environmentally sensitive land such as: hillsides that could cause soil erosion, the windy and arid flatland areas of the country that need continuous vegetation to prevent wind erosion or another Dust Bowl, or near waterways that could become contaminated with run-off fertilizers or pesticides. We certainly don’t want to cut down our forests either. Wherever we would expand planting would very likely invade some environmentally sensitive or endangered plant or wildlife habitat. Is it worth doing this when there may be other alternatives? You will have to decide this yourself, but it seems the careful use of proven genetically modified crops may be a way to help avoid this issue while helping to protect our environment.

Since the beginning of time, mankind has been involved in a continuous effort to improve crop yields. Historically, this has been done through conventional plant breeding: plant a crop one year, select the best seeds it produced and plant them the next year. Repeat, repeat, and repeat. Each cycle takes a full year.

Beginning in earnest during the late 1980’s researchers found a way to accelerate and enhance the conventional plant breeding method by genetically selecting specific desirable genes and inserting them into a plant at the laboratory level. Without expanding planted acreage, some of the genes that have been inserted can likely help address our world’s increased food needs by doing such things as adding drought tolerance, freeze resistance, herbicide resistance, nutritional enhancement, and insect resistance, all without the need for pesticides.

For example the ability to insert insect prevention into seeds has reduced insecticide use on crops grown throughout the world. Some of those insecticides were extremely toxic to both the target and non-target pests as they carried the most extreme “Danger” warning on their label accompanied with a skull and cross bones signal. How did they do this? Did they insert the dangerous insecticide in the plant seed? No, one way was to insert a very safe-to-humans, bad-to-insects gene called bacillus thuringiensis (or “BT” for short) into the seed. Most environmentally conscious home gardeners use this on a regular basis because of its safety and effectiveness.

In summary, the safe and judicious use of proven pesticides and GMO grains may play a key role in providing a growing population with economical, high quality food as less land becomes available to produce food. Whatever eggs you buy is up to you and we are happy to provide whichever option you choose.

By | 2017-09-14T09:34:01+00:00 July 22nd, 2013|0 Comments

Do You Have Organic, or Cage-free Birds?

Yes we do, and they are certified by the American Humane Association, Humane Farm Animal Care and the USDA. Did you know that by definition, all organic eggs must be cage-free, but cage-free eggs do not have to be organic? Organic egg must come from cage-free birds fed organic feed.  For most of our 110+ years in egg production we have produced cage-free eggs. We recently built a new state-of-the-art organic cage-free production farm, and are in the process of converting many conventional white caged barns to cage-free where we take additional precautions to enhance bird comfort and improve food safety. We will continue this conversion process as long as people are willing to buy these eggs.

Some of these eggs are sold under the Oakdell Organic brown egg label, some as Costco’s Kirkland Signature Organic label, some at Kroger’s Simple Truth as well as a few other brands throughout most of the Intermountain area. In additions, we are now fully prepared to convert customers to Cage-free white eggs as we did all Costcos under their Kirkland Signature label that had previously been sold under our Oakdell brand of conventionally produced white eggs. This conversion is very expensive and takes time, but by working with our valued customers, we are willing to supply the eggs our customers and end users want.

By | 2017-09-14T10:00:05+00:00 July 22nd, 2013|0 Comments

Do You Keep Your Birds in Cages?

Yes some we do, and some we don’t. Our goal is to produce the kind of eggs in the quantity people want to buy: some organic cage-free, some cage-free, some conventional from birds in cages, and some with nutritional enhancements raised in cage-free barns. When we use cages, at a minimum, we follow United Egg Producers (UEP) guidelines to continue our formal animal care certification by them. These evolving guidelines are being continually reviewed by the United Egg Producer’s scientific committee under the leadership of Dr. Patricia Hester of Purdue University.

We think this issue fits into the gray area as noted above: it’s probably not as black or white of an issue as it may seem when one first looks into it. If you would like more information on the issue, we would ask you to read the information below, but if you don’t have time to do that, we would say our position is that we realize we are all different from one another, and will make different choices. It troubles us that this issue could be made by someone without considering a holistic analysis that includes the issues of food safety, cost effectiveness, and animal welfare.

When Grandfather and now great-grandfather Cecil Woodward first began raising chickens in 1905, all of our birds were “cage free” and even “free range.” The birds roamed freely in the barnyard, but so did the hawks, skunks, badgers, foxes, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, mice and rats. (We’ll call these “predators”) The calm, home-on-the range, pristine picture you might imagine was not always the case when one of the aforementioned visitors arrived to claim their prey. Death is seldom a pretty picture.

Grandfather soon found that he could protect the birds better by moving them indoors to barns similar to the one with him in the black and white picture on the home page, or the history page of our web site. Although not eliminated, predator related deaths decreased and more birds survived the cold winters as they could huddle up to keep warm. Refrigeration of eggs was not a common thing at that time; neither was there a good system in the medical community for tracking food-born illnesses, such as salmonella enteritidis. Whether outside in the barnyard, or in these barns, the birds would poop, play in their poop, scratch in their poop, eat their poop and humans would then eat the eggs these birds laid.

The next step was moving the birds into a housing system where their waste (poop) dropped down far away from the birds into the bottom of the barns away from the chickens and away from the eggs. This waste was then removed once or twice a year by using front-end loaders on tractors. This product was highly sought after by farmers wanting a good source of nitrogen for their crops. In addition to food safety improvements, this also allowed greater control over predators entering the barns that would either cause premature death to the birds, or invite food safety related issues. From an economic standpoint, this system significantly reduced costs as none of the eggs had to be hand gathered and were conveyed on belts directly to the machine that washed, graded, and packed the eggs.

Our next move that began in the late 1990’s involved installing conveyors to remove the waste every two to three days, as opposed to once or twice a year. From both an animal welfare and a food safety point of view, this has proven to be very effective. By removing the waste every two to three days, ammonia levels in the barns were dramatically reduced, as were any harborage areas for mice or flies. Offensive odors, rodents and flies were virtually eliminated by this move. Today, most of our eggs are produced either this way, or in a combination as described in the paragraph above.

One point worth mentioning here is what we do with the waste taken out of the barns. In some locations we make very high quality compost out of it by adding water, straw and wood products to it, then mix it on a scheduled basis to prevent over heating and to preserve essential microorganisms and bacteria to become our organic compost. It smells like fresh soil when we’re done, and it does crop, garden and plants of all kinds good. In other areas we use a unique process to pelletize the raw waste. This product does smell, but has a higher nitrogen level and is much easier to apply by the organic crop farmers who use it. Please see the Organic Poultry Compost page of our website for more information.

By | 2017-09-14T09:30:18+00:00 July 22nd, 2013|0 Comments

Do You Molt Your Birds?

We do not artificially induce molting in our cage-free organic birds, but we do in our conventional birds.  Molting is a natural process that many species go through.  Snakes and other reptiles shed their skins, and most birds naturally molt, or lose their feathers about once per year.  The purpose of molting is for birds to either rejuvenate themselves, or to make themselves more attractive for potential mates.  In commercial egg farms it has been done to rejuvenate egg laying capability.  How is it done?  In the past, it was done by temporarily withholding feed.  When we do it now, birds have their diet changed from a protein rich feed, to one high in fiber.

By | 2013-07-22T21:38:59+00:00 July 22nd, 2013|0 Comments

Do you “De-beak” Your Chickens?

Of course we don’t cut the beaks off, but we do “trim” the tips of their beaks. This is for a similar reason that we humans trim our finger and toenails: if we don’t, we can injure ourselves, or those around us. Cats and dogs have their nails trimmed for the same reason.

Does it hurt the animals, in our case the birds, when we trim their beaks? It probably does a bit, in a similar manner to when you trim your fingernails too close. This is typically now done at the hatcheries with a laser beam before we ever buy our birds. If we have to do it on the farm, as a preventative measure, the birds are fed extra vitamin E and K to enhance coagulation (to prevent bleeding), if bleeding were to occur.

You might be interested to know that chickens raised for commercial production that do not have their beaks trimmed exhibit a very troublesome characteristic: they become cannibalistic. Their inherent “pecking order” comes out with the strongest ones picking on, and often causing very serious injury to others. This is particularly true in non-caged systems where more birds co-mingle with each other.

By | 2017-09-14T09:35:43+00:00 July 22nd, 2013|0 Comments