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The Ideal Formula

What is the best chicken to eat? What is the best feed to feed it? Do you need an Omega-3 chicken?

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The Ideal Chicken for the Consumer and for the Producer


There are many things that a commercial chicken or egg producer can do to increase the health value of the product. While the "Organic" label is a start in the right direction, it by no means assures us that that chicken is the very most healthful bird on the market.

Though not all of these items can be accomplished by the average chicken producer, in my estimation, the supremely most healthful chicken, for meat as well as for eggs, would consume the following feedstuffs in these ways:

1. Ample grass and living plants, along with insect life and subterranean flora and fauna that is found in the grasslands. It would be truly free range, or perhaps a better term needs to be sought. "Grass-ranged" is one option. Whichever term is used, it should be a legally-certified term so that the public will know that this chicken was ranging on ample living grassland that includes wild insect life and a variety of plants, and that this chicken was on this range for a large proportion of its feeding hours immediately prior to consumption by consumer.

2. Wild ocean seafood added to the diet daily, in enough quantity to raise the omega-3 content of the chicken and eggs to nearly equal with the omega-6 content.

3. Extra protein supplementation from a variety of sources such as 100% grass-fed milk and meat products, insects, worms, nuts.

4. Grain supplement only as necessary to sustain adequate growth and laying, based on a mixture of five or more whole, live, unmilled grains. All grains to be completely free-choiced for a period of time, then removed before nighfall. If corn is used, it must be cracked within no more than 24 hours of being consumed.

5. Legumes daily, to balance the protein, B vitamin, and other profiles of the grains. Boiled soybeans especially desirable. (Legumes and grains naturally occur together in all wild pasturelands, and complement each other, probably in many ways that we do not yet know. To eat the one without the other is to invite disaster, imho.)

6. Salt derived solely from dried kelp, free-choiced.

7. Calcium derived from oyster shell or grass-fed bone, free choiced.

8. Water free-flowing from living spring or stream, without chlorine or other such industrial toxins added.

And with these safety assurances:

9. Absolutely no addition of any kind of oils to the feeds, to prevent the misuse of trans-fats-laden and re-processed oils as a calorie booster or for any other reason.

10. Everything consumed by the chickens to be certified stringently 100% Organic, not certified by an organic-label certification scheme that allows 5% (or any other percent) of non-organic products to be added and still use the term "Organic."

11. The breed of chicken should not contain any "Cornish" or other unnaturally-fast-maturing variety. The chicken should mature in the normal amount of time, a little more than 5 months, not the abnormal, ceiling-less growth curve leading to harvest at two months as in the Cornish crosses.

Lacking that...

It will be next to impossible to raise chickens commercially in the above fashion. Why? For two reasons primarily, the first being economics. The majority of people will not pay the price that would be required to produce such a superbly-health-promoting chicken. On the contrary, so many people seek out and pay the very lowest price for any food, causing a huge and irresistible pressure on food producers to do the very cheapest tricks to bring food products to market. These cut-throat producers are thus so large a bloc that they can squeeze out any competition, making it doubly hard for a health-conscious producer to survive. People should never pay rock-bottom price for food, if at all possible.

The second reason is that, even where poultry producers wish to have the best possible product and have a ready market nearby, the flexibility and time necessary to learn new sourcing and marketing skills for this more complex arrangement is often limited.

Today, most poultry production is set up in a huge barn, with feeding troughs throughout. The feed is a pre-mixed blend of ingredients, and this single item is the sole source of food for the chickens. The troughs are filled, the chickens grow, and that's that. But, there are many things that such producers can do if they wish to produce a premium chicken or egg, without unduly increasing costs and labor.

The chickens produced in this way will not have the omega-3 content and other variables that would come from free-ranging through varied grassland, but they will have hugely-superior health value to those produced with the current feed mixes.

Without much added cost or effort, today's poultry producer can do some or all of the following:

1. Add dried wild fish meal to the feed mix. Or better yet, free-choice it along with the usual mix. Then, get a test done, and let your customers know how much omega-3 you have in your chickens and eggs, and what kinds of omega-3's you have. The fish meal produces much better omega-3's than flax seed does.

2. Reduce the amount of corn, and increase other grains such as wheat, oats, millet, and others.

3. Stop using pelletized grains and begin using only whole, living grains, tumbled together. The mill cost will be greatly reduced, since grinding and pelletizing will not need to be done at all. Or you can get an old cement mixer and mix your own. Include several kinds of grains, and let the chickens pick and choose.

4. Include dried legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) with the grains, to balance out the B vitamins, proteins, and other profiles.

5. For salt, only use dried kelp, which you keep tacked up inside the coop in convenient places. At first, they'll eat a lot of it, because they've been missing all the minerals in the kelp. After a few days or weeks, they'll taper off.

6. Use alfalfa pellets for much of the vitamin A, potassium, and other requirements. Use Fertrell's Nutribalancer or other Fertrell products to keep the vitamin levels the way you want them. Vitamin A is the most important vitamin to watch out for. Never use synthetic vitamin A ("irradiated"). Vitamin A in your feed can come from green things (alfalfa), liver, insects, whole small fish, or fish liver oils.

7. Stop using anything with any added oils or fats, to eliminate the health-destroying trans-fats and re-processed oils that are often added to feeds. In 2006, all trans-fats will have to be identified on all U.S. food labels, so start getting good sources now, ones that have zero trans-fats and zero re-processed fats of any kind.

8. Use only 100% organic products, getting assurance that they are classified 100% organic, not certified by allowing a small percentage of non-organic stuff included (1% can be a LOT of toxic matter). There are many different "Organic" certification agencies, with differing criteria.

These steps may not give you an omega-3 chicken or egg, but they will give you a highly healthful product nonetheless. The consumer can get omega-3's from other sources besides chicken.

We're just beginning to be aware of our omega-3 problem. Looking at the omelettes in the menu at Denny's recently, I asked the waiter if they had Omega-3 eggs. He thought a moment and said, "Sure, we can make it three eggs."

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Types of Feed

Broiler: feed blend for chickens that are growing as fast as possible, in order to be harvested for meat as early as possible

Crumbles: pellets broken up into smaller pieces

Grower: approximately the same as "Starter"

Layer: feed blend for chickens that are laying eggs, having extra calcium and protein added

Mash: a blend of several feed ingredients, ground to a small size but not to a powder

Pellets: small kernels of compressed mash, causing birds to eat the whole blend, not pick and choose

Scratch: whole grains fed separately to chickens, usually scattered on the ground or litter of the coop; usually a mixture of grains, such as wheat, rye, oats, etc. (corn/maize must be cracked before using as scratch grain)

Starter: a blend of feed for chicks and growing birds, usually in the form of mash; approximately the same as "Grower"; can be replaced with "adult" food as soon as chicks go for it, somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks of age

Feed Ingredients Amino acid: a molecule that is one building block of protein; there are many different amino acids, most of which can be manufactured in the body; the few that cannot must be supplied by foods, and are called "Essential Amino Acids"; a food that supplies all 8 essential amino acids is called "complete"

Bran: the outer coating of a kernel of grain; extremely high in silicon, which slows down its decomposing in the soil; cheap by-product of milling, often given away free by large mills

Calcium: provided by sea shells, crushed bone, and fresh or dried greens --- amounts need to be measured closely, if not free range; must be provided in higher quantities as soon as chickens begin to lay eggs

Concentrate: a blend of protein-rich foods, plus any other nutrients desired; usually fed together with a grain ration

Corn: American term meaning maize corn, or "corn on the cob" (in England "corn" means what grain means in the US, that is, all food grains)

Element: a substance made up on just one kind of atom; there are 100 or so kinds of atoms in the universe; each kind of atom has its own unique characteristics; usually, these atoms are not stable by themselves, and must combine with each other, or with other types of atoms, to form stable molecules (see "Trace elements")

Germ: the embryo plant inside a kernel of grain; very nutritious and high in protein; wheat and rice germ (also called "rice polish") are a saleable by-product of milling

Grain: American term meaning any small, hard seeds, especially grass-family seeds (called corn in England); provides energy, B vitamins, phosphorus, and the whole grains are a fair source of protein, too

Grit: angular, hard crushed rock, preferably from granite, used by the chickens in place of "teeth" --- seashells and bone CANNOT substitute for grit; for confinded birds, grit should be offered several times a month at least; it should be of the right size for the age of the bird (see Baby Chicks page); birds allowed to free range don't need to be offered grit -- they find their own ideal sizes and types to suit themselves

Kelp: sea-weed, plants that grow in the sea; contains all the minerals of the earth; all kelp is edible, and can easily be dried and fed to chickens by clipping a sheaf of it to something in their area (also, this replaces any need to add salt to their rations)

Middlings: an old milling term for the parts of the kernel that are milled off with the germ, and probably contain both the starch and bran (please email me if you have more specific information :-)

Minerals: non-life-created chemicals, in molecular form, found in nature; actually, "minerals" is a broad category of compounds usually thought of as originating in the earth --- the term "elements" or "trace elements" is more exact; minerals and vitamins can be added to dietary regimens to improve health; sea water contains all the minerals of the earth, in their natural forms and safe amounts; "trace minerals" are those needed in relatively very tiny amounts, and can be highly toxic if these amounts are exceeded; "macro-minerals" are those needed in large amounts, such as calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium

Protein: any food high in amino acids, used to build tissues; protein quality is determined by the "completeness" of the amino acid varieties in the food source; all meats, eggs of all kinds, milk, cheese, nuts, seed germs, and soy beans are high protein sources

Trace elements: the rare kinds of elements that the body may need in infinitesimally small amounts to do very specialized things that science may not have discovered yet; sea water, and kelp, contain all the elements on Earth, and thus is a good source of trace elements (see "Elements")

Vitamin: an old, general term meaning "life-giving"; a chemical found in nature or made by man to imitate natural ones; new vitamins, and new uses for known vitamins, are always being discovered

Methods of Raising Poultry
Cage-free: This just means the chickens are not in cages; they may be in barns that they never leave (even though there might be a little door at one end; chickens don't go out of their field of vision for food, or even for water); or they may be in large open fenced bare-dirt yards that the chickens have stripped long ago of all vegetation

Fenceless free-range: No barriers, physical or functional, separate the chickens' living and nesting quarters from access to real pasture AND the chickens actually go out on this pasture to feed as much as they desire

Free-range: The public thinks, or hopes, that this means chickens which are out in the grassland around a real farm; actually, it's a rather meaningless term, since it is often abused by unscrupulous poultry operations that "convert" to "free range" by putting a tiny door in huge commercial poultry barns, then claiming that the chickens have "access" to the out of doors. To legally qualify to use the term, chickens need only have a small patch of dirt to be on instead of a cage; the term legally does not require any "range" diet at all. In actual practice, since the public believes in this term, really good grass-ranged poultry is sometimes labelled "Free Range" simply because the retailer chooses this term over the cumbersome "pastured poultry" term. We propose that the term "Grass-Ranged" be adopted to indicate limitless and close access to real, living grassland resulting in actual free-choice consumption of grasses and associated plants and animals.

Grass-ranged: able to roam around to choose and eat fresh greens, primarily grass but including all the vast variety of natural pastureland plants and insects without limitation; two grass-range methods of poultry raising are "pastured poultry", and "fenceless free range"

Organic: organic food sources must not contain traces of harmful chemicals; the term does not insure that poultry has been raised in the best possible way, with unlimited supply of living grass, but only that the poultry has near zero harmful artificial chemicals

Pastured poultry: poultry kept in movable, floorless pens, moved daily over fresh range pasture; the pens, called "chicken tractors", also contain waterers and grain-feeders; unlike ruminants, chickens need a certain amount of grain along with their grass; if allowed free access to grass, chickens will consume up to 30% of their calories in grass and green plants; pasturing creates the very healthiest chicken meat and eggs (and creates very fertile pastureland, too)

Range: "An open region over which livestock may roam and feed" --- land having enough living, growing grasses, plus a complement of legumes and other plants and perhaps insects and small animals to support livestock of various kinds, including poultry

Types of Chickens
Bantam: a miniaturized chicken of any breed; most breeds have a regular-size and a bantam variety

Banty: same as Bantam

Cockerels: male baby chicks; male young domestic fowl

Hens: female chickens in their second year of lay, or after their first moult

Layers: chickens raised to be egg-layers

Layer-Broiler: chickens raised to be both egg-layer and to be eaten

Meat birds: old term for broilers

Pullets: female chickens in their first year of lay, or prior to their first moult; female baby chicks

Rooster: adult male chicken, or adult male of other domestic or non-domestic fowl

Straight Run: a random mixture of male and female baby chicks, usually less expensive than only pullets


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