When we first moved to our farm, I had a vision: that we were not going to feed our chickens soy or corn (more on the corn part another day). At first we found a a soy-free feed that wasn’t corn-free, and we went with it. Then we had the feed store make a soy-free, corn-free feed for us, but it was a little pricy. Then we found a feed company that made an organic, soy-free, corn-free feed, and we were stoked. It’s still expensive. It costs a lot of money to feed chickens right. When we’ve looked at the cost of the conventional, GMO-soy-filled feeds, we’ve been tempted…ok, my husband has been tempted to buy the cheap stuff. We’d make more $ that way….but like I said, we want to do this farming thing the right way….So why don’t we feed our chickens soy?
Wait, wait, wait….don’t we want cheap food? Nope. Not any more than I want another flimsy keychain that was made in China. When the products that go into our food are driven by money, there’s always a conflict of interest involved. The desire to make cheap food (and higher profits) is what brought us high fructose corn syrup-laden foods. It’s not about what’s better, nutritionally–it’s about money, and that’s it. Soy isn’t a nutritionally better food for chickens, it’s just cheap. It’s a byproduct of the vegetable oil industry, and it would be garbage if it weren’t for the fact that they’re turning it into animal feed.
Soy feed isn’t something chickens would eat in the wild
Joel Salatin talks about letting the chickens express their “chickenness.” Well, folks, feeding chickens soy just ain’t normal. The part of the soybean that is fed to chickens is the fiber. First the soybeans are processed for oil (an unhealthy but cheap cooking oil), and then the fiber that is leftover is toasted and then fed to chickens. I guarantee you that no chicken would harvest soy beans, pick off the fiber and toast it. I found one blog post about a farmer who let their chickens roam freely in the soy fields, eating bugs–and the chickens didn’t touch the soy plants. I would love to hear from other soy farmers if this is true–do chickens avoid soy if it’s readily available to them? Raw soy is a poisonous plant and is listed in the FDA’s Poisonous Plant Database.
Humans have to process and cook soy in order for chickens to eat it and digest it. Raw soy retards the growth of chickens, contains enzyme inhibitors and causes nutritional deficiencies in chickens.
Soy is not the healthiest food choice for chickens
Chickens who eat a soy and corn based diet do not absorb manganese well.
Chickens that are fed isolated soybean protein will have iron deficiencies and need to be given iron supplements. Isolated soy protein causes a Vitamin E deficiency and higher mortality rates than feeding casein to chickens.
Soy and corn based feeds are selenium deficient and lead to pancreatic atrophy in chickens unless they are supplemented with selenium.
Soy-based chicken feeds create a zinc deficiency in chickens, leading to leg problems and abnormally formed bones.
Chickens who are fed soy have such tremendous zinc and calcium deficiencies (because the soy depletes these minerals from their bodies) that if they did not supplement the feed with zinc and calcium, the chickens would be more likely to die, less likely to produce eggs, less likely to hatch, etc.
Most Soy is Genetically Modified
At least 85% of all soy produced in the United States is genetically modified. Genetically modified foods contain Antibiotic Resistant Markers. There is no scientific proof (yet) that these ARMs will create any significant issues for humans (or the superbugs that we face), however, this is because we lack the scientific ability to really understand what these ARMs might do to humans.
Soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens, which end up in their eggs and meat
There are phytoestrogens that occur naturally in many foods, including eggs, cheese, and soy. The levels of phytoestrogens in soy are significantly higher than any other food, though. Chickens who free range have much lower levels of phytoestrogens than chickens who are caged up and fed a soy-based feed.
Chickens that are fed a soy-based diet have phytoestrogens in their tissues and eggs.
Soy’s phytoestrogens cause many health issues for humans
I shared about 4 of these health issues in my post, 4 Reasons to Avoid Soy.
Soy costs more than its sticker price
Soy is one of the main crops in the United States that is government subsidized. If a farmer does not sell all of his soy beans, it doesn’t matter–the government will pay him anyways. The reason soy animal feed (and processed foods for humans that contain soy) are so cheap is because about 70% of the true cost of growing soy is getting paid for by the government. So, soy is artificially cheap. You don’t pay for it at the feed store or in the grocery store, but you do pay for it in your taxes. Everyone does, whether they want to or not.We’re all paying for soy to be produced.
Soy is bad for the environment
“Soybeans are arguably the most environmentally offensive agricultural crop in the world.” -Small Footprint Family About 20% of the Amazon rain forest has been cleared, mostly to grow GM soy. GM soy was created so that the soy plant itself would not be damaged by toxic pesticides and herbicides. These toxins leach into the soil and water and impact the vegetation and animal life in the area. In days past, soy was grown as a “green manure crop” only, and then tilled into the ground for soil fertility. Now days, GM soy is grown for human and animal consumption and it is destroying the biology of the soil. Because of GM soy, there are now “super weeds” that are resistant to strong chemicals like Round Up.
So after all of this, what do you think? Should chickens eat soy?