Mike Charles, Labelle Patrimoine Founder and Owner recently participated as a speaker at The 6th Annual Animal Health, Nutrition and Technology Innovation USA took place on 13-14 June 2023 in Boston.
Below are some of the questions he was asked with his response:
Where do you currently see the greatest opportunities for innovation for livestock?
It is not really innovation for me. It is kind of a throwback for regenerative practices, which would be prompting superior environmental and animal welfare as well as practicing sustainability. Regenerative is improving the soil and the pasture areas that our chickens are exposed to. Developing new breeds and changing the overall eating experience.
What is currently holding you back from adding more innovation to your livestock business?
We are farmers that focus so much on the care of our animals and pastures. We are continually trying to improve our farms that we lack in marketing and educating the consumer. Overall, we are looking for a team/partner to lead in areas where we lack focus. If we find someone to focus on the marketing and educating, then we can find innovation at the farm level. Trying different breeds and investing into our different programs for improving our flocks.
What are you doing concretely to become more sustainable at your poultry farm – and how important is diversity in the chicken industry?
To be more sustainable, we are focusing on the animal welfare and environmental welfare. Our birds have open access to pasture and shelter at their free will. We are planting trees and grass plants to not only enhance the soil, but the chickens’ environment, which we believe becomes a healthier choice to the consumer. This is setting us apart and having something different. Sustainability equals making sure all farmers are paid on time and appropriately. Not just chicken farmers this would also be farmers growing crops, feed mills, hatcheries, and really making sure the entire process is good for the whole community.
Diversity for me in the chicken business, is having different breeds and types of chickens available to the consumer. For example, we have heritage style chickens, special diets (organic/antibiotic free/omega 3) our chickens have access to, and a cross breed. These different types of breeds and experiences affect taste, texture and flavor.
How can we as consumers make sure that farmers will be paid in a fair way?
I would say this is a big thing for me. We can’t just let farmers become a number in the system. These are real people with families with different circumstances. We have to tailor the programs to supporting these farmers. For example, a farmer wants to build a chicken house for us. I sit at their kitchen table and discuss what it will cost, what his/her payments may be, then I go back and figure how many chickens I need to go through his/her barns to make the numbers work and everyone makes money. We start by taking the financial risk off of them. Let them focus on raising happy and healthy animals with the highest animal welfare practices.
In return, for a really healthy robust chicken, we can pay them well enough to be sustainable while we realize this does cause us to have a more expensive product. So how can the consumers know that the farmers are being paid well? This brings me back to what I spoke about earlier, we need to educate the consumer WHY our chickens and eggs are more expensive than other options and what makes them special.
Avian influenza and African swine fever are currently big challenges for the livestock industry. Christopher and Mike, how do you protect your animals against such highly infectious diseases?
- Strict biosecurity
- Frequent flock monitoring and surveillance
- Certified poultry technicians, visiting every flock on a weekly basis with a checklist to examine the health of the flock in person
- Educate farmers on what to look for, clinical signs