As we consider ways we may want to grow our farm in the future, one of the ideas we've batted around is trying to market our backyard eggs and meat chickens. We'd be able to market them as local and grass-fed. Since our feed isn't organic, though, we can't claim that the meat or eggs are "organic."
With all the fuss about GMO corn lately, I suspect that there will be a greater demand for organic meats in the not-to-distant future. The only sources we currently know of for organic feed would cost us about triple what we currently pay for feed -- and that doesn't even include the enormous shipping costs involved in getting that feed to our doorstep. So, I set out to do a little research and find out whether any of our local feed stores could get it for us if we promised to buy it all up in bulk.
I made a few calls that basically all dead-ended with "no, we don't carry it, and we can't get it." Frustrated, I tried yet another supplier. "Hang on, let me get my feed guy on the line," they tell me. My conversation with Feed Guy went basically like this:
Me: Hi. I'm checking into my options for organic chicken feed and wondered whether you carry it or could order it?
Feed Guy: We don't have anything organic here. I do have a chicken feed labeled "All-Natural." I figure that's about the same thing.
Me: Well, do you know what they mean by all-natural?
Feed Guy (with plenty of sarcasm): Well, what do people even mean by organic? Isn't it all the same stuff?
Me (with plenty of exasperation): Sir, organic is a label certified and regulated by the USDA. Organic feed can't contain GMO's, antibiotics, pesticides, or animal by-products. All-natural isn't a regulated term. Anyone could slap that label on their product and the consumer would be none the wiser.
The conversation pretty much devolved from there. And, I'm pretty sure he meant his what-do-people-mean-by-organic question to be rhetorical, but he asked the question and he got the answer. I really am not a rude person. I think I was bringing with me to the conversation my exasperation from the previous phone calls I'd made and how I always feel like I'm treated differently by these places just because I'm a woman. Add to that that I'm asking about organic feed, and I could nearly hear this guy's eyes roll through the phone as he probably pictured the granola-crunching, tree-hugging, hippy lady on the other end of the line.
I felt kind of bad about the attitude I had with Feed Guy, but I consoled myself by thinking that, thanks to me, he's now a more informed Feed Guy. If he actually listened to my answer, he may now be better at his job. The next time someone asks him about all-natural vs. organic feed, maybe he'll know the answer.
And, I suspect that as people get more interested in knowing where their food comes from and what kind of life it's led, Feed Guy may get more and more phone calls like mine.
For now, we are left without answers and without many leads for sourcing affordable organic feeds. I've seen some recipes online for mixing your own. That may be where we're headed.
Does anyone else have a lead on reasonably priced organic feed?