Our feed mixtures are carefully developed to ensure that a hen's every nutritional need is met in terms of nutrients, protein, electrolytes, sodium-balancing bi-carbonates, ground limestone for developing a strong egg shell, and much more.
Words by: Jesse Laflamme
You are what you eat, as they say.
We all know that a good diet is essential to good health. That’s one reason many of us eat eggs. And yet, too often, we don’t do a great job with our own nutrition, ill-advised temptations being abundant. At Pete and Gerry’s, our organic, Certified Humane, free range hens have it a little bit better. To begin with, their “treats” are finding insects in the grass. And when it comes to their main diet, they get the benefit of PhD nutritionists as their personal chefs, something few of us enjoy.
There are between 30 and 35 separate organic ingredients in our feed mix. And the mixture is adjusted continuously, based on the weather (cold or hot), the flock’s age and point in their laying cycle, general health, and a range of other factors. That’s why one of our feed advisors, Heritage Poultry Management Services, employs two full-time PhD animal nutritionists on their staff.
“People food is in the stone age compared to what these hens get for balanced nutrition,” says Les Morrison of Morrison Custom Feeds in Barnet, Vermont, another Pete and Gerry’s feed supplier. Feed mixtures are developed with a careful eye making sure that a hen's every nutritional need is met in terms of nutrients, protein, sodium-balancing bi-carbonates, ground limestone for developing a strong egg shell, electrolytes, and much more.
Contrast that to the giant factory farms making most of the eggs sold today, which use a “least cost formulation” for their feed. That means exactly what it sounds like — the cheapest possible feed that will give the hens enough calories to lay eggs that day. You can see and taste the result in the eggs.
There is a lot of science involved in our feed formulation, but one aspect of science that you won’t find in any of our feed is pharmaceuticals. But pharmaceuticals are something you will find in just about all the feed at factory farms, which make up 90% of the eggs sold in the U.S. According to Morrison, that’s just putting a Band-Aid on a problem that won’t actually fix it. “The way to keep birds healthy, besides feeding them properly, is to make sure their living environment is clean and not overcrowded” he says. “Good egg farmers are in their barns every day. They can see problems before they happen, sometimes just by listening to the birds” (quiet hen houses can be an indication of a virus starting to spread through the flock).
We don’t treat our Certified Humane free range hens prophylactically with drugs that are only going to decrease their resistance and then wind up in the eggs. We instead treat them with attentive care, give them plenty of freedom outside in the pasture and in the barn at night, and nourish them with organic feed.
Morrison concludes, after admitting to a weakness for potato chips in his own diet, that if he were to die and come back as a hen, he would hope to be a Pete and Gerry’s hen.