Last year, when Dannon announced that it would source non-GMO feed for the milk used to make the company’s yogurts, the consensus was that there wasn’t enough non-GMO feed available to meet Dannon’s needs. But one of Dannon’s biggest dairy suppliers, McCarty Family Farms, says it has no problems sourcing non-GMO feed.
“Due to our dedicated farmer partners we are able to source all of the non-GMO feed that we need,” says Ken McCarty, co-owner and manager of McCarty Family Farms, based in Rexford, KS. “We are working with our partners of many years and are also creating new relationships to help on this journey.”
Sourcing challenges “have been few and far between”
McCarty Family Farms has four dairy farms in Kansas and Nebraska with a total of 8,500 cows.
In 2016, Dannon, the nation’s leading yogurt producer, announced that it would remove genetically modified ingredients from its products and source non-GMO feed for its dairy cows by the end of 2018. Dannon CEO Mariano Lozano described the feed initiative as a “massive undertaking,” involving the conversion of an estimated 80,000 acres to non-GMO feed crops. When asked by AgriPulse in April 2016 about finding enough non-GMO feed for its dairy cows, Ken McCarty said: “We don’t have that fully figured out.”
But a year later, they have figured it out.
“Thus far the challenges associated with sourcing non-GMO feed have been few and far between and have largely consisted of administrative requirements, sourcing from vendors that can meet our standards and ensuring that the ingredients we are sourcing can and will meet the nutritional needs of our cattle,” McCarty says.
The supply of non-GMO feed was bigger than McCarty realized. “We have had a large number of growers who were already growing non-GMO feed approach us about selling non-GMO feed to us, demonstrating that there has been more non-GMO feed grown in our area than we previously thought,” McCarty said.
Also, there are more farmers interested in growing non-GMO corn and soybeans, particularly if they have a ready market such as McCarty offers. There have also been farmers interested in growing other non-GMO ingredients such as peas and barley.
Non-GMO is a trend, not a fad
Other feed suppliers also see no problems in sourcing non-GMO feed. In fact, some say there is more than enough supply.
“There is more product than there is demand out there,” says Thomas Kopp, president of Choice Grain. “The market is growing but not at the pace to keep up with the product that is available.”
“There is definitely adequate supply,” says Justin Nielsen, merchandiser at South Dakota Soybean Processors.
More farmers are interested in growing non-GMO crops because of low corn and soybean prices, high GMO seed costs, and premiums for growing non-GMO.
“Most of our farmers are growing non-GMO corn because they can make more money even without getting a premium (for non-GMO),” Kopp says. “There’s not much difference in yields between GMO and non-GMO.”
“Producers are exploring every avenue to pursue profits and increase revenue,” says Darwin Rader, international sales manager, Zeeland Farm Services, Inc.
Companies like Dannon are also providing a good market for non-GMO farmers. “Dannon and other big companies are seeing demand from consumers and making adjustments to meet that need. Farmers respond to that; that’s the natural way for most producers,” Rader says.
Is non-GMO here to stay? Rader says yes. “When this whole non-GMO market push started with Whole Foods (and their GMO labeling requirement by 2018), we wondered if non-GMO was a trend or a fad. I think it’s been a nice increasing trend. Some parts of the market are increasing and some are plateauing but I don’t think it’s decreasing.”
Aaron Gerber, general manager of Hiland Naturals, a non-GMO feed company, agrees. “We hear from large retailers and food companies who say the non-GMO trend is here to stay.”