It’s Chicken Feed

Chooks close up February 2016

Lilydale’s recent media coverage has resulted in some extra enquiries regarding our poultry feeding practices.

Our short answer, for those who like quickies is this: “In addition to foraging through the paddock, our chickens have the opportunity to select from non-genetically modified Australian whole grains, and our custom protein mix (which contains a range of selected animal proteins mixed with non-genetically modified Australian milled grains, as well as vitamins and minerals. It contains no soy beans or canola”.

Many of the family farmers we supply our chicks to choose to feed them with certified organic grains, and you can find a list of our authorised farmers here.

At Sommerlad Poultry at Tenterfield, we have made a choice not to use certified organic grains, as they typically cost twice as much as non-organic, and we have many pedigree breeding birds on our farm to feed each day, which are not sold as table birds.

What do chickens eat in the wild?
The current talk about chicken feed has the potential to get confusing. When it comes to feed, (and all the other needs of our chickens), we like to take a step back and first consider the natural behaviour of the jungle fowl of South East Asia (the progenitor of today’s domesticated chicken). They are opportunistic eaters, consuming whatever seeds, grasses and vegetation that is seasonally available, as well as a range of small animals like mice, lizards, baby birds, grubs, insects, as well as carrion. Chickens are omnivores, not vegetarians, which is why we are very happy to offer our chickens selected animal proteins, in place of GM soy, canola and synthetic amino acids.

Regarding our thoughts about Lilydale and their poultry feed: we are not really sure why consumers were surprised.

For better or for worse (we think worse), Australia now produces great bucket loads of cheap chicken and in the process uses GM Canola and Soy Beans.

Lilydale is part of the Baiada group – one of Australia’s largest chicken companies, and consistently produce low cost free range and conventional chicken. They do this by utilising a number of key components, including:

1. Raising fast growing strains of meat chickens (i.e. either the Ross or Cobb breed, which are selectively bred for a target processing age of 35 days).
2. Carefully formulated poultry rations (that can meet the specific protein and energy requirements of this fast growth rate).
3. A guaranteed supply of ration ingredients.
4. Large-scale poultry housing, feeding and watering systems.

These carefully formulated poultry rations are also known in the industry as “least-cost formulated”, and rely heavily on the use of soy beans (which are a legume), as a low cost protein and energy source. To specify only non GM soy beans would be prohibitive to cost and guaranteed supply.

Is anyone to blame? Lilydale’s free range certifier F.R.E.P.A. do not require non GM poultry feed in their CHICKEN MEAT BIRD STANDARDS My questioning goes more like this: Should Australians expect a regular supply of chicken meat that doesn’t cost as much as lamb or beef? and, Could we have fought harder to keep our country’s Non GM status?

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