“Eggs Over Easy, Hold the GMOs”
Kaliko Orian, a native of Hawaii who found her calling as an egg farmer on California’s Central Coast, draws a direct connection from acquiring the Non-GMO Project Verified label for her products 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.’”
In 2002, Ms. Orian took possession of 300 organic pullets (young hens approaching egg-laying age) when a friend left the farming business. A self-described city girl, Ms. Orian decided to try her hand at farming.
Since then, she has 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 their transparent cartons. The shell colors are determined by the breed of hen (all of which 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 FoodChain ID, a technical administrator skilled in managing the Non-GMO Project’s product verification program. Ms. Orian enrolled in the program.
Over the next weeks, Ms. Orian worked to fulfill the requirements for verification, which include label scanning, document review, forms completion, and working with suppliers to establish the non-GMO status of their product. During the process, Ms. Orian was aided by her contact at FoodChain ID, farm specialist Molly Reiff.
“We were on a tight timeline,” recalls Ms. Reiff, “since several stores wanted Kaliko’s Non-GMO Project Verified eggs. Since Kaliko had been feeding her birds a no-corn, no-soy feed, which is a lower GMO-risk, we were able to move rapidly through verification.”
Says Ms. Orian, “I still have many of my email-journals where I asked Molly every kind of question. She patiently walked me through the program, step by step, right to verification.”
Ms. Orian used FoodChain ID’s SupplyTrak software, an online supply-chain compliance management tool that automates many aspects of Non-GMO Project verification. Ms. Orian was required to upload her product and feed details into the paperless SupplyTrak system, which is relied upon by all FoodChain ID clients.
SupplyTrak 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’
Though Ms. Orian uses a non-GMO feed mix for her hens produced by a family-run feed mill in King City, Calif., she feared a delay when the Non-GMO Project Standard requirements were newly updated, with which the mill would have to comply.
“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, as the feed was in compliance with requirements. After completing this step, the verification was achieved and she obtained the use of the Non-GMO Project Verified seal for her eggs.
Business After the Seal
On the way to verification, Ms. Orian became well acquainted with her supply chain, as well as with the Non-GMO Project Standard, the guiding document which lays out the requirements for verification.
“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, which enabled 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 Non-GMO Project Verified label has been invaluable to Kaliko Farms’ success. The company’s egg products, according to Ms. Orian, sell out often in their market. Looking forward, she plans to expand production, relying on FoodChain ID for guidance on future verifications.
“Getting Non-GMO Project Verified is a business decision that gets you noticed,” says Ms. Orian. “Anybody who wants to make a difference in the marketplace needs to be non-GMO.”