Friday, September 7, 2007

humanely-raised food

I thought I'd talk a little bit about what I'm eating these days, with regard to meat and eggs.

Eggs and chicken - I buy local, pasture-raised eggs and chicken. Anyone who has read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan knows that "free range" doesn't mean diddly-squat in the world of food production. Birds can still be crammed into pens, only these pens have a little door leading to a very small yard. The door stays shut for the first two weeks while the birds learn their surroundings. After this time it is opened, but the chickens have already set their world boundaries in their brains - so they never go outside.

I buy eggs from farmers who pasture-raise them. The chickens get to run around outside, eating bugs (so they are not "vegetarian-fed" but they are certainly not fed chicken parts in their food!) and doing chicken things. Chickens are big fans of this. Trust me, egg production was one of my 4-H projects as a kid. I cleaned chicken (and duck and goose and turkey) coops for 7 years. Chickens aren't brilliant, but they can still experience enjoyment (as well as suffering.)

I don't buy meat at the grocery store anymore. I do not want to support factory farming, and I don't trust the labeling for free-range meats. Our meat is more expensive now, but we eat less of it - and I work hard to utilize every scrap and bone.

Beef - I buy grass-fed beef and only grass-fed beef (from local farmers of course.) While feeding cows grain will produce a nice marbling of the meat, it is at a terrible cost. Cows are meant to eat grass. Corn (thanks to the crazy-huge corn surpluses in the US, cows get fed corn) causes all sorts of health problems for cows, from bloat and gastritis and all the way to liver failure (they are usually slaughtered just as their livers fail.) Why do you think cows are fed so many antibiotics? It's because they are crammed together in feedlots, knee-deep in shit, eating acidic grains that destroy their stomach lining and liver. E coli loves shit and an acid environment, so CAFO's (concentrated animal feeding operations) are pretty much perfectly designed for that. And you know the whole mad cow scare? Do you know how cows get it? From eating the diseased tissue of other cows. There is now legislation that makes it illegal to feed the brains and spinal cords of cows to livestock. But everything else is okay, legally. What kind of twisted and, excuse me, fucked up world do we live in, when feeding animal parts back to animals is a common animal husbandry practice? If people deem this as acceptable, then the world of soylent green can't be far away.

I buy my beef from Ed and Nancy of Long Meadows grass beef or Dick from Flying J Farm. I like to be able to shake the hands of the people who raise my meat, and know that they care for, and about their animals.

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