In response to expanding small-flock and organic poultry markets, Purina Animal Nutrition LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, has developed a GMO-free, USDA Organic line of poultry feed. Purina’s new line includes: Starter Growers for chicks younger than 18 weeks; Layer Pellets for laying hens older than 19 weeks; and Scratch Grain additives, which encourage natural pecking and insect browsing. In order to qualify as USDA Organic, these feeds contain no sub-therapeutic antibiotics, no animal byproducts (such as fishmeal), and, like all poultry feeds after 1950, no added growth hormones.
The production of an organic poultry line follows Purina’s development of an omega-3 formulated line back in 2011. Because of the added flaxseed in that product line, Purina expects eggs from hens fed “Leyena Plus Omega-3” to contain more than 200mg of omega-3 fatty acids. As health-minded consumers learn more about omega-3s and Healthy Fats and the role that husbandry plays in the animal products’ nutritional profiles, Purina should expect increased demand for an omega-3-formulated line of Organic, non-GMO feeds. The brand should also expect increased interest in corn- and soy-free options, which presents a difficulty because corn and soy are the primary ingredients in Purina’s poultry feeds.
In the meantime, omega-3, organic-minded consumers will need to choose between feeding an omega-3-maximized, non-organic line and modifying the new organic line with omega-3 boosting additives, such as flaxseed. Alternatively, poultry producers could investigate non-grain forage options, such as access to purslane pastures. Regardless, small-scale, organic farmers should take note: As the organic revolution continues to move into the mainstream, the next generation of backyard chicken flocksters will have increased access to nutritious, organic feeds.
Josh Brewer is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS who covers Renewable Energy, Green Homes, Nature and Environment, and Fatty Acid Nutrition.