I have been recently engaged in a discussion with a national, organic egg producer over the foods used to feed his chickens. The purpose of this email inquiry is not to berate farmers for using soy as a feed, but rather to discuss with farmers the potentially harmful effects of using soy as a feed, as well as to recommend additional options rather than soy. Additionally, my email correspondence is to open a discussion regarding the dogma regarding saturated fat and cholesterol being some way harmful or inferior compared to unsaturated fats.
The correspondence can be read below.
Thanks for your email.
We certainly recognize that for some people the prevalence of soy in modern food systems may be a concern as a dietary issue.
Although our girls get a great deal of their daily diet from our organic pastures (where they happily eat native and seasonal grasses, as well as whatever bugs and critters they find), we do provide them with a supplementary feed that does contain unprocessed soymeal and corn. Not only is soy the most readily available source of protein (and to keep our ladies happy and healthy, they need to eat about 4oz. daily, 18% of which needs to be protein), it also contains the amino acid Lysine, which is essential for them to be able to lay.
We’ve also not seen any studies that show that birds fed a pasture-raised diet such as ours lay eggs that contain any soy residues. We have tested our eggs for soy (and other) allergens and have not found any, so in that regard there is no ‘contamination’ concern.
As an ethical food producer, we take every care to treat our animals with great care and respect, and do what we can to produce foods of the highest quality.
I hope that answers your questions. Have a great weekend,
Thank you for your prompt response. It is very good to hear that your chickens consume insects, worms, etc.
As you are well aware, current marketing of “vegetarian-fed diets” for fowl is extremely misleading and deceptive because of the reality that fowl naturally feed on protein-rich and nutrient-rich insects, worms, snails, etc.
The potential residue of antigenic soy particulate is not necessarily the concern.
Rather, the primary concerns regarding soy are:
1. Its unusually high unsaturated fatty acid content & its disproportionate omega 6:3 ratio of 8:1
2. Its very high “anti-nutrient” content, namely: phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors
3. Its elevated amount of goitrogens, which diminish thyroid function
4. Its Phytoestrogens
1. Unsaturated fatty acids are the most fragile lipids in existence. The electron-rich double bonds possessed by all unsaturated fatty acids (whether Omega 3 or 6) make them highly reactive molecules, which undergo rapid lipid peroxidation once the double bounds are broken from heating, pressure or grinding of the plant/seed. The health-altering effects of lipid peroxidation are well documented in literature as a primary cause of: free radical formation, cellular aging, lipofuscin and inflammatory-driven immune cascades. A considerable amount of research demonstrates the potentially harmful effects of diets high in unsaturated, plant lipids over traditionally-consumed mono-unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. The article below by Dr. Ray Peat is of interest and provides 37 citations from literature regarding the deleterious effects of unsaturated fatty acids. Many of these studies have been conducted on animals and therefore may be of considerable interest to you:
Soybeans contain approximately 8.7 grams of unsaturated fatty acids per cup of soybeans, with 7.68 g of omega 6 and 1.0 g of omega 3, respectively. The saturated fatty acid content is 2.2 grams per cup. This makes soy a food containing mostly unsaturated plant lipids, and with a very disproportionate ratio of Omega 6:3, nearly 8:1. Many researchers today believe that diets which contain an omega 6:3 ratio greater than 4:1 to be a major factor in the development of the pro-inflammatory conditions and degenerative diseases prevalent in modern society today. For example:
It is significant to address that the act of grinding soy into a meal form will rapidly break the electron-rich molecular double bonds inducing oxidation to the unsaturated fatty acids, rendering the soy meal highly rancid. No amount of Vitamin E added to feed will have any effect whatever to the already induced oxidation of the soy meal.
2. Phytic acid is well documented to inhibit several minerals from absorption, namely: calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and iron. Soy contains the highest concentrations of phytic acid of any plant food. The literature on the phytic acid effects from soy are well documented:
Extensive research and discussion of the deleterious effects of phytic acid can be found here: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/living-with-phytic-acid
Trypsin is a pancreatic enzyme needed for the digestion of dietary protein. While there is a considerable amino acid content in soy being a plant food, the anti-trypsin compounds found in soy may inhibit the utilization of many of the amino acids present.
Soy is well documented to contain compounds which inhibit the action of trypsin. Studies conducted on fish show that protein uptake improved significantly when soy-based trypsin was removed:
Heating of soy will destroy much of the trypsin inhibitors, however, heating of the soy food will also render the highly unsaturated lipids to be rancid and toxic. It is a catch 22.
3. Studies have found soy has the capacity to inhibit thyroid function
4. Phytoestrogens from soy are believed to unnaturally increase the growth rate of chickens. Additionally, estrogen is potentially carcinogenic. The potentially harmful effects of estrogen are well documented.
Fermentation of soy is the effective method for reducing the anti-nutrients found in soy. However, the high level unsaturated lipids will remain.
The Weston A. Price foundation recommends farmers eliminate the use of soy from chickens, and instead replace with protein from: whey, skim milk, insects and bugs:
Your company’s inference that a lower saturated fat and cholesterol content in your eggs is beneficial is highly debatable.
Anti-cholesterol research is ignorant of the fact that cholesterol is vital for life processes:
- Cholesterol is among the primary lipids found in every cellular membrane
- The cholesterol content in the membrane of cells regulates the permeability of the membrane
- Cholesterol is the foundation of every steroidal hormone
- Cholesterol is critical for brain development and developing fetuses
- Cholesterol is essential for neuronal integrity, providing the basis of myelin
- Cholesterol is essential for bile synthesis, which is critical for the uptake of fat and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K
- Cholesterol is a primary anti-inflammatory lipid, effectively inhibiting the most pathological unsaturated fatty acids operative in the immune defenses
Additionally, the cholesterol and saturated fat content of foods (such as eggs) has little effect on serum cholesterol markers once consumed.
See Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD:
This suggests that egg companies who label their eggs to contain less cholesterol and saturated fat may be misleading their consumers into believing there is some benefit to consuming less dietary cholesterol and dietary saturated fat.
Despite USDA dogma that considers diets lower in saturated fats to be healthier, it is significant to address that diets rich in saturated fats have been consumed throughout the course of human history, while unsaturated plant-oil diets have existed for little more than 100 years of human history. The promotion of such plant oils is largely based upon US agricultural subsidies, and poor scientific research.
Upon inspection of your eggs, I find that your shells to be lacking in the same thickness than eggs from non-soy fed eggs. I suspect that the high phytic acid content from soy has decreased calcium uptake, causing a diminishing of egg shell integrity.
Additionally, I find some of the egg yolks to have less integrity, as reflected in the yolk’s collapse when opened into a glass. I would hypothesize that the LOWER cholesterol content of your eggs reduces the integrity of the yolk.
The color of your yolks however, is richer than most soy fed eggs I have inspected and this suggests a higher carotenoid content.
I do hope this email assists you in finding a better and more nutrient dense diet for your chickens, namely through the removal of soy feed, which has a deleterious effect upon egg integrity, as well as a deleterious effect upon the health of your birds. My client base is willing to spend more money on eggs with the highest degree of nutritional integrity.