“Eggs Over Easy, Hold the GMOs”
A native of Hawaii who found her calling as an egg farmer on California’s Central Coast, Kaliko Orian draws a direct connection from Non-GMO Project Verification to the small business success of her company, Kaliko Farms.
“I started noticing the butterfly logo in 2013 and it caught my eye,” says Ms. Orian. “I knew that if I wanted to be on the cutting edge of what I do, if I really wanted my product to stand out, there’d be no better way than to have a certifying body say, ‘Yes, your products are non-GMO.’”
Ms. Orian, who had spent her early teens in Saudi Arabia with her airline employee dad and family, took possession of 300 organic pullets (young hens approaching egg-laying age) in 2012 when a friend left the farming business. A self-described city girl, Ms. Orian decided to try farming.
Since then, she’s never looked back. After just three years, Kaliko Farms had expanded to include several fast-growing farms of free-range hens and a small breeding operation north of Los Angeles. Ms. Orian says that demand usually exceeds supply for her unique multicolored eggs, alluringly visible in transparent cartons. The shell colors are determined by the breed of hen. All of the birds are pasture raised.
Catching the Butterfly
Ms. Orian’s interest — and business acumen — was piqued initially by her research into the Non-GMO Project, which led her to the website of the technical administrator FoodChain ID, a third-party expert skilled in managing the Non-GMO Project product verification program. Ms. Orian enrolled in the program.
She worked on the requirements for verification, which include document review, label scanning, completion of forms, and working with suppliers to establish the non-GMO status of their product. Her main point of contact at FoodChain ID was farm specialist Molly Reiff.
“We were on a tight timeline,” recalls Ms. Reiff. “Several stores wanted Kaliko’s eggs, and in particular, she had a significant outstanding request from a customer who required Non-GMO Project Verified eggs. Fortunately, Ms. Orian had been feeding her birds a no-corn, no-soy feed, which results in a lower GMO risk. We could move faster through verification.”
Says Ms. Orian, “I still have many of my email-journals asking Molly every kind of question. She walked me through the program, step by step.”
FoodChain ID’s services include use of SupplyTrak, a web-based supply-chain compliance management tool that automates aspects of Non-GMO Project verification. Ms. Orian’s product and feed details were uploaded into the paperless system used by all FoodChain ID clients, which number in the thousands.
That was ideal for Ms. Orian, since the verification process for animal related products requires in-depth analyses of feed rations and a fine-toothed examination of supplier practices and facilities. In addition, Ms. Orian had to ensure that her pasture and animal bedding were free of GMO-risk components (such as, for example, alfalfa).
Following Up with ‘Those Guys’
Ms. Orion also worked closely with the feed mill. Though she uses a non-GMO feed mix produced by a family-run operation in King City, Calif., she feared delay when it was discovered that the mill would need to comply with newly updated Non-GMO Project Standard requirements.
“The last thing the mill wanted was to have to get in touch with their vendors and follow up with those guys,” says Ms. Orian. But, all went smoothly, and rapidly, and the feed complied with requirements. Ms. Orian’s products earned use of the Non-GMO Project Verified seal.
Business After the Seal
During the process, Ms. Orian became well acquainted with her supply chain, as well as the Non-GMO Project Standard. “I liked that the people at FoodChain ID asked me the detailed questions they did. I liked that they were asking other farmers the same questions, too. It shined a light on every corner of the supply chain.”
FoodChain ID completed Kaliko Farms’ verification process in less than a month, enabling Ms. Orian to meet the deadline for her upcoming contract reliant on Non-GMO Project Verified eggs. In general, timelines for verification vary, depending on the GMO-risk level of the products and ingredients under review.
From the perspective of business opportunity, the seal has been invaluable for Kaliko Farms, which today, according to Ms. Orian, sells out often in its niche market. Looking toward the future, she plans to expand production, relying on FoodChain ID for guidance in making new changes smoothly and in accordance with the Non-GMO Project Standard.
“Non-GMO Project Verified is a business decision that gets you noticed,” says Ms. Orian. “I would say that anybody who wants to make a difference in the marketplace needs to be non-GMO.”