Announcing CORN AND SOY FREE chicken. It's possible and it's finally here!
It’s been in the works for over a year…. and now CORN AND SOY FREE chicken is officially here. Here’s more about why we did it and the struggles we’ve had to get it to you.
Corn and Soy and Food Allergies
One of our amazing customers passed me a link to a TEDxAustin talk by Robyn O’Brien. It’s from 2011, so this is really nothing new. But, Robyn’s story so wonderfully put the reasoning behind going corn and soy free into perspective.
You can watch her talk here and read my quick recap below.
Robyn O’Brien is a Food Industry Analyst. Eventually, she traded her job for a diaper bag. Four kids later and despite her food industry expertise, she still hadn’t given much thought about what was in the food supply.
Robyn grew up in Texas and ate “normal food”. You know, “foods” like Twinkies and Doritos and chicken nuggets.
“I figured, if it was on grocery store shelves, it was safe. Don’t tell me what to eat. And, please, don’t tell me what to feed my kids,” Robyn said.
Between picky eaters and a limited budget, food shopping and meal planning can be a challenge. She was perfectly ok feeding her family Eggo waffles, tubes of blue yogurt, and scrambled eggs for breakfast. I mean, her kids ate it.
Until one morning, at breakfast, life changed. Her child had an allergic reaction.
Her daughter’s face started to swell shut, and she immediately brought her to the pediatrician. The doctor’s first question was, “What did she eat?” Her pediatrician knew that it was an allergic reaction to food and started rattling off all these facts and figures about food allergies.
Robyn thought, “How could kids be allergic to food?!?!” She needed to learn more. I mean, she didn’t know anyone with a food allergy when she was a kid. How could it be so common now?
She learned that from 1997 to 2002, peanut allergies doubled. She learned that, as of 2011, one out of three kids had a food allergy. And, she learned that there had been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions.
In short, food allergies are a BIG problem now. And, we’re not even talking about food intolerances.
A food allergy is when your body sees food proteins as foreign and then launches an inflammatory response to fight off and drive out that foreign invader.
Robyn wondered, “Is there something foreign in our food now that wasn’t there when we were kids?”
So, she turned to the USDA and learned that, beginning in the 1990s, new proteins were bioengineered into our food supply. Yup, she’s talking about GMOs.
This was done to maximize profitability for the food industry. I mean, it makes perfect financial sense… at least for the big corporations. Greater yields + lower inputs = cheaper food + more profit.
But, at the same time, no studies were done to see if these new proteins were safe. The government’s explanation is that these new bioengineered foods weren’t proven dangerous. But why not flip that? Why allow something new into the food supply until it’s proven safe? (This is a giant topic for another day.)
Today, there are new bioengineered proteins in basically all mainstream foods. You might think, well, it’s just milk or meat or eggs. But, the animals that produce those foods are likely fed bioengineered corn and soy, which results in these new foreign proteins appearing in the final product.
New products and proteins are created all the time. It’s so hard to avoid. You can learn more about the new bioengineered labeling here.
These new proteins increase the chance of allergies, cancers, and numerous other chronic conditions and diseases.
So, if you already have food allergies in your family or would like to avoid food allergies in your family, limiting corn and soy consumption… directly or via the feed that’s given to animals that produce your food… is probably a good idea.
Farming Without Corn & Soy
Miller’s Bio Farm’s purpose is to inspire a generation of healthy children and reduce healthcare costs. So, of course, with the knowledge of allergies and disease linked to corn and soy, we try our best to minimize it. However, it doesn’t come without struggles, especially when it comes to raising chickens.
Even when chickens live out on pasture and can eat all the crickets and worms and greens they want, they still need supplemental feed when farmed for meat. It’s necessary. This is so they can grow to full size and be harvested when tender. Without some feed, we’d only be able to offer you old stewing hens.
There’s a myth amongst farmers - you can’t raise chickens without corn and soy. It’s almost as if farmers believe that it’s impossible to raise chickens without it.
You see, soy and corn are used to fatten livestock. It makes it so that you need less feed and the animals grow to full size more quickly. It’s cheaper. It’s easier. I get why most farmers do it.
Farmer Aaron used to believe the same thing… until he switched to a soy-free feed. Honestly, it wasn’t great at first.
The soy was replaced with fishmeal. And then, the chicken tasted fishy, which was quite off putting. It took a few rounds of playing with the feed rationing until the perfect balance was achieved.
Plus, it costs more to raise chickens this way. They required more feed and more time to grow. Farmer Aaron didn’t know how an increase in feed cost would affect his cash flow (always a challenge for a farmer).
He also didn’t know how customers would respond to a price increase. Would he fill his freezer with chicken, and then have no one to sell it to? Well, it turns out that there’s a big demand for soy-free chicken, despite the cost!
The next challenge was taking it one step further - soy AND corn free feed. Again, farmer Aaron used to think it wasn’t possible. Regardless, because of our awesome customers requesting it, he went for it anyway.
And again he went through the same struggles - it changed the taste and it cost too much. However, this time around, armed with his knowledge from going soy-free, the farm worked through those challenges a bit more quickly.
Our chicken feed now contains a specially formulated blend of wheat, peas, barley, fishmeal (from sardines), flax seed, kelp, and a nutri-balancer which has kelp, vitamins, and minerals. Side note: Dried bugs and larvae are also an option for chicken feed, but they are more expensive than fishmeal.
It’s been almost a year since the farm first started feeding its chickens a corn and soy free feed. We’ve been selling older soy-free chicken. And now, we’ve worked our way to the new chicken inventory.
We’re thrilled to announce that (almost) all of our chicken is CORN AND SOY FREE!
We still have some older 6-7lb whole birds and ground chicken that’s soy free only. It’s clearly labeled in the store, so it’s easy for you to tell the difference.
Do you have food allergies or fear them? Why do you or do you not avoid corn and soy? If you do consume corn or soy, do you have specific requirements for how it’s grown?
I’d love to hear from you. Comment on the blog below (no account required -- start typing and you'll see that option) or contact us.
PS: Our eggs are also corn & soy free now! Sadly, we only have duck eggs available now. The chicken egg farmer is transitioning to a new flock, and we’re waiting for them to start laying. Come on, chickens! Hopefully they will be back before the end of the month.