Millennials shape feed choices (Editorial)

(July 12, 2016) In further witness — in the event further evidence is needed — in this nation’s 21st century, millennial-driven culture — consider the poultry industry, at least here on Delmarva.
In response to sharply well-honed consumer concerns about what is in the food, which comes off our farms, Perdue and Allen Harim are changing what they feed their birds.
Under the banner of “No Antibiotics Ever,” Perdue is turning to vegetables and herbs and Allen Harim is jumping on the vegetable bandwagon as well.
The concept? These feed ingredients will put new muscle into the chickens’ natural ability to fight off disease, making antibiotics — the focus of the consumer concerns — not necessary to produce healthy birds.
Perdue flock specialists talk about the antioxidant qualities of oregano and thyme’s potential to help support the chicken’s immune system.
“Thyme and oregano are just two of the innovative things we’ve done so that we don’t have to rely on antibiotics,” said veterinarian Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown. “We also use things like probiotics. When you take antibiotics out, you do have to put extra work in. We’ve made changes at every stage, and so have the farmers who raise our chickens. It takes a commitment by everyone involved.”
Dr. Randy Mitchell, Perdue poultry nutritionist, pointed to the role of essential oils — which give herbs their flavor and aroma — in supporting the chicken’s immune system.
He said there was no data to indicate that the herbs flavored the chicken meat but he added that when oregano is added to the watering system, “it smells like a pizza parlor.”
An Allen Harim spokesperson recently said “as a company, we are responding to what our customers are telling us about consumers and their desire to buy healthy chicken products for their families.
“Our chickens are hand-raised on family farms, and we are committed to making sure they are raised with no added hormones, using the best all-veggie feed available with no antibiotics ever.”
Bear in mind that in today’s cultural climate there are other consumer concerns about what’s in their food.
Think the on-going debate about GMOs, genetically modified foods, such as corn and soybeans and in the broad yet related scope; think changing patterns and methodologies of health care and fitness.
In that scope of things, the determination of Perdue and Allen Harim to respond in a way dramatically but certainly hopefully to what goes in their chickens before they go on the table is to be applauded.
It is good business. It is good public relations.
And it all may be good for us as well as the chickens.
We may have to pay a little more for the bird, but a healthy chicken, as Perdue and Allen Harim officials will tell you, is a happy chicken.
A little oregano on your chicken, anyone?