When we started Cartermere Farms we knew from the very beginning we wanted to produce the absolute highest quality we possibly could. During first few months of raising chickens we bought standard commodity feeds but soon realized they were not in keeping with our vision of an organic farm. After some of our more discerning customers began to ask us about the ingredients in our feeds, we set out on a mission to better understand animal nutrition, and organic feeding.
Almost all livestock feeds in the United States are genetically modified. If the feed contains corn there is an 88% probability it contains GMO’s, If it contains Soy there is a 97% likelihood is contains GMO’s. These two grains alone represent the main protein additives in almost all livestock feeds. In addition to the GMO’s, one can be certain these feeds contain grains grown with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, 30% of which test positive for chemical residue post-harvest. If all that isn’t enough organic kryptonite, the “controlled atmosphere fumigation” in storage probably guarantees the raw materials have been exposed to enough poison to ensure nothing will ever healthily grow in it… or from it. As such, it is generally impossible to raise organic eggs or animals on commodity feeds.
So, we set out on a mission to find a truly organic feed for our chickens, and a challenging mission it was. There are feeds out there which purport to be organic, but they are actually batch-milled in large commodity mills which run non-organic materials through their equipment daily. There are actually very few mills which have a genuine commitment to true organic feed.
After extensive research and interviews we settled with Hügelland Feeds out of Llano, TX. They are an independently run family mill, which never allows non-organic materials into their facility, strictly avoids the use of soy, and runs independent non-GMO verification tests on all raw materials as they are delivered to the mill. They personally know the farmers who grow their grains, and they are never fumigated. They procure natural additives from as far away as Greece to ensure they are mixing the very best. Hügelland also has a contracted nutritionist which we can bounce ideas off of and even adapt our feed mixes in balance with the current conditions of our pastures.
“Hügelland”, which is German for “Hill Country”, has a web address of “www.nongmofeed.com” – that says it all!
When we switched to Hügelland we noticed a significant improvement in the quality of our eggs, as well as increased laying rates in our hens. Today we also exclusively use Hügelland Feeds for our heritage meat chickens and we also supplement our ewes with a custom ration to ensure they have the optimal nutrition to breed and lamb well (our lambs who are destined for processing are grass fed).
It stands to reason, if we are going to produce the best food for our families, friends and customers, we must feed the best feeds we possibly can. As the old computer programming adage goes, “trash in, trash out”. How can we expect to produce the best in our animals if we are not feeding them the best? Cartermere spends about 30% more to use top quality feeds. Since our feeds are not fumigated we have to feed them faster/freshener to ensure they are not spoiled by insects, whose larva is inherently present due to the lack of pesticides in the cultivation of the raw grains. All these aspects create challenges for a farm, but we believe it is the right thing to do, even at a cost to the bottom line. We believe the end product; be it an egg, a chicken or well-nurtured lamb, will be exceedingly better for the extra effort.