So there has been a great debate in our household over our non-GMO broilers this year. Going non-GMO and refusing to use Monsanto corn for our hogs and cattle was a no-brainer. We grow it on our property and it gets fed directly to the animals by way of either silage or just ear corn. Our broilers, however, prove to be a little more challenging. First, was researching mills and feed sellers to look for clean, reputable places that have non-GMO feed, as we do not have a way to ground up our own feed. The closest was over an hour drive one way. The feed is double the price (at least) for the life of the bird, and being as though the drive is so much further, we only wanted to make one trip to cut down on as much of the cost as possible. As a result, extra care was needed to ensure moisture did not get into the feed and spoil it or cause it to get moldy. Therefore, we had to come up with a new way to store our feed as it would be kept longer and had to be placed away from our conventional feed that we get from Platt's (so no conventional feed would get mixed with our non-GMO). It truly was a dauting task and at times problematic for my husband who did the feeding.
While Dave loved the idea of non-GMO broilers, the cons (and the other information I wrote above) seemed to outweigh the pros. The only positive we could come up with was the health factor and the fact that studies that show that animals fed non-GMO feed better absorbed vitamins and minerals found in their food that gets passed onto us as we enjoy our meals (as well as other positives to the animals' health). All of this sounds great, but since we hadn't eaten a non-GMO bird yet, we had to question whether or not they would taste as good, whether they would grow as well (or would they be smaller), whether their meat would be tender or rubbery, etc.. All of the unknowns were a concern as this was a new endeavor.
Fast forward months later of research, planning, and worrying, and we received the chicks and they were fed non-GMO feed right from the start. When it was time for the chicks to go out to the outdoor pens (after their fluffy chick feathers were replaced with grown-up feathers), we were excited to see how they would grow on pasture. A lot of care was taken to see how much feed they were eating and to note differences between the conventional and non-GMO birds. Both seemed to eat the same amount of feed, pasture, and bugs, so there really wasn't a difference there. All the while I kept reminding Dave about the benefits of non-GMO birds and Dave kept reminding me that this may not happen next year because of our concerns. We were really just going around in circles about the whole thing and each other's words and points remained the same for the duration of raising those birds.
Fast forward again to butchering day...150 non-GMO broilers to be butchered is a lot of birds. Our processors were up to the task and they were not told they were non-GMO chickens (though they knew we had a batch of non-GMO birds sometime this year). The first thing noted was how much heavier these birds were. After weighing the birds, they all consistently weighed a whole pound OR MORE than their fellow birds fed conventional feed, raised for the same amount of weeks. All processors unanimously said they were the best looking birds they have EVER butchered in the last three years since we started. WOW...that says a lot! Honestly, everything about the birds looked perfect...even Dave commented on their good looks, which was quite surprising!
The final verdict was taste and texture. I cooked them up on the grill by simply putting BBQ sauce on the breasts and served it to my family. It was a complete farm meal. Everything was raised or grown on our farm for this meal (gosh I love those kinds of meals)! Dave immediately went for the non-GMO chicken and I was shocked to hear him exclaim, "This has got to be the most tender piece of chicken I have ever tasted!" Even the overcooked piece was as tender, and yes, I do tend to overcook things! Many times we have had our non-GMO chicken for dinner and every first bite we are surprised at how absolutely tender and flavorful the meat is. Needless to say, the debate is over, the pros FAR outweigh the cons and we are already discussing changes to our broilers as we include more non-GMO birds next year. If you purchased our non-GMO birds, send us an e-mail to let us know what you think. Dave and I plan on taking some of our conventional birds and non-GMO birds to different restaurants in the area and have their chefs prepare them to see if they notice a difference, and labeling them in a way that they would not know which is the non-GMO and are eager to hear the results.