Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Beyond Organic Food

I was introduced to Joel Salatin through a blog I happened upon a few weeks ago. I knew nothing about him, but did some research and discovered that he is a self proclaimed Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist farmer, who is very well known throughout the organic food industry and the local food movement.

He was popularized in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. I have not yet read that book, though I intend to. But I just finished reading Joel Salatin's book Holy Cows & Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer's Guide to Farm Friendly Food.

Holy Cows and Hog Heaven has provoked me to think more about where our food comes from, how it is produced, and why we eat what we eat. I recently lampooned the idea of organic food, but thanks to this book, and other related reading, I'm coming around.

Salatin points out that much of the meat we eat is raised in abominable conditions. For example, cows are fed chicken manure and urea. But don't worry, the meat is irradiated! Mad Cow disease was the result of cows that had cannibalized other cows. Foot and Mouth disease is a threat only to animals that are fed commercial grain and feed. There are many other such examples in the book.

But in contrast, in the words of Salatin, "Farm friendly food asks the question, "Is the pig happy? On our farm and thousands like it, we try to provide a habitat to each plant and animal that allows it to fully express its physiological distinctiveness. When we respect nature or the Creator's design enough to reverence the plow on the end of a pig's nose, the graceful beak on the front of a chicken, the earthworms gamboling around in the soil underneath the cabbages, then we have a moral framework in which to contain our human cleverness."

Salatin writes in his conclusion, "Farm friendly food respects the wisdom of the Creator's DNA, honors the information in the mind of an earthworm, and appreciates the beauty of hogs in the rooting heaven. This food values bioregions, social structure, and wildness. It ponders the environmental and moral footprint of every decision, every activity, every marketing model."

The book is full of such wisdom. Salatin is clearly a man who has thought through Christian stewardship of creation. Have we given this adequate thought? I confess I have not, and I doubt many others have.

I encourage you to watch some videos about Polyface Farm.


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9 comments:

Psyclist said...

The Omnivore's Dilemma is a good read (listen). I have it on audiobook. Another one to consider is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Although, I have not read that one.

Kat and I recently had a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) co-op. That was really cool because we were exposed to a lot of food that is not availalbe at a grocery storey. And, we were challenged with how to prepare and use some of the items.

bobbydale said...

We too took the CSA challenge - and it was great. We saved money and got to eat organic food that was grown less than 100 miles from our house.

If you want to watch a movie about food - check out King Corn. Lauren and I watched it and were intrigued/enlightened about the industrialized food mechanism. We started listening to Animal Vegetable Miracle - and still have our friends CDs.

Through the CSA and also buying eggs through a small co-op - I have had the revolutionary experience of know where my food came from, and the names of the people who grew it and gathered it for me.

John said...

Thanks for the feedback, guys. I'm curious if you found the tastes of the foods to be better, or if you've noticed any health benefits?

Do the eggs or meat taste better than you can get at a chain grocery store?

Psyclist said...

If you are careful to select the meat/eggs based on diet, the taste is remarkable. Kat and I bought a 1/2 of a grass fed cow. The flavor and mouthfeel was substantially different. Check out the Omega 6:3 fatty acid ratio of grass fed vs. corn fed content, and the relationship to deleterious health effects. The color and taste of egg yolks from truly free-range chickens is really a special treat. The yolks are intensly golden yellow. There is a richness that you have to taste for yourself.

For vegetables, I can't say to much about the difference. We get our vegetable primarily from the farmers market/whole food and have done so for years. I think we began doing it because of flavor. I am too practical to do it simply on feeling good about myself, as costs dictate.

John said...

Scott, thanks. Very interesting. How many pounds of meat does one get from half a cow?

I spent some time reading on EatWild and must say, the case is a compelling one...

Psyclist said...

It is something obsence. We ended up splitting it up, so ultimately we have 1/4. And we gave about 25 pounds to my brother-in-law. I would consider going in on it with some friends. It is just too much beef!

bobbydale said...

John - I have to say that the Veggies are much more delicious. The arugula was delicious, and so were the zuchini and the eggplant. Additionally you will find that root veggies (carrots, potatoes, onion) get a lot of flavor difference from their soil that you won't see in some above ground veggies. Part of what makes the CSA (ours is http://hayriverfarm.com/) awesome is the freshness - I mean they are in your fridge w/in 24 hours of being picked.

As far as eggs and beef - the psyclist is right on. Grass fed beef has a lot more flavor, and better nutrients - same with free range eggs. The diet and conditions make a huge difference. If you are interested in getting some bulk beef - my friends started up the Grass Fed Cattle Company (http://grassfedcattleco.com/) they work with local organic cattle farms and consumers to split up the cow into sections as small as 60lbs. There is also info on their site about the advantages of grass feed.

One thing I learned when I watched King Corn was that beef cannot digest corn properly. It gets them very big and fat very quickly, but it starts to eat away at their stomachs. The cows they use for beef at a groc. store are technically on the verge of death from stomach failure when they are slaughtered. It was one of those hard to believe facts about the factory farm.

As far as my red meat for the year, I am hoping I might get a deer this year. I tried last year, but came home empty handed.

John said...

Bob,

Coincidentally I was just at the Grass Fed Cattle Co. website earlier this morning. It is interesting to learn that you know the owners.

I may check them out.

Thanks again for all the info!

organic foods said...

I agree that we must pay special attention to what we eat in this day and age. Organic foods should be a priority. And food treated with chemicals or full of hormones should be avoided.