Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Conscience of FOOD

I do get tired of people talking about being vegetarians because of the cruel way in which animals were KILLED so we can eat them. That's not really the issue. The way they die is much more humane than the way they live. We pump them full of feed that hurts them, we fill them with hormones so their bodies behave unnaturally, and even have bred into them the inability to reproduce. To me, their LIVES are the crime, not their deaths.

So, I don't believe that eating meat means that we are compromising our spiritual relationship with the earth-- if we know where it came from and can condone its experience.

It's not just spirituality-- it's health. Everything we put into those animals is put into us and becomes a part of us. Want growth hormones? Here's a nice glass of milk!

Animals can live happy and productive lives in a more natural environment, without being filled with improper diets and drugs to manipulate them for the table. The food from such animals is much healthier-- and it really doesn't take that much.

I'm the first to admit that my family eats a lot of meat in a year. I figured my amounts by the week, and rounded (up) to how much meat my family consumes annually. That was my first step. I figure we eat around 200 poultry (chicken and ground turkey mostly) 300 lbs of beef and 200 lbs of other meat. I know, it sounds like a lot-- but thats about 150 chickens, 50 turkeys, half a steer, and half or so of an oinker...

Eating chickens cost about 13 cents each when you buy them as chicks from a hatchery. In twelve-fourteen weeks they eat, poop, drink an incredible amount of water, and are ready for slaughter. A crossbreed-- these birds cannot survive much longer than that on their own... or you can go for meat bird that CAN live and reproduce and wait 16 weeks to be ready to eat them. As long as they are protected from wild animals and have ready access to food water, and grass, you don't really have to worry that much about them-- happier lives already.

One young steer costs, around here, about $50-$150 at weaning-- they cost between $100-$300 at slaughter age (under a year). The neat thing is-- they graze.

Squealers (pigs) love leftovers. They're omnivores. They also forage well.

Eggs from grass fed, free range chickens have more Omega-3 fatty acids in them-- they have less cholesterol in them than the ones from the grocery store...

But who want to raise all this themselves, right?

Luckily there are animal shares available all over the place. Organic, free range animals should be bought directly from where they were raised when possibly, so you can guarantee that they really are organic and not just 'by the letter' organic.

I do intend to do this myself. I also intend to use animals more suited to my area-- miniature cattle that eat less and still produce well, pygmy and miniature goats for dairy. Heritage plants that breed true so you can use the seeds the next year would be in my garden.

I would like to build a straw bale house-- using locally grown straw-- have my own well-- have solar panels-- rely as little on the outside world for food as possible.

But not everyone wants these things. But I think education about this sort of life is important-- does agriculture have to guzzle gas? What about Shire Draft horses pulling a plow? What about getting ones hands dirty?

Where does your food come from? Has it consumed more gas energy than you get from eating it?

What's available locally, do you even know?

I hope to open my doors at my heritage farm to allow tours and schools-- to show people how to make yogurt and butter and cheese the old way, how to garden and preserve and store food, how to live with what we have-- and live well. Teach how to spin, to weave, to make beautiful fabric by hand-- using local plants to dye the material.

I'm not talking about taking my kids back to the stone age. I want to have everything we have now-- but live better food-wise for my calories going into the earth and coming out again as beautiful, healthy, food, that I know everything about.

Eating without returning anything but wrappers to the earth makes me feel strangely-- I feel that I should be putting something of myself into everything I eat. The small harvest from my current garden (in flower pots on my front step) are so much more satisfying to me than anything we buy.

I think my interest in this topic is strengthened by my food sensitivities. I can't afford to put something in me that is going to hurt me. My diet is so limites already-- without wheat-- without legumes-- very little dairy (just cheese, really, and that sparingly), citris and tomatoes on occassion... I have to be very careful about what I put into my body. It would be nice to pretend I don't have the food issues, but I do, and I intend to live well anyway-- better than well-- I intend to live healthier and better than those who don't have my health issues.

Yes, animals die to feed us, so do plants-- everyone of us will eventually die-- we will return to the earth and become part of the molecular build up of our planet. What's unnatural is our lack of involvement with our food-- not that we eat it at all.

Who will plant the wheat?
Who will harvest the grain?
Who will grind the wheat to make flour?
Who will make the bread?
Now, who will help me eat?

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