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Sustainable Eater Posts

Everything is Corn

Posted in Food for Thought

Corn is an amazing plant. It has managed to insert itself in nearly every facet of modern daily life. It dominates the food pyramid from top to bottom. Many breads contain corn syrup, added gluten, corn starch, etc. all of these ingredients can be derived from corn. Breakfast cereals frequently contain corn syrup, corn flour, corn starch, maltodextrin, and many other corn products.

If you shop at the grocery store, corn is in nearly every product. Even if you don’t recognize it on the label. Many of those esoteric ingredients you find on a label can be derived from corn. Maltodextrin, lecithin, MSG, Artificial flavorings, just to name a few. Did you think citric acid came from oranges? Chances are it came from corn.

Corn feeds nearly every type of livestock. Beef, chickens, pigs, turkey, tilapia, and even salmon, a carnivore, eat corn. Eggs are made of corn. Milk is made of corn. Soda is made with corn syrup. Beer is fermented with glucose, derived from corn. Chicken nuggets are made from chicken that’s made of corn, covered in corn flour, and fried in corn oil. That cheap honey you bought may be more corn than bee.

Even if you’re not buying food, you’re probably still buying corn. Namely corn starch. Many glues are made with corn starch. Corn starch baby powder is becoming more popular with the revelation that talcum powder may cause cancer. Batteries, matches, cleaners, cosmetics, deodorant, aspirin, cough drops, and medicines. These all contain corn starch. Even trash bags may use cornstarch to keep the bags from sticking together.

Corn oil is used to make plastics. It is also used to make fuel to run our cars. Corn ethanol is touted as a green alternative to gasoline. Yet it is made in a process that is far from green. And it may even be harmful to your car’s engine. Not all vehicles are designed to run on ethanol.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, 88% of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified.1 Unless you are buying an organic product, then chances are the corn it contains in genetically modified.

You may wonder, “Isn’t this a good thing? Isn’t more corn good a good thing?” Well it’s certainly for the economy and for the food companies. They profit off this cheap corn. It may even be a good thing for corn growers. At least the farmers who are big enough to not require a day job to pay the bills.

Processed Corn Products are Dangerous

High Fructose Corn Syrup. Surely you’ve heard of it. It is one of the most prolific of the corn products behind only corn starch. Unlike glucose, fructose has to be metabolized by the liver before it can be used.2 Overconsumption of HFCS can lead to liver damage similar to what you would find in an alcoholic.3

MSG is primarily made from soy or corn, but can be made from many other grains. Is associated with cancer, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.4 

Citric Acid is produced by the fermentation of crude sugars. Corn usually provides the cheapest source of sugar. During processing, protein left in the citric acid becomes hydrolyzed, producing some processed free glutamic acid (MSG). citric acid may interact with any protein in the food product, freeing up even more glutamic acid.5

Vegetable Oil is made from corn, soy, cottonseed, or canola. They are refined in a highly industrial process. Solvents are used to extract the maximum amount of oil from the grain. Processing may include degumming, bleaching, deodorizing, filtering and removing saturates to make the oils more liquid. All this processing removes nutrients and antioxidants, but not the solvents and pesticides.6

Shortening and Margarine are made by subjecting vegetable oil to a process called partial hydrogenation. The oil is mixed with a nickel catalyst then flooded with hydrogen gas under high temperature and pressure. This is the process that creates trans fatty acids. As you may know, trans fats have been linked to many diseases such as: cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.7

Growing Corn doesn’t Pay (much)

Growing corn can’t be all bad. Otherwise there would be no one growing it. It’s pretty obvious that farmers aren’t doing it for the money. Their mission is to help feed the world. There aren’t many corn farmers getting rich off growing corn. The problem is the price, Which farmers have no control over.

The price of corn in Iowa in September 2016 was $2.90 a bushel.8 According to Iowa State University, the average cost to grow a bushel of corn is between $4.00 and $4.75.9 That’s still a deficit of over a dollar per bushel even on the low side. This is where corn subsidies come in. The government sends a check to corn farmers to keep them from going out of business. Despite this extra money, many farmers are still only breaking even. They have to take day jobs to pay the bills.

Corn is grown in giant monocultures. Hybridization and genetic modification have created high yield varieties. High yield does not mean more corn per plant. Instead, it means you can plant the corn closer together to get more plants per acre. Farmers can now squeeze 30,000 plants into one acre.10 Squeezing so many identical plants into each acre can lead to disease and pest problems.

In 1970 and 1971 corn fields were attacked by a fungal disease named “race T”. it caused the southern corn leaf blight which ravaged fields and left withered plants, broken stalks, and rotted or misshapen corn cobs. Race T was able to spread so rapidly due to the uniformity of the corn plants. Every single plant in a field was derived from the same source. Mostly from a single Texas male sterile line. The genetic makeup of this new hybrid corn which was responsible for its rapid growth was also responsible for its vulnerability to disease.11

The Federal Crop Insurance Program offers insurance against such disasters. However, depending on how much a farmer is willing to spend on premiums, the insurance may not cover a total loss.

Everything is Fertilizer

If everything is corn, then by extension, everything is fertilizer. Most of the corn grown in the world is grown using chemical fertilizers. Corn is a very greedy plant, It uses more fertilizer than any other crop grown on earth. And to make matters worse, most farmers over-fertilize their fields as a sort of yield insurance.

Some of this excess ammonia evaporates into the air, acidifying the rain and contributing to global warming when it turns from ammonium nitrate to nitrous oxide. Still more pollutes ground water when it seeps down with rainwater. This is a natural process, what’s not natural is the chemicals.

Most of the extra fertilizer washed off the fields by rain and ends up in the nearest river. Des Moines, Iowa issues “blue baby alerts” each spring. Citizens are warned not to give tap water to children. From there it flows down the Mississippi river to the Gulf of Mexico. The flood of nitrogen stimulates an algae bloom which uses up the oxygen and smothers the fish. This has resulted in a dead zone the size of New Jersey. 10

The commercial chemical fertilizer typically used in corn farming is a type of NPK fertilizer mix. The N stand for nitrogen, the P stands for phosphate, and the K stands for potassium. These minerals require extensive mining and industrial processing to refine.

How Fertilizer is Made

Nitrogen fertilizers are made from ammonia. Ammonia is made by Combining nitrogen and hydrogen gases under immense heat and pressure in the presence of a catalyst. The hydrogen is usually supplied by natural gas, the nitrogen is supplied by the air. This process requires a lot of electricity.

Phosphate fertilizer requires mining various phosphate rock. Two processes are used: Wet and Dry. In the wet process, the rock is crushed and treated with sulfuric or nitric acid to produce phosphoric acid. In the dry process, phosphate rock is heated in an electric furnace to produce a very pure phosphoric acid. This method is more expensive due to the high electricity usage.

Potassium consists of one or more types of potash. Potash ores are often located deep below the earth’s surface requiring the use of conventional shaft mining. The ore is then ground up and put through several purification steps to remove salt.

The largest component of NPK fertilizer is nitrogen, and there’s good reason for that. All life on earth depends of nitrogen. Nature uses nitrogen to assemble amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, etc. the nitrogen used in commercial fertilizer comes from a fossil fuel. We’ve gone from turning sunlight into food, to turning fossil fuel into food.

1 bushel of corn takes up to ⅓ gallon of oil to grow. That’s about 50 gallons an acre. It takes over 1 calorie of fossil fuel energy to grow 1 calorie of corn. It would be much more efficient if we could drink the oil directly.10

It’s cheaper to grow corn this way economically, but not ecologically. But growing the corn is not the only wasteful step in food production. Now we have to process the corn.

Processing Corn is Wasteful

It takes 5 gallons of water to process 1 bushel of corn. This process consumes a lot of energy. 1 calorie of processed food takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce.10 The remaining 9 calories are waste. Luckily for these companies, energy is so cheap that they can afford to waste that much energy and still make a profit.

The number one reason corn syrup is cheaper than sugar is because corn is extremely cheap. Corn is so cheap because it is grown with cheap fertilizer, transported using cheap fuel, and processed using cheap electricity.

One 16 ounce box of cereal provides 1,100,000 calories of food energy, but takes 7,000,000 calories of energy to produce.11 That box of cereal contains about 4 cents worth of grain, but it’s sold for around $4.00 a box.10 How’s that for a profit margin? Who cares how much energy we waste? The money is rolling in.

It’s Time to Change Our Buying Habits

Don’t like all the negative? Here’s how to change your dependence on corn and soy. First, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Does your food heal the land, or pillage it? Does your food require fertilizers mined from mountains and oceans, then transported thousands of miles to the land it grows on? How much energy does it take to produce your food? Is it less than the energy is provides?

The easiest way to change this is to cook more food yourself using whole and raw ingredients. Organic farming requires less fossil fuel energy to grow since they do not use man made chemical fertilizer. It also eliminates much of the pollution inherent in conventional farming. The only major pollution cost is transportation. Buying locally grown food will reduce that even further. So visit your local farmer’s market. Seek out local farms. You’ll be glad you did.

 

References

  1. phys.org/news/2013-06-gmo-corn-soybeans-dominate.html
  2. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2002 Vol. 76, No. 5, 911-922.
  3. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/modern-foods/sugar-alert-references/
  4. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/msg-update-summer-2007/
  5. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-difficulty-in-keeping-msg-free/
  6. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry/
  7. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/trans-fats-in-the-food-supply/
  8. www.iowaagriculture.gov/agMarketing/historic/2016GrainPrices.asp
  9. www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a1-20.pdf
  10. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2006
  11. Soil Not Oil, Vandana Shiva, 2015

What is Elitist?

Posted in Food for Thought

One of the biggest criticisms of local and organic food is that it’s too expensive. That it’s only for elites who have a lot of money. And it’s true that local and organic food is more expensive. But that’s not because this food has increased in price. Conventional food has gone down in price.

1950 Prices vs 2010 Prices

In the 60 years after 1950 the dollar went down in value 850%. This is called inflation. The average income went up by 1200%. That means that a person making $40,000 in 2010 could support 12 families in 1950. The $2.75 your spent on one gallon of gas in 2010 could have filled your tank in 1950. You could have sent 14 letters in 1950 using only one 2010 postage stamp. That’s a 1,400% increase.3

The one sector that did not go up significantly was food. Staple items such as milk, eggs, hamburger, chicken, steak, etc went up by only 300% – 400%. Instead of getting a cart full of milk, you only get an extra two gallons. The same for eggs. You only get 3 dozen eggs for the price of one dozen in 2010.3

When I adjust the 1950s prices for inflation, you’ll see that something’s not right. Eggs were $.60 a dozen in 1950, adjusted for inflation they should be $5.00 a dozen. Instead, they’re $1.50 a dozen. Milk was $.82 a gallon, it should be $6.85 a gallon. Chicken was $.43 a pound then, it should be $3.60 a pound now. All of these staple items should cost 2-3 times as much as they do.3

This price discrepancy only pertains to basic food items such as: meats, eggs, milk, etc. You know, the type of stuff you would buy from a local farmer. Processed foods, however, they’re more expensive than ever. Their prices increased by 1,300% or more. While at the same time, the amount of money the farmers make off this food went down.3

Bread was $.15 in 1950, inflation says is should only cost $1.25. Instead is costs $2.00 or more. Soda cost $.07 in 1950. It should only cost $.58. Instead it costs about $.75.3

My question to you is, why? Why is processed food MORE expensive when the basic ingredients are LESS expensive? Wheat is cheaper than it’s ever been in history, yet bread is more expensive than it’s ever been. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup is cheaper, but soda is more expensive. This means higher profits for the food companies. Not for the farmers.

The money being made in the food industry is being made in processing. A bushel of corn yields about 33lbs of High Fructose Corn Syrup. That 33 lbs sells for about $13. Sounds cheap, right? Well the bushel of corn cost only $3.00.2 That’s means that the processing company is selling the corn syrup for over four times what they paid for the corn. Not that they’re making a ton of money. It’s very energy intensive to process corn syrup.

You Spend How Much?

Isn’t it elitist to pay $100 a month for television, another $100+ for cell phones, and at least $50 for internet? That’s $250 a month for things that no one had 50 years ago. They did just fine without them. This is all a form of elitism. There are well over a billion people that don’t have these luxuries. In fact, there are many parts of the would that do not even have electricity.

“But my son needs his cell phone. How will I know where he is if I can’t call him?” says every parent nowadays. You don’t want them to get kidnapped or worse.

But what about kids in the 70s, 80s or 90s? What did they do? Did they all get kidnapped or lost? No, they were responsible enough to figure it out. They knew when and where to meet their parents. And if they didn’t, they found a phone and called their parents. They knew to be home by dark. Not because they’re parents called them, but because they remembered on their own. It seems to me, kids in the 70s were more responsible than kids are now.

Having a cell phone means that your kids don’t have to worry about remembering where to meet or when. They’ll just call mommy. Or better yet, mommy will track them down using the GPS.

Every time I visit a relative with teenagers, I hear about how one of the kids stayed out late and didn’t call. Sometimes they don’t even answer their phone. What could be easier than pulling you phone out of your pocket and calling mom? Kids in as late as the 90s didn’t have that luxury. They had to go in search of a phone.

Having that constraint meant that kids had to think ahead. They had to plan. How often do you ask yourself, “What were those kids thinking?”. Answer: they weren’t. They don’t have to think ahead. They can get a hold of mom and dad anytime they want. That breeds a sort of laziness. Being lazy is a luxury that only elite countries can afford.

Luxury is Elitist

I would argue that being overweight is elitist. Being overweight is a luxury that many millions of people around the world do not have. Children in many parts of the world are starving. They would do anything to fill their stomachs. Meanwhile Americans complain if the price of milk or eggs go up by 10 cents. That’s elitist.

Likewise, being lazy is a luxury. If you’re a poor farmer in a developing country, being lazy means you don’t eat. If you’re lazy in the United States, you can always get food stamps. “But isn’t that a good thing?” you may ask. I don’t think so. The US has the highest rates of obesity and obesity related conditions than any other country. Why? Because we eat more cheap processed food than any other country.

I call this food cheap because it is. If a food company made it’s processed food with pasture raised meats and sustainably grown grains and produce, it would cost twice as much. Ezekial bread costs $5.00 a loaf, not because they’re selling to elites, but because that’s what it costs to source decent ingredients.

Don’t Blame the Farmers

Every time someone complains about the cost of local food, they want to blame the farmers. Why is it always the farmer’s fault? We can’t help it that big food companies have developed a system where they can grow food cheaper using abusive practices, cheap fertilizer, and underpaid farmers and food workers.

Why is no one upset with the food companies who make billions off the food you eat? Conventional farmers make pennies compared to what these companies make. Yet somehow these companies have managed to shift the blame away from themselves and onto the farmers.

Most of the shoppers at a farmer’s market would be offended if a farmer showed up driving a BMW. Meanwhile, they’re perfectly happy that they’re doctor, lawyer, or accountant drives a BMW. Why the double standard? Isn’t the farmer who grows the food you eat just as important as your doctor? I’d argue he’s more important. You eat his food everyday, you only see your doctor a few times a year.

You can argue that it’s not fair that poor people are stuck eating cheap unhealthy food while people with money can afford healthy food. I agree, it’s not fair. But again, that’s not our fault. It’s not our fault that the food industry has built a system based on food that’s unhealthy. It’s not our fault that the government subsidies this system.

Efficient isn’t Always Better

Local food is not made artificially cheap by government subsidies and cheap fossil fuels. Sustainable farms cannot benefit from economies of scale. At least not the way conventional farming does. Economy of scale dictates that you raise animals in abusive conditions. That you grow massive amounts of one crop using fertilizers that pollute the environment. That you pay your farmers very little.

Sustainable farming is inefficient compared to conventional farming. One conventional farmer can grow 100,000+ chickens at a time. A sustainable farmer cannot even come close to that. Maybe 2,000 pastured chickens at a time. Sustainable farming requires more labor per animal. But is that a bad thing?

To some people, it is. They claim that we can’t feed the world unless farmers can grow thousands of bushels of corn by themselves. Efficiency is the only consideration. There’s no consideration for pollution, erosion, or the fact that if we run out of cheap energy, this system collapses. Nope, only efficiency.

Our culture is obsessed with efficiency. High efficiency appliances, fuel efficient cars, computers have made office work more efficient. But efficiency isn’t always a good thing. Factories become more efficient, then lay off workers. Farms have become more efficient, at the expense of the animals and the environment. 20,000 birds in one house is very efficient, but it’s not very humane. 30,000 corn plants to an acre is efficient. But it requires so much fertilizer that runoff creates a dead zone in the gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey.1

So the next time you’re comparing prices between local food and supermarket fare, remember. We’re charging what the food actually costs. That’s not elitist. Elitist is the attitude that we should get our food cheap at the expense of the farmers, the environment, and our own health. Does your food heal, or destroy?

 

  1. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2006
  2. www.iowaagriculture.gov/agMarketing/historic/2016GrainPrices.asp
  3. http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1950s.html

Don’t Throw Out the Yolks!

Posted in Food for Thought

No Yolks, egg beaters, yolk free omelettes. These products are touted as a health revolution. Finally we’re free from those blasted yolks. So what’s wrong with yolk? Well, nothing really, but they contain Cholesterol and Saturated Fat. Two of the most vilified substances in food.

For years we’ve been told not to eat eggs. They can lead to heart disease, we’re told. The advice worked. Americans now eat approximately 41 fewer eggs per year than a century ago. According to Mary Enig PhD, American’s consumption of saturated fat has decreased by 21% over the course of the 21th century.

What hasn’t changed is the rates of stroke and heart disease. They have not gone down. At best they have merely remained the same. How can this be?

It’s very simple. The advice is wrong.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol are not Your Enemy

Saturated fats play many important roles in the body. The lungs and kidneys cannot work without saturated fat. Saturated fats provide integrity to the cell walls, promote the use of essential fatty acids, enhance the immune system, protect the liver, and contribute to strong bones.

Our bodies need saturated fat. If we don’t have enough, our body will make it out of carbohydrates and excess protein. Breast milk contains saturated fat. Over half the fat in the brain is saturated fat. Humans have been consuming saturated fats for thousands of years. Heart disease, obesity, stroke, and diabetes are recent epidemics. A century ago they were rare, now they are commonplace.

Naturally occurring cholesterol contributes to the strength of the intestinal wall. Cholesterol helps babies and children develop a healthy brain and nervous system. Food that contains cholesterol also contain many other important nutrients. Only oxidized cholesterol, found in most powdered eggs and milk, contributes to heart disease.

Eggs are a Complete Food

Eggs are nature’s perfect food. Mankind has been eating eggs for millennia. An egg contains all the nutrients needed to grow a chick from embryo to a two day old chick. Egg yolks provide an excellent source of protein. They contain the gamut of vitamins and essential fatty acids that contribute to the health of the brain and nervous system. It’s no wonder that asian cultures value eggs as a brain food.

Most of these vitamins and nutrients are in the yolk. Egg yolks are the most concentrated source known of choline, a B vitamin, that is necessary for keeping cholesterol moving in the bloodstream.

Pastured Eggs are the Best Eggs

The eggs you buy in the supermarket are not the same as the ones you buy at the farmer’s market. It doesn’t matter how many certifications they have or how big they print “Free Range.” Even the organic eggs are raised in the same type of barns as the cheap eggs. Sure, some of them get to run free inside the barn, and they may even have access to outside. Hence the term free range. But having access to a small dirt yard does not make a healthy egg.

Pastured eggs are laid by hens out on pasture. They get to eat fresh grass and live bugs every day. This is how chickens are supposed to live. Not forced to walk across a floor layered in weeks old poop to get to their feed and water.

Properly produced eggs are rich in virtually every nutrient we’ve ever discovered. And many we haven’t yet discovered. Pastured eggs have both Omega-3 and Omega-6 in nearly equal proportions. CAFO eggs have as much as 19 times as much Omega-6 than Omega-3. Many other nutrients necessary for the development of brain are found in pastured eggs but are almost wholly absent in CAFO eggs.

Another problem with commercial organic eggs is freshness. The sell by date on organic eggs is based on the packing date, not the date they were laid. This means that organic eggs could be up to a month older than regular eggs. Certification is no guarantee of quality. If you don’t know where your eggs come from, then you don’t know if they’re any good.

Don’t Eat Powdered Eggs

Powdered eggs contain oxidized cholesterol. Dr. Fred Kummerow said in a new York Times interview: “Cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, except if it’s oxidized.” Oxidation happens in the drying process. In order to dry the eggs they must be exposed to air.

Powdered eggs come from industrial cracked eggs. These eggs can’t be sold in cartons so they are separated and sent to a grinder, shells and all. These shells may have manure or chlorine on them. The eggs get pushed through a screen to separate the egg from the shell. They are then dried to make powdered eggs.

 

Farmers Driving BMWs

Posted in Food for Thought

I was watching a talk by Joel Salatin recently and he brought up this topic. It inspired me to take the subject and expand upon it.

I have a question to ask you.

What would you do if your farmer showed up at the next Farmer’s Market driving a BMW?

Would you be offended?:  “He’s gouging us!”

Would you be annoyed?:  “He’s making as much money as my lawyer.”

Now ask yourself this: Would you be offended if your doctor showed up in a BMW?

Probably not.

Why?

Because you want to know that your doctor is successful. Driving a BMW means that your doctor is successful. Being successful means that he’s smart and knows what he’s doing.

So why are some people against farmers making the same kind of living as their doctor?

What’s the difference between your doctor and your farmer? I would argue that your farmer is the more important one. Your farmers grows the food you eat everyday, your doctor only treats you when you get sick. Get sick after eating unhealthy food. You can live without a doctor, you can’t live without a farmer.

Why should your farmer have to make so much less than your doctor?

For the last 75 years, most of the major crops in the united states have been subsidized. This is because farmers cannot make a living wage selling their products at commodity prices. This has created a public that is used to cheap food. They don’t understand that it costs much more to raise this food than what they’re paying in the grocery store.

Smart & skilled people don’t work for minimum wage.

Farmers should be able to make a decent living. If they can’t, then unskilled people will be the only ones growing our food. We will have to worry about contaminants and heavy metals. E-coli in our spinach. Millions of pounds of contaminated meat being recalled. Not to mention all the food that comes from other countries.

Not all countries have strict laws on quality control of food items. You may remember the scare about arsenic in chinese apple juice. There was mercury in farm raised fish. Lead paints in children’s toys, dog chews, etc. Our government cannot check every container that comes through a port. In fact, they check less than 2%.

Underpaid people don’t care about quality, they have other things to worry about. Like how to feed their own family. They don’t care if your spinach ends up with E-Coli on it. They just collect their meager paycheck and go home.

This is the situation we have with industrial factory farming. The big corporations force everything into a system, then hire the cheapest people they can find to do the jobs. Much like McDonald’s. McDonald’s doesn’t have to pay more than minimum wage, because anyone can do each job.

Americans suffer from what I call the Walmart Mentality. They want everything: cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. And they don’t care about quality anymore. If it breaks, they’ll just buy another one. It’s cheap.

Let’s take a chicken farmer for example. Many of them make less than the average office worker. There are many chicken farmers that may have 20,000, 40,000, or even 60,000 chickens on their farm at a time, but the salary they earn isn’t even enough to quit their day job.

Is it really that important that you can buy 50 chicken nuggets for $15?

Quality Costs More

You may not like that Roto-Rooter charges twice as much as Dave’s Plumbing, but you can be sure that Roto-Rooter won’t put a hole in your pipes or track mud through your living room. That’s the cost of quality.

The same can be said about food. When local farmers charge twice as much as the supermarket, it’s not because we’re trying to gouge our customers. This is how much it really costs to raise high quality meats. It’s very labor intensive to make sure every chicken has fresh clean pasture everyday. It costs more to buy NON-GMO feed by the ton, instead of by the trainload. We don’t want the cheapest feed possible. We want quality feed.

Now I ask you, who should be driving the BMW?

 

10 Reasons to Eat Local Pasture Raised Meats

Posted in Food for Thought

You have a choice. You don’t have to support the industrial farming system anymore. There a plenty of local farms in your state producing pasture raised meat, ethically, while healing the environment instead of destroying it.

1. Pasture Based Farms are More Humane than Factory Farms

Conventional chickens and pigs live their entire life in a crowded building, stressed and desperate for fresh air. Even organic. Factory farms cut Chickens’ beaks off to reduce cannibalism in the crowded stressful environment. The same goes for pigs. A farmer will cut a pigs’ tail off to keep the others from chewing on them.

Even beef is not immune to the influence of the factory farm. Even though most cows spend a good portion of their early lives in the pasture, most are finished out in feedlots where they are forced to stand knee deep in manure. Feedlots feed the cheapest grains available mixed with various wastes from brewhouses, industrial food processors and even waste from slaughter facilities. So much for cows being herbivores.

This is not the case at pasture based farms. All animals live outside in the sunshine and fresh air. There is no need to feed animals antibiotics because they are not forced to live their lives wallowing in their own waste. Their beaks and tails can be left intact with no fear of fighting or cannibalism. This is accomplished by giving the animals plenty of room to move around.

Cows are kept in the pasture right up till the butcher date. As are chickens and pigs. This is where they want to be. All animals love grass, they also love sunshine. They get plenty of both on pasture based farms.

2. Pasture Raised Meats are Healthier than Conventional Meat

Animals were never meant to eat the same thing every day. Chickens are supposed to eat bugs, grass, and whatever it can scavenge. Pigs are meant to root in the dirt. Cows are meant to roam and eat grass. Many different varieties.

All of these things help pasture raised animals to have more nutrients and vitamins in their meat.

Wild animals don’t need antibiotics and synthetic vitamin supplements to survive. Why should livestock?

The only reason antibiotics are necessary is because conventional animals are raised in cramped conditions without moving. When animals are forced to live their life on top of manure that’s been there for days or weeks, can you expect anything other than disease?  Confined feeding operations are a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of disease and parasites.

Pasture raised animals can fight off disease just fine on their own. Their immune systems haven’t been torn down by constant antibiotics. Most of the antibiotics given to conventional livestock is given to animals that are not even sick.

All animals, including humans, have natural beneficial bacteria in their gut to help digest food. Antibiotics are designed to destroy all bacteria, including beneficial bacteria. This leads to animals that cannot digest their food properly. They can’t extract as many nutrients from it. Not that there is much to start with in the cheap grains they are fed.

Grass is very high in vitamins and other nutrients. When animals are allowed to graze on pasture, they are acquiring many times more nutrients than a conventional animal who may never see a blade of grass in their life.

Pasture raised eggs are a good example, they have: 1/3 less cholesterol, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and over 4 times as much vitamin D as the eggs you find in the supermarket. All because we put them out on a pasture. The chickens do the rest.

Pasture raised Chicken has twice as many omega 3’s, 50% more vitamin A, 20% less fat, and 30% less saturated fat than conventionally raised chickens.

Grass fed beef can have as much as six times the Omega 3 fatty acid and up to four times the vitamin E than feedlot beef. Grass fed beef also has less fat, and the fat it does have is good for you. Unlike the fat from feedlot beef.

3. Pasture Raised Meat Tastes Better

It’s hard to quantify better taste. You just know it when you taste it. When animals are allowed to move and eat foods that are natural for them, they develop deeper, richer-tasting meat. Meat that doesn’t need a bunch of seasonings, marinades, or chemicals to taste good.

Years ago, before I got into pastured poultry. I came up with a recipe for chicken soup that had 11 ingredients. One of which was, chicken broth because store bought chicken doesn’t have enough flavor by itself. The chicken soup I make with pasture raised chicken only needs 5 ingredients, plus whatever vegetables you want.

If for no other reason, do it for your taste buds.

4. You get More Value from Pasture Raised Meat

I’ve had several customers tell me that our chicken doesn’t shrink up in the frying pan like supermarket chicken does. There is a simple reason for this. Exercise. Our animals get exercise. Exercise builds muscle better than hormones. It builds denser muscle. Conventional meat from the grocery store is less dense that pasture raised meat. This spongy meat soaks up more water. This water comes out in the cooking process.

Pasture raised meat therefore loses less water during cooking. You get more of what you paid for. Water displacement test have been done that prove that one pound of pasture raised meat displaces less water than one pound of factory farm meat. But you can do your own test. Simply fry up some pasture raised chicken along with some supermarket chicken. See which one give you more value.

5. You Can See Where Your Food Comes From

Most conventional farms have No Trespassing signs at their gates. Not the case with your local farmer. They welcome your visit. Customers are encouraged to come see how their food is raised.

If a farmer is afraid to let you visit, you should be concerned about what he’s hiding.

Is he afraid to let you see what conditions his animals live in? This is definitely the case for concentrated animal feeding operations. If you saw how these animals were living, you’d never buy one again.

This may also be the case for a few local farms. Some farmers get lazy and don’t give their animals the attention they need. Allowing customers onto the farm is a great incentive to treat your animals with the respect they deserve.

Is he afraid you will make his animals sick? If that’s the case, then his animals are probably not very healthy to start with. Our animals don’t drop dead after a customer comes to visit. You don’t want to buy any animals that need to be quarantined their entire life.

Does he just not want to be bothered? If that’s the case, then he should go back to selling his animals to the feedlots and at the auction for the lowest possible price. If he wants to make a decent profit off his animals then he has to deal with people.

You can only know your meat is clean and healthy if you see where it came from.

6. Pasture Raised Animals Don’t Do Drugs

Pasture raised animals aren’t fed hormones. The farmers don’t mind their animals taking a little longer to mature. The meat tastes better, and the animals stay healthier when they don’t grow too fast.

Pasture raised animals are not fed antibiotics because they don’t need them. They live in a clean environment with fresh air and the sunshine to naturally sterilize everything. They’re not living in yesterday’s poop, where most of the disease lives.

Pasture raised animals are not breeding superbugs like their CAFO counterparts. Bacteria reproduce exponentially. They can form millions of cells in as little as a few hours. That’s a lot of chances for them to form mutations that help them survive the harsh antibiotics that are meant to kill them.

The old weak bacteria are killed off by the antibiotics, leaving only the new stronger bacteria that are immune to the antibiotics. These bacteria continue to thrive and form new mutations that make them even more dangerous. It’s survival of the fittest. And the fittest are the most dangerous.

7. Pasture Raised Meat is Cleaner Meat

Conventional Slaughter is not as Clean as You Think. Most industrial slaughterhouses use mechanical evisceration. During this process 95% of the time the intestines and stomach burst and contaminate the meat. This is considered acceptable because the industry uses chlorine baths and irradiation to sterilize the meat. Never mind that the meat has poop on it, it’s sterile.

Many states allow up to 10% fecal matter in the cooling vat. Not the kind of marinade you had in mind? Don’t forget the chlorine, that’s tasty too.

Pasture raised chicken is butchered by hand. This keeps the intestines intact so the meat stays cleaner. The meat is also carefully rinsed before going into the cooling baths. This keeps the water clean.

Pasture raised poultry is processed in small facilities. They might butcher 600 chickens in a day. Then they clean up. Conventional giant processing facilities operate around the clock and  process as many as 140 birds a minute. In five minutes they butcher more chickens that a pastured poultry facility does in a whole day. That many birds create a huge mess. It’s impossible to keep these facilities clean. Hence the chlorine and irradiation.

Beef and pork processors have much the same problem. Beef slaughterhouses process up to 400 beef an hour. Pork slaughterhouses process up to 1000 hogs an hour. These animals are much bigger than a chicken. Most of them are covered in feces, but are not washed prior to slaughtering. The contamination is inevitable. But again, chemicals and irradiation will make everything okay.

Local meat processors slaughter less than 100 beef or hogs in a day. Then they clean up. Most of these processors are too small to butcher more than one day a week. The rest of the week is devoted to cutting those animals up. Plenty of time to keep stuff clean.

8. Pasture Based Farms are Environmentally Friendly

Factory farms have a problem. A manure problem. Raising thousands of animals at a time means lots of manure. To make matters worse, this manure is contaminated with antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals. It is toxic and has to go through extra processes to dispose of it.

On pastured farms, manure is not a curse, it’s a blessing. Chicken manure is spread thinly across fields by means of daily moves. A similar process is followed with pigs raised in the woods and cows on the pasture. Never is manure allowed to build up to the point of becoming toxic. The only pile of manure you’ll find is the compost pile. Instead of polluting the environment, the manure feeds the pasture.

In addition, buying locally means that your meat and produce are not trucked thousands of miles before getting to you. That’s a lot of pollution saved.

Pasture raised cows, when managed properly, can help sequester carbon from the atmosphere. When a cow eats a stalk of grass, the plant has to restart its growth cycle. You probably learned back in elementary school that plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. They consume much more carbon dioxide  when growing. Once a grass plant reaches full growth, it goes dormant. Waiting patiently for an animal to come along and eat it, restarting the process over again, and sequestering more carbon.

9. Buying from Local Farmers Keeps the Money in the Local Economy

When you buy from a multinational company your money flies off to some distant city, never to be seen again. When you buy from a local farmer, it stays in the local economy much longer.

Food in the store has multiple markups on it. First there is the farmer who grew the food, then he sells it, usually on the commodity market, to an aggregator. The aggregator sells the food to a processor who turns it into a product. The processor then sells the product to a wholesaler. The wholesaler sells the product to a store who finally sells it to you.

That’s a lot of different people making money off one product. Most of them don’t live nearby.

When a major chicken company contracts with a farmer to raise their chickens, the farmer ends up making relatively little. It’s not uncommon for a conventional chicken farmer to have a job in the city to help pay the bills.

10. More Farms Means More Jobs

The industrial farming sector is obsessed with efficiency. “Look how many chickens one farmer can raise at a time”. “Look how many pigs we can slaughter in a day.”

The problem with these super efficient models is that no one can catch every problem. When a farmer has 40,000 chickens on their farm, they can’t possibly know how many are sick, how many are dying. They can only count the dead ones they find. The only preventative measures they have are medications.

When you scale down to a local pasture based farm. It is much more labor intensive. But I would consider that a good thing. When a farmer has only 1,000 birds at a time, he can take the time to look at every bird. He can take any sick birds and nurse them back to health.

In this economy, we could use some more jobs. So please, support your local farmer. That’s one more person that can support himself and his family. Isn’t that what we all want?