US poultry producer turns to non-GMO feed

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

Poultry company focuses on its supply chain to provide a GMO-free product line © GettyImages/Aquir
Poultry company focuses on its supply chain to provide a GMO-free product line © GettyImages/Aquir

Related tags: GMO

To launch a GMO-free product line with US-grown grain, Springer Mountain Farms first had to work with feed crop producers to establish a feed ingredient supply chain.

The Georgia-based poultry company announced in January that it was starting a product line with poultry on feed made from ingredients Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients. The just-released PLUS line of products continues the company’s production practices already established and uses domestically grown non-biotech feed ingredients.

In addition to raising poultry, the company manufactures its own feed, according to company information.

The interest in using only non-biotech or non-genetically modified (GM) feed ingredients started more than 20 years ago, said Dale Faunce, director of marketing with Springer Mountain Farms. At the time, the company was looking at organic production.

“It didn’t take long to find out how much of a challenge it would be to do organic mostly because of the feed; we couldn’t find non-genetically modified feed components to supply the chickens,”​ he told FeedNavigator. “So we raised an antibiotic-free, quality product but not an organic [one].”

However, the interest in working with domestically grown, non-biotech feed ingredients continued, he said. In about 2015 or 2016, the company again decided to explore using non-genetically modified feed ingredients and develop a way to make the transition.

“That’s when we started working on it,”​ he added.

Supporting GMO-free production

Springer Mountain Farms has always been interested in being a leader in the poultry industry, said Faunce. For the company, the move to use non-modified feed ingredients was in keeping with that goal.

“We think it’s the right thing to do,”​ he added.

The company also does not use antibiotics with its chickens and has its production practices reviewed and certified by the American Humane Association, Springer Mountain Farms said.

The company moved away from using antibiotics with its bird production several years ago, said Faunce. “There was all this buzz about [antibiotic] resistant bacteria and part of it was overuse of antibiotics and that was the reason – we wanted to make sure we weren’t part of that,”​ he added.

To develop the supply line for certified non-GMO feed grains the company worked directly with individual producers, he said. The company already sourced its grain domestically and did not want to turn to imports for non-biotech grains. There also continue to be some questions about the certification process used internationally.

There has been buy-in from feed crop producers, especially those growing corn he said. “The reaction from them has been absolutely positive.”

“We’ll be 100% GMO-free next year,” ​he said of the company’s planned development and expansion of the GMO-free production line. “We couldn’t arrange [all the needed] farms this year. We got a big chunk of it this year and next year we’ll have the rest of it.”

Currently, the product line is available in the eastern part of the US, “Mississippi and east,”​ he said. However, that is expected to expand in the future.

Looking forward, there is some expectation that other producers will move in the same direction, said Faunce. However, it is unlikely that only non-biotech would be used.

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