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It was six years ago that the New York Times wrote a story about our use of oregano oil in chicken feed. Now that “oregano” has become a buzz word in the industry, I thought it would be helpful to explain why and how we use oregano oil in our feed and clarify the differences of our program compared to others.

Why oregano oil? Bell & Evans was the first chicken producer (more than 20 years ago!) to eliminate the use of antibiotics. We were successful in doing so because we developed safe and sensible preventive measures to ward off illness and minimize stress on our birds. Our standards are unlike anyone else’s – concrete floors in our chicken houses, full cleanout and sanitation between flocks, fresh litter for every flock, quality feed ingredients, and the list goes on. That said, protecting the birds’ gut health is still very important.

In 2008, I was introduced to a scientist who claimed to have figured out how to deliver food-grade essential oils into a chicken’s GI tract to provide effective antibacterial support. Oregano is a natural antimicrobial and antioxidant, and oregano oil in its purest form is highly concentrated and has tremendous natural antibacterial properties when used correctly. This scientist needed a chicken guy to help him fine-tune the formula and test his patented, encapsulated time-releasing delivery system on a larger scale.

While oregano is one of the essential oils of our formula, our supplement is really a blend of essential herbs, including cinnamon and yucca, that work together to kill off bad bacteria and promote the good. Without a balance, you can do more harm than good by eliminating too much good bacteria in the gut.

Although I wasn’t immediately sold on his silver bullet, time would quickly tell. We partnered with his company which specializes in natural and organic feed supplements and began administering our blends in 2010. We haven’t had a sick flock of chickens since!

Our oregano oil is 100% natural and very potent. All oregano oil is not created equal. Oregano is a plant, so the species of oregano matters. The oil we use comes from a particular, patented type of oregano plant that’s primarily grown in Holland. It’s the most potent form of oregano oil that can be produced. We do not add synthetic ingredients to our oil like other products on the market. Most other oregano oil products are enhanced with a synthetic form of one or both of the two main active ingredients in oregano that make it germicidal: thymol and carvacol. Ours comes directly from the oregano plant.

Our supplement absorbs correctly in the body, making it effective. Most oregano oil supplements are added to feed and water in a powder or liquid form. Unfortunately, 70-90% of essential oils are destroyed in the stomach. Oregano oil is only effective if it gets past the stomach and into the intestinal track. Our patented, encapsulated supplement does just that. Our supplement time-releases over the course of a day, slowly making its way through the bird’s entire GI tract. To get the same effectiveness from a liquid or powder form, the dosage would have to be significantly higher – so much that it would burn the bird’s throat. More definitely isn’t better! What makes our delivery system effective is how it’s absorbed in the body. Our supplement costs more to produce, but we’re committed to the health and safety of our chickens.

 We administer oregano oil safely into our pelletized feed. Our oregano supplement is part of our pelletized feed, so the nutrients are balanced and dosages continual, based on feed conversion.

The use of essential oils and natural supplements in chicken production is not new. Bell & Evans has been practicing and perfecting our supplements for many years. Hopefully this information helps you ask the right questions when you’re confronted with other producers’ marketing hype around oregano and other herbs in their feed.

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