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All-vegetarian chicken feed -- not good, right?

by (280)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:23 PM
Created May 18, 2011 at 11:27 PM

At the local co-op, all the different brands of eggs tout "all-vegetarian feed," as if that's something to be proud of. Is it? I mean, chickens aren't vegetarians, right? They eat bugs, worms, etc., in addition (I assume) to some grass, seeds, and other plant stuff. Is this "all-vegetarian feed" thing with regard to eggs just a bunch of hooey?

B668f9e9a60a54c01a275a14b68a843e
145 · August 18, 2013 at 10:06 AM

It's not a virus, it's a prion-based disease. Sheep get one called scrapie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrapie

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41312 · August 17, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Candy actually would be more nutritious for the cow in the absence of the beneficial gut bacteria.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41312 · August 17, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Don't think of feeding the cow itself, but rather you're feeding a giant vat of fermenting bacteria. A cow without its bacteria would die on a diet of grass.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41312 · August 17, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Chickens eat seeds, not entirely unnatural to feed them corn/soy.

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4306 · August 15, 2013 at 7:33 PM

As a long time chicken person, +1 for the above statement

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 19, 2011 at 12:47 PM

There are far too many undefined terms used in chicken products now and too many different overlapping terminologies.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 19, 2011 at 12:42 PM

There are far too many undefined terms used in chicken products now.

4b61b13ed39e5c5d01fe234900cadcf8
1138 · May 19, 2011 at 4:24 AM

cool! I've seen that effect when my husband leaves things lying around in the yard, but never thought about doing it for the chickens!

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:57 AM

so awesome. my sister had some chickens (out in the boonies she lost most to animal attacks), but they used to put something heavy down (like a log or wood plank) on the grass/dirt and after it was there for a while, the moisture would build up underneath and the bugs/worms would rise to the top. They would move it aside and the girls went nuts for their treats! Pretty nifty trick.

4b61b13ed39e5c5d01fe234900cadcf8
1138 · May 19, 2011 at 2:31 AM

Thanks! Can you tell I'm excited? We have a pretty big garden this year too. I want to make sure my 3 yr old grows up knowing where real food comes from!

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:15 AM

people usually assume that amish chickens will be pastured (due to the religious beliefs of the Amish), but then someone tries to capitalize on this assumption... i wish the verbage for meat were much more specific

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:13 AM

the other, real, amish chickens i was buying were pastured, and frankly, you could taste it

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:13 AM

well thats what i pretty much thought but, for example, i have chickens sold near me that are labeled as "amish chickens"...gerbers amish chickens, and then they say on them 100% veg feed.. so that makes methink its really akin to a "cage free" hen, where its still factory farmed even though it pretends to be better than that

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581
4896 · May 19, 2011 at 2:02 AM

It's simply a better kind of factory chicken. Not pastured, but also not completely stuffed with whatever there was, including diseased, sick cousins...

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 1:53 AM

what i'm more interested in is diagnosing the lingo in order to figure out if my chicken has seen any pasture or not. I'm ok with some supplemental feed if i feel like there is a likelihood the chickens were able to also fend for themselves a bit. "100% veg feed" is confusing in this regard because i tend to think they wouldn't be able to make this claim if some worm and grub eating were part of their diet.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 19, 2011 at 1:04 AM

Yes, feeding diseased sheep to cows is thought to be the cause of mad cow disease. Fear of prion diseases has put an end to the practice in the UK now.

1fc9c11cf23b2f62ac78979de933ad83
2435 · May 19, 2011 at 1:03 AM

I'm super jealous. Enjoy!

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581
4896 · May 19, 2011 at 12:57 AM

that's exactly what I wanted to write. They did the same thing to beef, which supposedly was the cause of mad cow disease. Forcing animals to cannibalize the sick and dead is horrifying.

66283d390809787a11a81be7ee5fb98d
280 · May 19, 2011 at 12:40 AM

Congrats on getting your own chickens, Andrea. I'm jealous, and will very likely do this someday as well (when I have a yard).

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 12:06 AM

chickens are not vegetarians and you are right, 100% vegetarian feed is hooey, both for you and for the chicken. They would much rather be out foraging for grubs and other little buggers.

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8 Answers

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
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19220 · May 19, 2011 at 12:31 AM

No chickens are not vegetarian by nature. I have seen the chickens my family has kept catch and rip apart live mice and frogs just like little dinosaurs.

However comercial chicken feed typically contains recycled slaughterhouse waste from all types of animals. The grinding up and feeding of chickens that have died on the farm back to their fellow chickens is also know unknown.

It is avoiding this practice that vegetarian fed chickens refers to.

There is nothing inherantly wrong with feeding animal products to chickens, my families hens at home enjoy bits of left over meat and fat when they can get them.

However if you imagine a huge comercial slaughterhouse in the United States, would you want the left over scapings from this fed to your chickens?

"All-vegetarian feed" refers to the chicken feed that is provided for the hens, it does not really relate to bugs and grubs that the chickens might find to eat while free ranging outside if they are allowed to do so. The practice of labeling chickens and eggs as vegetarian fed can unfortunately give people the idea that chickens should be vegetarian.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 19, 2011 at 12:47 PM

There are far too many undefined terms used in chicken products now and too many different overlapping terminologies.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 19, 2011 at 12:42 PM

There are far too many undefined terms used in chicken products now.

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:15 AM

people usually assume that amish chickens will be pastured (due to the religious beliefs of the Amish), but then someone tries to capitalize on this assumption... i wish the verbage for meat were much more specific

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:13 AM

the other, real, amish chickens i was buying were pastured, and frankly, you could taste it

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:13 AM

well thats what i pretty much thought but, for example, i have chickens sold near me that are labeled as "amish chickens"...gerbers amish chickens, and then they say on them 100% veg feed.. so that makes methink its really akin to a "cage free" hen, where its still factory farmed even though it pretends to be better than that

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581
4896 · May 19, 2011 at 2:02 AM

It's simply a better kind of factory chicken. Not pastured, but also not completely stuffed with whatever there was, including diseased, sick cousins...

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 1:53 AM

what i'm more interested in is diagnosing the lingo in order to figure out if my chicken has seen any pasture or not. I'm ok with some supplemental feed if i feel like there is a likelihood the chickens were able to also fend for themselves a bit. "100% veg feed" is confusing in this regard because i tend to think they wouldn't be able to make this claim if some worm and grub eating were part of their diet.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb
19220 · May 19, 2011 at 1:04 AM

Yes, feeding diseased sheep to cows is thought to be the cause of mad cow disease. Fear of prion diseases has put an end to the practice in the UK now.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581
4896 · May 19, 2011 at 12:57 AM

that's exactly what I wanted to write. They did the same thing to beef, which supposedly was the cause of mad cow disease. Forcing animals to cannibalize the sick and dead is horrifying.

7a38b45ddbe1f84c9a92b7a705dfacc9
1
10 · August 17, 2013 at 10:03 PM

I was just told by the Meat Dept. Supervisor of WHOLE FOODS here in Las Vegas that ALL chickens are now fed CORN and SOY, incl. "free range" chickens. No wonder I and my dog both have become allergic to Chicken, and eggs....I am allergic to SOY as well, and that is hardly a natural feed for chickens is it??? It's disgusting when they finally got GRASS FED BEEF that they have these expensive chickens given this diet.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41312 · August 17, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Chickens eat seeds, not entirely unnatural to feed them corn/soy.

Fab5e8afeb451325c0dd2847149bb3aa
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10 · February 11, 2013 at 9:36 PM

i just want to throw out there that anyone whom thinks that the outbreak of mad cow was caused from them feeding sheep to the cows through the feed is incorrect.. through several tests that have been conducted they have NEVER found a sheep to have ever carried or been traced to spreading the virus. Actually this was caused by yes the feed that the cows were and (still) are eating its just been changed a little bit. back when the out break first hit it was because they were feeding cows to cows. the dead cows brain stems and spinal cords were being ground up and added to the cows food, but then the mad cow out brake happened and researchers concluded this was happening from feeding cow to cow, they instead decided it would be safe to just switch to feeding the dead cows to the pig and the dead pig to the cows.. not to mention all of the road kill thats added along with dead pets, expired grocery meat, growth hormones, puss, etc that are going into the feed. so not only are they forcing a NATURALLY VEGETARIAN animal into cannibalism. They are allowing this to be passed as acceptable food for americans.. WTF!!!?

B668f9e9a60a54c01a275a14b68a843e
145 · August 18, 2013 at 10:06 AM

It's not a virus, it's a prion-based disease. Sheep get one called scrapie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrapie

1322497e18d3842fc440e1f653de4990
1
10 · November 03, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Yes, it is hooey! And how! Chickens eat meat and cows do not.

Feeding dead animals to cows is wrong. A cow would never eat meat by choice. A cow's stomach is designed to process grass and rouphage. Even cow's milk can only be processed by a calf's fourth stomach. When a calf's head tilts up to suckle the teat its throat elongates. Then the milk is able to bypass the first three stomachs and go straight to the fourth. Cows are not even designed to eat grain. When they do, they get a condition called acidosis and will die within 6 months of eating a grain-based diet. That's why feed lots can only house each cow for 2-3 months before sending it off to the slaughterhouse. If you want grass-fed beef, make sure it says "grass-finished" or "100% grass-fed" because technically all cows spend the first part of their life eating grass before they're sent to the feed lot. Better yet, go talk to the farmer!

Chickens, on the other hand, will always eat meat in the wild - even if it's from another chicken! They are built to be omnivorous. The thing that bothers me about "vegetarian fed chickens" is that it's become a USDA requirement to feed a 100% vegetarian diet if you want to sell certified organic chicken or eggs. Historically, chickens ate the scraps that a farm produced. No one would have raised them on a 100% vegetarian diet because they are much healthier with some meat in their diet!

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1138 · May 19, 2011 at 12:35 AM

Definitely a bunch of hooey. I am lucky to source my eggs from someone who "pastures" their chickens, meaning they get to eat all kinds of grass, worms, lizards and such. BUT this weekend I will be getting MY OWN CHICKENS!!! My husband built me a chicken tractor- a small coop and outer run that can be moved around the yard so they always have fresh grass and bugs to eat. If you really want to know where your food comes from and what it ate, you should consider backyard chickens. It's the perfect solution for us paleos in suburbia. You really don't need much space at all, and they keep your yard free of pests by eating them. You can feed them many of your kitchen scraps as well. This is a great website for more info, it's main focus is on the chicken tractors themselves, but also has great info for backyard chickens in general. www.thecitychicken.com

4b61b13ed39e5c5d01fe234900cadcf8
1138 · May 19, 2011 at 4:24 AM

cool! I've seen that effect when my husband leaves things lying around in the yard, but never thought about doing it for the chickens!

98148e265e1a9b27ce1c206190c1b8a4
5146 · May 19, 2011 at 2:57 AM

so awesome. my sister had some chickens (out in the boonies she lost most to animal attacks), but they used to put something heavy down (like a log or wood plank) on the grass/dirt and after it was there for a while, the moisture would build up underneath and the bugs/worms would rise to the top. They would move it aside and the girls went nuts for their treats! Pretty nifty trick.

4b61b13ed39e5c5d01fe234900cadcf8
1138 · May 19, 2011 at 2:31 AM

Thanks! Can you tell I'm excited? We have a pretty big garden this year too. I want to make sure my 3 yr old grows up knowing where real food comes from!

1fc9c11cf23b2f62ac78979de933ad83
2435 · May 19, 2011 at 1:03 AM

I'm super jealous. Enjoy!

66283d390809787a11a81be7ee5fb98d
280 · May 19, 2011 at 12:40 AM

Congrats on getting your own chickens, Andrea. I'm jealous, and will very likely do this someday as well (when I have a yard).

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0 · August 15, 2013 at 3:37 PM

I recently read an article about cows eating candy that was not healthy for human consumption? So if chickens eat animal by products, then they could be eating the effects of that kind of diet too.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41312 · August 17, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Candy actually would be more nutritious for the cow in the absence of the beneficial gut bacteria.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41312 · August 17, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Don't think of feeding the cow itself, but rather you're feeding a giant vat of fermenting bacteria. A cow without its bacteria would die on a diet of grass.

81eea89722d351d9ed1b763dd8bc73d6
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148 · May 19, 2011 at 1:28 AM

Not to mention that if one chicken gets a bleeding sore, the other chickens can and will sometimes, peck it ti death. In other words, cannibalism. Chickens are definitely not vegetarians.

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2369 · May 19, 2011 at 1:24 AM

While my chickens like their share of bird seed in winter, they will happily chase a bug or dig up a grub over seed any day in more temperate times of the year. I happened to find a bird seed that had dried mealworm grubs in it this winter. They went after the grubs first, then pecked at the seed (I use bird seed instead of scratch since they waste most of the wheat/barley/corn scratch). These birds also lay eggs with beautiful orange-yellow yolks.

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