This week we processed our first batch of soy-free chicken. One thing about small business is that it usually is more responsive to market requests. This one has been brewing for some time and we're finally glad to offer a soy-free option.
More and more people are hyper-sensitive to soy anything. And some folks think it has estrogens that are detrimental. Here at Polyface, we have always used the full soybean, not pieces. Most soy used in feed stocks is just the dry meal, with all the oils and fats stripped out. We believe whole foods behave differently than pieces, but still appreciate customer concerns.
A two-year study commissioned by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association on the estrogen issue revealed that the highest amounts were in pastured chickens allowed to eat clover. Anyone who has raised a chicken on pasture knows that clover is the chickens' number one forage. To exclude clover is intuitively insane and here at Polyface would require not allowing chickens to be on pasture at all since our clover ratios are so high.
But soy as allergen is a relatively new issue. Nearly all folks who have this seem to get along fine with our chicken, perhaps because the birds do eat so much clover and grass that it detoxifies anything--chlorophyll is nature's number one toxin cleanser. But occasionally someone will still react to our chicken and of course, some folks don't even want to flirt with the issue. So here's an answer.
One of the big problems is substituting a high protein for the soybean. The birds need protein and can't develop properly with just starch--kind of like human omnivores. Fortunately, smarter people than us have wrestled with this issue for awhile and developed an alternative, but it takes three things to compensate: flax seed oil, fish meal, and field peas. Unfortunately, none of this comes from local sources like the soybeans, but that's the compromise to get the soy out.
Our local soybeans are not genetically modified and are tested for toxin residue like herbicide and pesticide; they're really clean soybeans and I find it hard to demonize a whole food. But allergens do exist, I think primarily because our food sources are imbalanced. Australian Aborigines ate some 3,000 different things. Native Americans had an equally wide array of dietary options. Today, we moderns have narrowed down this diversity to about 20 things and that simplification no doubt adds to the allergen burden.
Fortunately, pastured chickens get to eat bugs, a host of different forage components from grasses, to clovers to forbs and greatly complex their diet versus birds in factory confinement. We can enjoy chicken with a much more diverse blend of diet than the industrial bird. That comes at Polyface whether you're eating soy-free birds or our traditional soybean-protein bird. It means that you get a much more diversified food base through our chicken than factory chicken, organic or otherwise (most organic is still factory housed and never sees outside).
This offering is a test of the market. We respond to patron chatter and the question is will this chatter turn into sales. In order to offer a separate inventory item like this, we need enough sales to justify it. If we only sell a couple hundred, it's not viable to maintain a separate freezer compartment, separate sales category and all the elements required in a separate item.
So now's the time to step up if the dear old soybean has been holding you back due to perceptions, allergens, or whatever. We encourage you to try this bird and see how it speaks to your body. Then tell us. Thank you.
Have you heard of the soy-free movement?