Wednesday, August 01, 2007

You are what you eat

Ever wonder why we go to such bother to raise our own chickens, eggs, milk & hopefully beef, when it's simpler and cheaper to buy these products at the grocery store? A brief look at factory farming was enough to start us on this path (in addition to just enjoying the animals themselves). For starters, it's called 'factory farming' because the animals are kept in industrial conditions. Here is a definition from Sustainable Table:

"A large-scale industrial site where many animals (generally chickens, turkeys, cattle, or pigs) are confined and treated with hormones and antibiotics to maximize growth and prevent disease. The animals produce much more waste than the surrounding land can handle. These operations are associated with various environmental hazards as well as cruelty to animals."

The cheap chicken that has become so ubiquitous to the dinner table in various bits, pieces and stages of pre-cookery is generally raised with no more floor space than the size of a sheet of paper. It is crammed in with other birds so that none of them have room to move. Their beaks are usually cut off to prevent them from hurting each other (or themselves) and they are kept in the dark. Add to that the constant dosages of vaccines, antibiotics and hormones that make their way into our bodies and water systems. Read more about it here - What is a Factory Farm?

Another thing to keep in mind is that most "store-bought" critters are fed some horrible things - poop, body parts, garbage, plastic, blood, road kill, even euthanized pets! All completely legal. Cows are fed chicken bedding, and "...pig carcasses can be rendered and fed back to pigs, chicken carcasses can be rendered and fed back to chickens, and turkey carcasses can be rendered and fed back to turkeys. Even cattle can still be fed cow blood and some other cow parts."

I'll spare everyone the actual pictures of factory farms and descriptions of what all the manure and dead animals they generate does to our environment. See for yourself here Animal photo gallery and here Animal waste "treatment".

Not everyone can grow their own meat. You might want to try keeping laying hens (they're legal in many cities). But everyone can make an effort to look for farmers raising healthy happy animals for meat and eggs. Here are a couple of places to start looking - Eat Well Guide and Eat Wild. Also try your local farmer's market. This site is a good place to look if you're not sure where to find them - Local Harvest.

Upcoming posts will talk about why just buying "organic" isn't always a guarantee of quality food grown in healthy ways, and also get into the nitty gritty of raw milk vs. cooked milk.

1 comment:

Manerva said...

Sad, sad, sad. We have tons of factory farms around here and more keep going up. Most people except for neighbors are for it, and it just makes me sick.