A few years back in a moment of clarity, my husband and I made a decision to vote with our food budget for a more humane planet. We only buy meat from local farmers after personally investigating their farming practices.
We have learned from being members of the Weston A. Price Foundation that nutrient levels in our food are directly correlated to the diet of the animals and their living conditions.
By getting acquainted with the producers of our food, we can choose our food more carefully. Our farmers teach us that there is a species appropriate habitat and diet for each farm animal. Cows and chickens natural habitat is a sunny pasture; a pig’s natural environ is the forest. Cows eat grass and hay, chickens eat bugs and worms, pigs eat nuts, roots, grubs and small mammals.
In contrast, the agribusiness factories confine these poor creatures in cages or barns with concrete floors and florescent lighting. They are force-fed diets inappropriate to their kind. Often they live in crowded, dirty conditions and show signs of distress, such as a pigs chewing off the tail of their crate mates or chickens poking each other with their beaks. Usually the poor pigs have their tails amputated, and the chickens are de-beaked to prevent injury. As someone who refused to de-claw my cat for humane reasons, learning these facts was really alarming.
Garbage In, Garbage Out Applies to the Food we Eat
As to the dietary injustices done by modern industrial scale producers, here are a few examples. In the case of dairy cows, they are fed grain, citrus and chocolate waste, even ethanol plant waste (some dairies are located beside ethanol plants, and their milk cows are the resident “clean-up” crew). Beef cattle may be started on pasture, but spend the end of their lives in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where they often don’t see a blade of grass, and are fed tons of grain. Grain ferments in the cow’s digestive system, which makes them produce lots of gas, and makes them ill. Antibiotics are mixed in with their feed or hoses shoved down their throats, to counteract these negative effects. How can we expect these unhealthy animals to provide healthy food for our families?
Create a Safer Food Supply with Your Buying Power
We have also discovered that animals have rights and their caretakers have a responsibility to care for them with respect. In our modern age, animal husbandry has devolved into brutal animal “science”. A farmer from England on a visit to America toured an American dairy farm, a factory farm. He was disturbed and couldn’t believe it had come to this. “Animals are no longer treated like animals.” He was so shamed by what he saw, to this day he refuses to show his daughter the photos he took on the “farm tour”.
The unsafe and unsanitary living conditions in factory “farms” are a breeding ground for foodborne illness. It is not possible for our government to safeguard our food supply, short of outlawing most of today’s conventional farming practices. So it is up to us, as consumers, to build an alternative food system to ensure our own community’s food is safely produced in pristine conditions with pure, wholesome and loving care by the shepherd’s of every flock and herd. Familiarity with a farm’s animal husbandry practices gives us confidence. We enthusiastically share with our friends, neighbors and family the kindness our farmer shows to his livestock.
Famous farmer, Joel Salatin’s email handle is “husbandman”, which tells you how seriously he takes his role as guardian of his herd. This conscious choice to reach for high standards in husbandry has made Joel’s Polyface Farm world famous. Farmers from many nations attend Joel’s classes to learn from the master husbandman.
Eating Humane Preserves our Farming Heritage
Some people say we should reduce meat in our diet for the environment and our health, which is a “NO” vote on factory farming. We feel that a “YES” vote for humane producers is a more persuasive strategy. A vote for humane farming is both a vote for good health and a vote for better stewardship of the ecology and it doesn’t require a denial of the dietary needs of humans. It may be easier to run a negative campaign, but a positive campaign will attract more support.
I feel that our family’s support of humane animal producers is patronage of traditional farming, the way it used to be before techno-farming came to dominate agriculture. Heritage farming is nearly a lost art, but one that can be revived by the will and conscious choice of informed consumers.
(Note from Kelly: is anyone else CHEERING right now? Thanks, Kimberly!)
Kimberly and Keith Hartke now buy 95% of their groceries directly from local farms. Kimberly serves as a volunteer chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, and is an assistant organizer of the Northern Virginia Whole Foods Nutrition group on meetup.com. She is also the publicist for Sally Fallon Morell, author of the bestselling cookbook, Nourishing Traditions and President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, an international nutrition education non-profit organization. Kimberly blogs about raw milk, real food and home remedies. Follow Kimberly’s blog at www.hartkeisonline.com.
- Your turn: have you been able to make the switch with your food dollars yet? If not, just do what you can, you’ll get there.
- Find meat that is safe, nutritious and from farms that treat their animals humanely.
- Meat your meat – read about when a local art contest got me all riled up.
Karin Valenti says
Our family is the same. I was vegetarian for 15 years and most people still think I am as we do not eat meat from restaurants or at other people’s homes. I started reading Salatin (we even visited his farm this year). Now we eat meat/dairy but only from places we know their practices.
Kimberly Hartke says
Will–Bone broths are one answer to your question. Fish bones are often available for free from seafood counters, bones from grassfed farmers are super low priced. Stew meat and tougher cuts are lower priced and work well for slow cooking or crock pot meals using broth as the base.
Something else to consider, my husband and I eat fewer ounces of meat per meal these days, since grassfed meat with the fat on it is very nutrient dense. One steak can make 2 meals for the two of us (4 servings total), whereas when we ate grain-fed, lean cuts of beef, it took more ounces of meat to reach satiety. So, if it is twice as expensive, but you eat half as much, it really costs the same.
Plus, dropping out all the dining out and convenience foods, processed foods, junk foods, families can save a lot of money. Not to mention, eat poorly now, pay with your health care costs, later!
But here is a blogger who has taken this whole issue on as a challenge. Jenny of Nourished Kitchen did a series of posts called, The Food Stamp Challenge. Check out how she managed to eat sustainably on a food stamp budget:
My only concern about this is that the price of this meat is far more and many are not able to afford it. I’m from Detroit where most can grow at least some vegetables and buy local vegetables if they have transportation to market, but the price of most sustainable, humane meat is out of their price range. I find the whole idea of voting with your dollar to be a little classist as certain people will always have more of a vote. However, this is coming from someone who is very much down with your argument, I only eat meat that I raise and kill myself – which makes me eat 99% vegetarian though. I just haven’t figured out how we can create a system that is humane for animals and accessible to all people in our society. I’d appreciate any ideas!
I have a farm raised Chicken in the oven as we speak. I can no longer buy meat from the Supermarket. Thank you for your very educational post on why the present system is not working. We all need to stick together and change the way we eat. Two for Tuesdays has been a good thing.
Fabulous post…so informative and YES, I was cheering wildly over here!! Thanks so much for sharing with Two for Tuesdays this week…I hope people take the time to click through and read this post…and think on what it means for them and their families. Bravo!
[email protected] says
Thank you for this post. It is our duty to spread the word of sustainable agriculture and the benefit to the human frame, correct animal husbandry. Far too many consume without conscience yet research and run to stand in line for the latest and greatest piece of technology. Unfortunately, that Iphone won’t save their lives from the degenerative disease that poor food choices cause.
Be well everyone.
As we have tried to do more of this, I find that naturally, we eat a more balanced diet. Meat is more expensive, so we eat less of it. And when I really know more about the animals, I am more grateful for them and tend to eat meat more mindfully. Fruits that grow in the area are less plentiful than vegetables, so we naturally eat a lot more greens and savor a few delicious fruits. Obviously, we are nowhere near a hundred percent as we eat bananas and pineapples and we live in Illinois! And I do enjoy an occasional cup of coffee. But the trend is interesting.
Cathy Payne says
Thanks, Kelly. I’m sure you’ll love the interview with Kimberly.
Cathy Payne says
Great guest post! Jon and I started our podcast as a way to answer the questions we got about how to shop from farms rather than grocery stores. We made the switches for all the reasons you stated plus the delicious taste and all the wonderful relationships made with our local farmers. After admiring them and visiting so much on the farm, it seemed a natural step to walk the walk a bit more and produce our own food! So far that is only veggies but we soon hope to have nuts, fruits, meat, and eggs produced on our own property for our health and for customers in our community. Seeing the animals thriving on fresh grass and enjoying their lives on pasture brings me incredible joy. Thanks, Kimberly, for sharing your story and I’ll look forward to talking with you more about your commitment and passion this week.
I love your podcast show Cathy!
Thank you for your blog and all the good information that you put out. It has definitely influenced some of the changes we are making in our diet. Tomorrow we are going to a farm in our area that has grass fed beef, good chickens and pork! I am very excited. Polyface is a few hours away but this farm is much closer. My next quest is to find raw milk.
Jan, I wanted to make sure you knew about http://www.realmilk.com? 🙂
Stanley Fishman says
Outstanding post! Way to go, Kimberly! Encouraging good and humane farming is the only solution. if anything should be banned, it is cafos and factory farming, not the animal foods we need to be healthy.