Animal feed accounts for a massive portion of farming expenditures. Traditional animal feed, in the form of corn and soy, are not only taxing on the wallet of the farmer, but also on the quality of life of the animals, the integrity of the land used, and the nutritional wellbeing of those consuming animal products. In this week’s Watchword, we explore many different approaches farmers are taking to feeding their animals in a sustainable, ethical, and holistic manner.
“High-quality animal feeds, much like good food, are nutrient-dense and serve as a cornerstone to a healthy lifestyle. This means: no fillers, no chemical additives or preservatives, no chemical residues, and no empty calories," says Cameron Molberg of Coyote Creek Organic Farm and Feed Mill. "Fresh and healthy feed is nutritionally balanced, delicious, and promotes superior physical performance and mental health. For millennia, feed mills have been the warp and woof of villages and regional societies. A mill is part of a production chain, no link of which can do without the other: farmer–miller–producer. An organic feed mill maintains this social and economic tradition, serving as the center of the sustainable organic production chain and supporting the growth of a viable food system.”
Title: Organic Feed
Location: Skagit River Ranch, Sedro Woolley, WA
Featuring: George and Eiko Vojkovich
George and Eiko raise pastured poultry on an outdoor diet rich in bugs, worms, and grass, lots of grass. To mimic what nature provides, the Vojkoviches created a device that produces one hundred pounds of sprouted wheat, barley, and oats a day. To that they add trace minerals, seaweed, rock powders, and carbon in the form of humates. They also include diverse grains like spelt and amaranth. Two things you won’t find? Chinese soy or corn.
“If people don’t care what they eat, they obviously won’t care what animals eat.”
Video: Coyote Creek Farm's Organic Feed Mill
Coyote Creek Farm prizes their methods of animal husbandry and land stewardship. Based on a philosophy of nurturing all life, even the “micro-herds” found in the soil, Jeremiah Cunningham of Coyote Creek Farm explains that by allowing nature to take its course, healthy birds will be raised and eggs produced. Key ingredients to Coyote Creek Farm’s success include plenty of sunlight, lots of protein found in the soil life, and freshly ground organic grains.
Trash is treasure: Keeping our food system in a closed loop
Imagine if you could turn your trash into food. Imagine you can do this in just 2 weeks. This is the beautiful reality of black soldier fly larvae. These are potentially one of the greatest economical and sustainable replacements for traditional fishmeal, poultry meal, and soybean meal being fed to our livestock.
What makes black soldier fly larvae so unusual? The adults don’t eat. For that reason, the larvae are very large, containing over 80% protein and oils to support the life cycle of the adult fly (which lasts about 7 days).
At Enterra Feed Corporation, they operate according to the philosophy of “renewable food for animals and plants.” They maintain a sustainable production process by feeding the larvae of the black soldier fly food waste—vegetables, fruits, and grain—that would otherwise wind up in landfills and waste facilities. Sourcing from local food processors, food packagers, grocery chains, farms, public markets, and microbreweries, Enterra has devised a method of production where nothing is wasted: all incoming food stuff is mashed into a slurry for the larvae to feed on; once the larvae have reached maturation (a short 14 days later), the larvae and larvae “poop” is separated. The larvae is washed, cooked and dried, and the residual byproduct of the feed is sold as a soil amendment. Better yet, the dried larvae are made up of 40% protein, 40% fat, and the rest carbohydrates and chitin. This makes black soldier fly larvae a great substitute for more resource-intensive livestock feeds traditionally used.
Three things you can do
What kind of impact do your food choices have on the wellbeing of the animal, the landscape, yourself and your community? Can you imagine what the future of our food system were to look like if we were not asking ourselves these questions?
- Engage with your local farmers. To know your farmer is to know your food. Don’t be afraid to ask important questions to better understand the values you are supporting.
- Support local, ethical farming practices. Explore your local farmers markets, food coops, and CSA options.
- Vote with your dollar. Buy your values. While conventionally grown meats and animal products may seem cheaper in the immediate future, think of the impact that this production method has in the grander scheme of things.
For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at www.lexiconofsustainability.com.