Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘meat’

HOMEGROWN Book Review: “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat” by Hal Herzog

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Contributed by HOMEGROWNer Aliza Ess.

It’s so easy to open a tin of cat food… but could you feed a live kitten to a snake?

This one of the many moral conundrums Hal Herzog discusses in his new book, “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat”. Feeding kittens to a snake may sound far fetched, but by the time the reader reads the statistics that with about 94 million cats in America, they consume about the equivalent of 3 million chickens every single day, our relationships with predators and pets becomes much more complicated.

We humans in the Western world have developed a culture in which many of us have chosen to raise chickens in factory farm conditions for the pleasure of owning a pet. Some of these pets end up unwanted and euthanized in shelters. Why?

Kittens tap into our biological “cute” factor.  They are companions and may make us happier or teach children responsibility. Owning a pet is part of our cultural experience.  Chickens, on the other hand, are not as easy to domesticate for companionship and do not light up the “cute” brain wiring as much (although some chicken lovers would certainly disagree!) The suffering of the chicken raised for meat is far removed from the tin can, while the kitten dropped into the boa’s tank is killed in front of our eyes.

In both cases, an animal’s life is taken. But the factors leading up to our choice (kitten or chicken?) have created a definite choice, as evidenced by our grocery store shelves.

Mr. Herzog is a leading scientist in the emerging field of anthrozoology, which studies the relationship between humans and animals. His new book uses a range of scientific studies and personal anecdotes to explore the murky waters of meat eating, pet owning, animal research, and other human-animal interactions.

Is it ethical to do research on animals to save human lives? How immoral is cockfighting? Do pets make us happier? Why are there so few true vegetarians? And of course, is it wrong to feed kittens to a boa constrictor?

Reading “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat” will not give a clear answer about our relationship with animals. Herzog informs us that even Charles Darwin, the famed naturalist, was stuck in the difficult position of harming the very animals he loved for scientific study. Darwin wrote of one of his pigeons, “I have done the black deed and murdered the angelic little Fan-tail Pointer at 10 days old.” (page 208)

We humans are capable of great feats, from eradicating polio to domesticating and breeding wolves into cocker spaniels.  We debate the power of dolphins as therapists and protect animals until they devour our gardens.  We are vegetarians who eat fish and own cats. To be human is complex. Our survival and evolution as a species often leads us to hurt other living things. How do we navigate that choice?

Mr. Herzog won’t answer that question in this book. “Some We Love…” will not provide evidence for the vegan ideal of a cruelty-free world where humans and animals enjoy equal rights. Instead, this book gives insight into the complex world of human-animal relations, and explores the psychological, biological, and cultural reasons for why “it’s so hard to think straight about animals.”

Many of us here on HOMEGROWN have chosen to do our own experiments in human-animal relations by raising our own livestock or purchasing free-range meat instead of factory farmed. The idea that the animal has led a “happy” life enables us to feel better about taking its life in the end. We feed the animal until we need it to feed us.

Herzog writes of the Swahili who trap and kill baboons that destroy their crops. They have a saying: “Never look a baboon in the eye.” It makes it too hard to kill them.

We backyard livestock owners are forcing ourselves to do just that.  Many of us believe that if all humans encountered meat the way we do, our culture would be less wasteful of meat, and animals would not be raised in industrialized farm conditions. Our closeness to the killing of animals is morally justified.

As Herzog’s friend Staci, an ex-vegetarian converted to raw meat eater, writes in an email, “Maybe killing the creature yourself helps. It completes the cycle somehow.”

I know that many of us backyard livestock owners feel the same way. Many vegans and vegetarians would of course disagree.  Does the trend toward “naturally raised” meat only exist to make us feel better about our choice to kill another animal for food? Is it o.k. to choose to be a predator?

As someone who was raised vegetarian and is now raising chickens, ducks, and rabbits, so far I have dealt with this by loving the animals while they are alive and thanking them for their life before they are butchered.

I started eating meat in college because I was attracted to the smell, and the first steak I ate was from a grass fed, free range steer owned by the family of my boyfriend at the time. It was delicious, and I have continued to guiltily eat meat since. I think a lot about natural predators, and the fact that animals will always die, whether from sickness, starvation, or a quick and clean death that feeds another creature.

As for my own livestock, I have seen the chickens and ducks butchered and helped to clean and cook the animals, but so far we have not done the rabbits.

We have had friends come over to pet the rabbits, and I have had kids ask me to please not eat them. It’s hard, and I am torn about the question. The rabbits are so adorable, and when they come sniff me to smell my scent or get the food I am bringing them, it’s very cute.  I know that I do not need to eat them to survive.

And yet, just yesterday the kits (baby rabbits) of our American Chinchilla doe (female rabbit) died because she failed to take care of them. She did not care about rabbit death, even for her own kits. But because I am aware of the rabbit’s cuteness, I struggle with the thought.

I know that many of you think about the same issues, or else you would not choose to spend the time, energy, and money on raising your own animals. I know you have had to explain to industrial meat-eating friends and family why it’s easier for you to kill an animal yourself than buy anonymous factory raised meat. Some of you may be vegetarians who don’t understand meat  eating at all, others may be hunters who prefer to shoot a deer instead of purchasing a head of lettuce sprayed by pesticides and harvested by a migrant worker.

I’d love to hear all of your opinions!

Reading this book helped me feel less alone in my animal-loving, meat-eating confusion. I hope it does the same for you.

Let us know about your thought process / internal dialogue relating to meat! (Note: One lucky commenter will receive a copy of this fascinating and provocative book.)

Five Ways To Have A Homegrown Kitchen

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

eat locally

Want to eat as locally as possible? Hoping to have fresh, healthy meals while supporting your local farmers and staying on budget? Wondering where to begin? Here are five tips to help you bring the Homegrown home.

1. Grow and raise the food you love

More power to you folks who grow a wide variety of fruits and veggies yourselves. For those of us with limited space, time or ability, smaller and simpler gardens are the way to go. Are tomatoes your thing? Can’t get enough of the almighty spud? The price of herbs getting you down? Try growing a few varieties of your favorites for maximum happiness. Don’t forget that backyard chickens mean a steady supply of fresh eggs! (duh).

2. Subscribe to a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture ensures a regular stream of fresh, local and family farmer-raised products in your cooking arsenal. Check out the CSA Cookoff series for inspiration. Frugal gourmets note: By selling directly to you, the customer, the farmer is able to provide you with a better price while keeping the “middlemen” out of his pockets. There are still farms taking subscribers. Find them on Local Harvest and The Eat Well Guide.

3. Practice Meal Planning

Busy moms like Tory know the value of this time-saving tip already, but everyone can benefit from some preparation and organization. If you have a CSA share, your farmer should send out a list of the contents of the week’s harvest. If you shop the farmers market, having a list really cuts down on the tendency to buy too much stuff or stuff that doesn’t get used (who hasn’t done that before?). Either way, try to spend 20 minutes each week thinking about what’s in season, what the week’s schedule entails and what ingredients are already in your pantry, then sketch out some meal ideas.

4. Minimize waste

By mid-season, we can find ourselves drowning in vegetables. Keeping a chalk board in the kitchen with a list of what you tuck away in the fridge each week (start with that CSA list!), helps cut down on spoilage. After eating fresh, your second defense against rotting food is preservation: Too many greens? Blanch and freeze them! Overdosing on beets? Cucumbers? Beans? Get out those canning jars! Too many tomatoes? (Never!) Slow roast, sun dry or dehydrate them and store it all for those dark winter days. Join the Food Preservation group for recipes and support.

5. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk not only saves you money, it saves on excess packaging and trips to the store. A pantry stocked with whole grains, canned goods, beans and pasta puts you ahead of the game. Use your pantry as the foundation for your meal planning. Buying a whole, or going in on part of an animal with your friends and neighbors is a tremendously economical way of cooking with meat. You can find farmers who sell their meat directly through Local Harvest and The Eat Well Guide. Ask around at your local farmers market, too.

Good luck and good eating! Please feel free to add your tips for eating and living Homegrown in the comments.

HOMEGROWN Life: Praising our Pigs

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

On the heels of Iowa and Florida pushing legislation to criminalize folks who make undercover films showcasing the horrors of industrial animal production, I figured now’s a good time to be a little anti-big-ag and boast a bit about our newest animal project at YellowTree Farm: the Mulefoot pig.

heritage breed pigs

There are seven different pig breeds listed by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy as “critical” status, with Mulefoots being on that roster. They are also on Slow Food USA’s “Arc of Taste” – a catalogue of approximately “200 delicious foods in danger of extinction.”
Their origin in America dates back to when Columbus’ ships first docked on our shores, and though the breed flourished in the early half of the 1900’s, by 1985 the only herd remaining belonged to a gentleman named R. M. Holiday of Missouri. As mega pork producers have foregone heritage breeds like Mulefoots in favor of better producing commodity pigs (a typical commercial sow will give birth to litters of around 12, while Mulefoots are less productive, birthing litters of just half that number), it is estimated that fewer than two hundred purebred Mulefoots exist in our country today – and we are proudly raising nine of them, direct descendants from Holiday himself.

We currently have one sow, one gilt, one boar, and six piglets – all thriving and naturally foraging at our Waterloo, Illinois location. The breed is critical to our deforestation efforts of eradicating invasive weeds and plants: First we run our goats through paddocks of wooded land to eat their fill of high brush; Then we invite the Mulefoots to follow in their path, turning the soil with their snouts as they dig for nuts, persimmon seeds, greens, grubs and worms; Lastly, the chickens come behind and finish cleaning up the mess.

Find more videos like this on HOMEGROWN.ORG

The breed possesses striking, thick, woolly black hair, giving the Mangalista breed (popular with chefs and other gourmets-in-the-know) a run for its money. The meat from Mulefoots is a rich, beefy color, and is valued for it’s high fat content, lending itself deliciously for cured applications like hams and various other charcuterie. While we intend on allowing two years to pass before we’ll consider them ready for slaughter, as an older pig will develop better flavor, we hope that in time our efforts will help to ensure the survival of this rare breed, and help restore a greater diversity to our diets.

Yellow Tree Farm’s web site is http://www.yellowtreefarm.com/

 

Danielle Yellow Tree

“I’m half of YellowTree Farm, an urban homestead that I founded with my husband in late 2008. Together, my husband and I grow vegetables and raise animals on less than 1/10 of an acre in St. Louis, Missouri. We speak publicly about urban farming, sew, and make our own toiletries.  I don’t have children. I have animals, which is kind of the same thing as being a parent, except I eat my babies.”