Why we feed our chickens an "all-vegetarian" diet
May 20, 2018
By Randy Mitchell, PhD, Poultry Nutritionist and Vice President of Technical Services
Some make light of our USDA Process Verified all-vegetarian diet: “You do know chickens aren’t vegetarians, right?”
If you want to get technical, they’re omnivores. And not very discerning ones, either. A chicken will eat almost anything, a fact some poultry companies take advantage of when it comes to the protein and essential fat in their chickens’ diet. They’ll use low-cost animal by-products, including the rendered bits leftover from processing, and even fats skimmed off processing plant wastewater or recycled from used restaurant grease.
That’s one way to mix up a “balanced, protein-rich diet,” but it’s not our way. Our all-vegetarian-fed chickens get protein from soybeans, and fats from vegetable oils – mixed with corn and other grains for energy, along with vitamins, minerals and probiotics that help keep them healthy without antibiotics.
For us, what we feed our chickens is no joke, because you care about what you feed your family. For you to be confident in our products, we need to confident in every step we take. With a batch of animal by-products, it’s hard to tell what’s in it, and from where it came. There’s also the added risk of salmonella getting into the feed – and into the chicken you eat. Those are chances we won’t take.
Eliminating the potential disease risk with animal by-products supports our no-antibiotics-ever approach to raising healthy chickens. Our all-vegetarian diet is also easier for the chickens to digest. Of course, a company that uses antibiotics can get away with lower quality feed ingredients.
We’re not alone in our thinking. USDA organic standards, A Greener World’s Animal Welfare Approved Standards, the Global Animal Partnership and many others insist on an all-vegetarian diet. They all recognize that chickens, especially free-range, will eat things like bugs – that’s only natural. But they do not allow the use of animal by-products.
We agree. And we think our consumers do, too.