Chickens Bred For Better Soil Biology
One-line solution summary:
How a unique breed of chicken, selected for digestive health, can support more diverse crops in regenerative agriculture systems
Pitch your solution.
We are on a catastrophe trajectory where we will run out of fertile soil in 60 years without changes to our agricultural system.
More than 90 million acres of land in the US are planted to corn and it is the main ingredient in livestock feed. Chicken is by far the most consumed meat.
We propose changing the system of animal feed and chicken breed to include diversity in both. Cooks Venture’s three-way cross breed can thrive on a diverse diet with said diet grown in regenerative systems.
In addition to sequestering carbon in the soil, our solution improves the livelihoods for grain and chicken farmers, who have long been at the mercy of predatory, corporately consolidated companies created to keep them in poverty while maximizing profits for the corporations.
Building better soil biology with farmers is the way to develop crop diversity. Our breed and research are the answer.
What specific problem are you solving?
Cooks Venture’s chicken bred specifically helps to regenerate farmland through its ability to digest a diverse diet.
Due to conventional farming practices, industrial agricultural, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, nearly half of the most productive soil has disappeared in the last 150 years. In the US alone, soil on cropland is eroding 10 times faster than it can be replenished. Without topsoil, the earth’s ability to filter water, absorb carbon and feed people plunges.
This agriculture system is a threat to farmers, the environment and now, increasingly, to consumers. Monocrops, limited genetic diversity, poor wages and consolidated corporations led to the problems we see.
Over the past 50 years, overly consolidated corporations have developed singular chicken breeds whose sole purpose is to convert corn and soy monocrops into meat for consumption to the detriment of the animal’s health, the land and community. The real chicken or egg problem: monoculture crops and monocultures of animal breeds evolved together.
We can regenerate farmlands to sequester carbon thus mitigating global warming using the most consumed meat on the planet, chickens. Saving farmland along with farmers' livelihoods!
What is your solution?
Cooks Venture’s geneticists’ team has worked for over a decade, researching and developing our proprietary chicken breed, the Pioneer. Genes play a critical role in determining how fast animals grow, the shape of their bodies, the strength of their immune systems and what cultivars of feed they can digest.
The Pioneer is a three-way cross between birds including the Naked Neck Buff; known for its resiliency, immune system and overall health, the Delaware; selected for body confirmation and eating quality, and a family line breed dating back to 1939 which we resurrected for its virility, overall health and ability to thrive on low density single stage feed. We are the only company in America selecting pedigree genetics to perform on alternative feeds is single stage feed settings. This allows us to marry the diversify of the bird with crops grown in regenerative systems.
Additionally, the Naked Neck line is selected for heat tolerance. This allows us to patriciate in local food systems that are climatically warm and nutritionally poor, thus providing additional resources for developing nations while also building local economies and regenerative systems.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Lack of soil fertility and food insecurity affects us all. Cooks Venture’s genetically diverse chicken breed in conjunction with farmers transitioning to regenerative systems can regenerate American farmland, while providing international food security solutions. Also while providing a conscious food choice.
To truly commit to changing the food system, we are committed to fair labor practices and livable wages in the agriculture sector.
As a vertically integrated business, our chickens are processed at our facility by hand and air-chilled on-site. Cooks Venture is proud to be part of the Oklahoma Quality Jobs program at our chicken processing plant in Jay, Oklahoma. Participation in the program demonstrates that our wages exceed the average for the county.
We work with chicken farmers, ensuring they receive a fair price for their birds.
We must be stewards not only of the land, but everyone on it.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Scale practices and incentives for larger farmers and ranchers to decrease carbon emissions, land-use change, nutrient runoff, or water pollution
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
The land we use to raise, and feed animals must be regenerated alongside building quality jobs with livable wages for our farmers and rural communities. Our solution addresses carbon emissions, land use, breed diversity which all come together to create a more resilient food supply chain.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?New York, NY, USA
What is your solution’s stage of development?Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Matthew Wadiak, CEO & Founder Cooks Venture
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
There are two globally consolidated genetics companies – Avigen & Cobb-Vantress (owned by Tyson). Cooks Venture is the only independent genetics company in America. These large companies are solely focused on high yielding meat thus contributing to the loss of crop diversity and animal welfare.
Their conventional chickens have been bred to grow very large very quickly. This compromises the ability of internal organs to function properly and restricts the bird’s ability to move around and express natural behaviors. Conventional chickens eat a ration of genetically modified corn and soy, grown in monocultures that require heavy inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Conventional chicken farms cram as many birds as possible into a single house; these conditions are the root cause of many animal welfare and health issues, including poor air quality.
In contrast, Cooks Ventures chickens grow slowly, building up bone and organ strength before putting on muscle. This results in an active bird. Our poultry’s digestive system can handle a diverse mix of Non-GMO grains and crops grown in regenerative systems including cover crops, intercropping and a variety of grains. Cooks Venture’s chickens are given unrestricted pasture access, where birds can hide, forage, perch, and find shade among lush vegetation.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
In addition to a food company, Cooks Venture is ag tech, genetics research & hatchery business.We are the only independent genetics company in the world. We are the only company to run feed trial tests to manage what chickens eat on a daily basis.
+ Genetically Diverse Chicken Breed: Bred For Eating Quality and to Digest a Diverse Diet
Our chicken breed not only helps to build regenerative farm systems, the breed is higher in antioxidants, Vitamin A and Omega 3s due to having a healthier immune system that does not require antibiotics.
+ Regenerative Feed for Chickens: Transitioning Crop Farmers to Regenerative Systems
We conduct scientific testing on chicken diets. We are running trials on alternative grains as well as studies raising chickens without soy or corn for individuals with sensitivities to both.
In our first year, Cooks Venture developed a strategy with our feed mill and grain farmers to move to a diverse blend of animal feed. This blend includes smaller grains and cover crops including red winter wheat, sunflower and sorghum to name a few. Our strategies are focused on drought resistant and permanent ground cover, all in regenerative systems. We are the only company currently using regenerative feeds.
We have recently hired a full-time regenerative feed manager and we work with a nutritionist out of the University of Arkansas.
This grant allows us to expand what we are doing with farmers.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Over 200 poultry plant workers who we pay a livable wage. Hundreds of thousands of customers who buy our chickens directly through Cooks Venture and through our retail partners. Dozens of farmers who are currently growing our breed of bird. Dozens of feed farmers who are converting to regenerative systems.
We expect those numbers to grow 100% over the coming year. Over the next five years, 300% growth
What type of organization is your solution team?For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
How many people work on your solution team?Full Time staff: 130, Contractors: 60
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Over a decade on the chicken breed; one year on the regenerative project with farm partners
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
Matthew Wadiak, CEO & Founder
Matthew’s goal is nothing short of building a food system for the future, changing industrial agriculture and creating regenerative solutions to mitigate climate change while feeding the country. As a founder of Blue Apron, he built a network of over 250 farmers, ranchers and agronomists and learned first-hand where the problems existed in the system. He serves on the board of Goodwill International and extends their mission of better employment and diversity of workforce’s development and social programs to his business.
Ankur Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer
Ankur has worked in a variety of finance roles including FP&A, innovation finance, investor relations and corporate development. Ankur met Matt at Blue Apron, where he worked for over three years. He began his career in investment banking with a focus on food and agriculture clients. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Yale University and a Bachelor’s Degree from New York University.
Blake Evans, Executive Vice President
Blake is a third-generation poultry farmer and the founder of Crystal Lake Farms, one of the first companies to raise slow-growing chicken at scale, and an early adopter of the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Program.
Richard Udale, Director of Genetics
Over a 50-year career, Richard has become a leader in poultry genetics, designing breeder programs to meet the needs of existing and emerging growth markets. His most well-known work can be seen in the Ross, Avian, Rainbow, and Peterson poultry lines.