Fake meat, animal rights and country living

A discussion somewhat came up on a list about new technology. Although a debate has two sides and involves questioning, the exchange of ideas is touchy at best.

The discussion was started by an anonymous animal rights supporter talking of freedom for the animals. An article of “8 Ways In-Vitro Meat will Change Our Lives” brings several points. It predicts an exodus of unemployed farm workers moving to the city to work producing petri-meat, a rousing success to ending raising animals for food. The end to disease spread animal to human. “Farmscrapers” with no soil means all is local. Indeed “urban multi-level greenhouses that utilize hydroponics and interior grow-lights to create bug-free, dirt-free, quick-growing super veggies and fruit (from dwarf trees), delicious side dishes with IVM.” All the no-longer-farms are then available for vacation homes – those areas people in the city go to because the city is too stressful. Hmm.

This leaves out many small farms and “homesteaders” of course. Most will not be using stem cells on the kitchen counter. A closer look at IVM brings some odd points. Celebrated by activists as the answer it’s developed by the corporations they despise.

From another report: “For cells to mature, they must soak in a nutrient-rich soup. The current soup—costly “fetal bovine serum,” or calf’s blood—may soon be replaced by an inexpensive, plant-based substitute that offers a major advantage: It avoids using any animal-based products, satisfying the ethical concerns of some vegetarians. As the cells mature, they must also be stimulated to move as they would be by bone growth and body movement in a living animal. This is done by giving electric jolts or by manually stretching the polymer scaffolding that anchors the cells. In the course of stimulation, the cells convert from what scientists describe as “meat-flavored Jell-O” to the striated, textured fibers we associate with steak.”

Many argue that movement means pain, even if disconnected from the brain. These cells, by that argument, must experience pain to move, something not done by a cow walking across the pasture. Additionally, there is not control over what cells are produced…a little hoof in the meat could be not as tasty as imagined.

Then there is the issues with using stem cells. It’s often opposed for medical reasons so why is it ok to eat it? Still other reports claim soy is the answer to the climate crisis. The balance there is soy is not a healthy option – it’s used for hormone control. The increase in soy could be factors in early puberty of children, blamed on dairy and cattle ranchers.

Many pushing for less processed food are said to support IVM…a highly processed food. Developed not in the pasture by farmers but a laboratory. Progress?

I’ll stick with the real stuff.

Misinformation aimed at kids

Recently a page from a cartoon supposedly to educate kids came to my attention. It was regarding cattle, specifically dairy cattle which, if common sense and half a thought entered into it with even some basic math it’s discounted. When emotion overrules facts it’s not educational – it’s slanderous.

It presented a question about cows having babies at 15 months old. The ‘answer’ used an example of mice hitting maturity at a few weeks old and stated cattle are mature at a year old. There’s something they left out. Cattle have a 9 month gestation period so if they’re bred at 12-15 months plus 9 that’s what? (Come on readers play along!) Now if she has a baby at 15 months subtract 9 – that’s when she would have had to become pregnant in order to have a baby at 15 months! BEFORE PUBERTY!  It leaves out entirely that one must be mature in order to get pregnant! So now there’s many readers who think they just magically get impregnated at 12 months, perhaps microwave speed to have a baby 3 months later?! Yes I’m making light but it’s serious when people believe what they’re told without questioning.

It then goes on that eating corn and soy – grains – aren’t natural for the cow and make her belly hurt, make her sick. Think it’s tough getting kids to eat now?!! “If it makes a big cow sick I’M NOT EATING IT!”

It also points to the difference of a name and a number. OK let’s run with that one. Just for a minute. Names are good – numbers for identification aren’t. (Throw out the social security number – name is enough right?!) Let’s say it’s a standard classroom or office work place. How many Janes? Cathy? Marie? Being as cows don’t have last names it’s all first names only. Now in our human group let’s say there’s a group of 200 people – Cathy/Kathy come forward. You weren’t feeling well so here’s something to help – oh wait which one? Which one needs vitamins and which one needs treatment?

Cows don’t speak English – when faced with multiple animals of the same name it can mean treating the wrong animal. It can mean breeding the wrong animal. If Blackie is being bred to Thunder (bull) does it matter which Blackie? If one of them is his daughter or sister and the other is a newly purchased champion it certainly can make a big difference! Number 3120 vs number 7839 tells exactly which Blackie with no chance of mixup.

Most things in the country are done for a reason and that includes numbers on cows.

food politics & obsession

The major appeal for many to buy land and move to the country is food. Perhaps it’s just a garden and chickens of all the way up to beef, pork and hay fields. Whatever the choice, food drives America. Growing it, moving it, cooking it, avoiding it, campaigning for/against it…people are obsessed with food.

Even if they live in urban areas or cities the obsession is still there. Local is the only way! many cheer and while that’s a great idea few have been able to answer how NY City eats all local from November to March or longer! Or where local beef in LA is – an area that won’t even host rabbit shows to be politically correct with activists.

There’s others that want only ‘natural’ unprocessed food. Many of these banner wavers are vegetarian or vegan that abhor meat. “We don’t need it” they chant along with recommending soy milk and tofu. This hit me as just the most oxymoronic thing I’ve heard all month. Any idea how soy milk is made? Here’s a hint – there are no udders on a soybean. Look HERE for an explanation.

Note the part about additives. “Soy milk is nearly always fortified with calcium, vitamins D, and certain B vitamins. Highly concentrated flavorings, such as vanilla, carob, chocolate, and almond are often added to the finished product. Many companies add sugar and salt to the drink to make it more palatable to the consumer” – so all the nutrition milk already has in it is added (natural vitamins – seems processed to me!) as well as sugar to make it – well – able to be consumed!

Note also “The soybean is a low acid food and as such, is a good host for the breeding of harmful bacteria.” Also the byproduct – unused by humans in the processing “transforming it into a high-fiber, high-protein animal feed.” Which means, like it or not, soy milk production creates animal feed from what humans cannot use.

Too much soy damages the health – not blaming farmers but the plant itself is not meant for high consumption. A range of dietary disorders comes from soy – which can have benefits at low levels, like many other foods! Balance!

Then there’s the other fighting words – raw milk. Some states it’s banned. Indeed a woman in California wanted raw milk despite this so purchased a cow share that let her use milk from her cow. “Before joining the program, consumers were given a binder full of information the health risks and required to sign an agreement relieving the dairy of liability, said owner Blake Alexandre.” Despite this she drank the milk (from her own cow!), got sick, sued the dairy and settled.

The right to consume something comes with a responsibility. Holding farmers and gardeners responsible is the fastest way to have a problem in the food supply. No testing is going to find everything. Another statistic showed about 125 people had serious issues with raw milk in a year. In perspective, millions DON’T have a problem with it.

Food will be a bigger factor in the months and years ahead. It’s coming to places the US hasn’t been in a long time – only this time it’s man-made via restrictions, lawsuits and other issues.

food wars & labels

HSUS and animal rights advocates vs McDonalds and other restaurants. Organic vs non-organic (at least not certified). “Profood” vs practices they don’t approve of (including acknowledgment not all can afford certified organic). Large farm vs small farm. With the number of food wars happening it’s becoming a wonder there’s food on the store shelves. Food is a political battleground. From heated discussion that could pasteurize raw milk (one debate) to “proper” care everyone wants a say and in a world of choices should have a say! Whether you grow it yourself, buy direct or just shop at the store food is personal.

I was reading the McDonald’s article about rejecting cage free eggs and continuing to buy battery eggs and it struck me that do they advertise that? I mean when looking for eggs is being in cages a qualification? How about this radical idea – QUALITY and PRICE dictates purchases?! Most people, I’m guessing, eat at McDonalds not for the five star cuisine. It’s for the price – something quick, inexpensive and they’re hungry…probably will not give much thought where the egg on he egg mcmuffin was laid. Just reality folks!

However, many do give a little more thought when it comes time to prepare foods at home. How long will it last in the fridge? Does it look and taste good? Is it safe to eat? Many go beyond this. They do care how the chickens were raised and where the pig that become sausage lived. They might still buy that sausage egg biscuit (or fix it at home!) but when they sit down to Sunday dinner they know their money supports farmers being able to do the same. Their food isn’t necessarily certified organic but they know and trust the farmer. These people are willing to pay a little more to insure that their food was raised according to their ideals. Some may call that food elitists and perhaps it can be. I call it CHOICE.

The problem comes when that choice is pushed to eliminate other choices for people who can’t afford the higher cost. The economy will rebound faster when money is spent in the communities. The direct purchase of food or growing it yourself is one of the major perks of rural living. You don’t need a cow if a trusted farmer will sell you beef and milk. You don’t need pigs if someone will raise it for you. This allows you to make the most of what you do have while financially supporting others.

This can come to trust. Do you trust DownTheRoad Farms or the volume of processors for Smithfield? Both deliver an edible, nutritious product – probably at a comparable price. The difference is how it got to your plate. Currently demand for testing and food safety has pressed for additional regulation that will hit small butchers hard enough to end their businesses. Without being able to afford unnecessary(but required) testing they will have to close. If you enjoy purchasing direct this affects your choice as they won’t be there to process your meats. Major packers can better afford this – do you want that your only choice?

Food is personal. Quality, quantity and affordability matter. Get informed and make decisions then support those decisions financially! It is the fastest way to induce change. If there is enough people buying cage free vs conventional and the money shifts production will too! Demand dictates what is produced. Demand created what we have now – abundant food at a relatively low cost held in a large market share by a few companies. Want a change? Finance it! Grow it! Make a difference starting today!

Cage free by choice or by legislation?

For many people the idea of living the country dream is out of town, a few chickens for fresh eggs. We find the eggs are fresher and, without confinement of some sort, the risks greater as everything it seems wants to eat chicken.When a dog, coyote or coon kills your chickens you have no more eggs! This is why for protection many are kept confined at least at night.

While it’s a low input way of providing food for the table, when we keep chickens it’s typically for a family, or perhaps to sell the extra. We don’t want to feed hundreds of people or supply the restaurants…although there are many people without chickens who still want eggs. This means someone has to raise the chickens. For reasons of labor, feed efficiency and protection this meant a move to cages in a confinement system. We have a choice what to eat – the lower cost of the “big farm” eggs or free range or our own.

Groups such as the Humane Society of the United States aren’t happy with allowing choice and want to legislate no cages. It sounds great right? Chickens need to scratch the ground, we’re told, and indeed they seem quite happy doing that! The problem with it is, unlike the automated system that the egg rolls to the front off the cage, chickens in a pen you have to hunt for their eggs – then wonder if it’s really fresh or is it one you missed (and for how long)? When shipping eggs to other people this is unacceptable.

We’re told to look to the Europeans as Germany banned cages. All cage free. Yes indeed how is that working? “In February 2010, the average price of eggs was 11 percent higher than one year ago. The price of consumption eggs has risen notably in recent months. This is predominantly caused by increased exports to Germany.”

11% in a month…ok perhaps not too bad. Those $2 eggs are now $2.22 – a quarter for the chickens right? Not exactly. The above link shows more. “Dutch exports of consumption eggs to Germany grew by over 2 billion to nearly 7.5 billion. If exports increase, prices go up and occasionally Dutch consumers were faced with empty supermarket shelves. The shortage of eggs in Germany was the direct result of a ban on battery cages introduced on 1 January 2010. As battery cages were dismantled, the egg-production process stalled. In the Netherlands and the rest of the European Union, the ban on battery cages will take effect from 1 January 2012.”

Not only the price of eggs is affected. Everything with eggs in it also is faced with higher costs if not shortages.

Now..bring that to America. For the next week do this – look at everything you eat that has eggs in it. From the meatloaf to the sausage egg biscuit to the cupcake for dessert. Look at right now the demand for Easter eggs – hard boiled that make wonderful snacks or eggs Benedict. Bread. Look at labels. We don’t have, normally food shortages here. Take half of those foods away.

What will you eat? Where will you get it? The last couple of years chick demand has been high with many hatcheries listing breeds/varieties as unavailable due to demand. Without planning now there are not enough young birds to fulfill the demand. Places like Slow Money Farm, CSA’s and other ideas won’t exist if not supported now to be growing into demand and, even at that, there’s only so much most want to do. Again – one coyote getting into a field, one loose dog and their chickens are gone too.

Think for a minute about your food! It’s too important to take for granted!

Farmers greedy?

News from Florida is the strawberry crop is being, in many cases, destroyed. As a previous post highlighted, fear of litigation and many places not taking produce keeps much food turned away from hungry people. Yet when prices drop to where farmers cannot afford to ship it to market they’re called greedy for cutting their losses and destroying the crop.

How dare farmers not go further in debt by harvesting – how dare they not risk their farm and future. There’s perfectly good food dumped by restaurants when it’s a wrong order – that doesn’t go to the hungry. The farmers should – again- simply suck it up and feed people for nothing.

I understand it makes no sense to many – if you want something for free it doesn’t make sense to charge for it. Farmers have bills too; with liability and other issues that consumers are willing to sue for many don’t let people on their farms to protect themselves from that. When there’s food you can’t afford to ship and can’t give away it’s a tough call.

Frankly I think better giving away than letting it rot. But if the farmer charged for it – needing the money as it is a business too – they’re greedy? The expectations of farmers at a different level than every other business is insulting and makes one wonder if all stopped farming for a year what people would do. If someone decides they get sick from those berries then would the farmer be justified in destroying the crop even with public insistence they get it?

No other industry works that way. I don’t at present have a vehicle – does that warrant vehicle manufacturers sucking up to give me one? Of course not! They couldn’t do that and stay in business. neither can farmers.

it takes all kinds of farmers

There  is such an unnecessary division in agriculture. It’s such a diverse industry there’s small vs large farmers and family vs industrial then there’s “only what we believe” vs “everyone else” – and consumers just want food.

Wendell Berry once made a comment about food being too important to be a weapon. Yet here we are decades later and that is exactly what it’s come to.

Advocate purists say only organic or local or small farm (without saying what a small farm is!). They actively rail against larger farms without regard to their customers are a totally different market. We all eat – that’s a no brainer.

In working to set up a farm that caters to what many Twitter consumers say they want it fits with many personal ideas already. It uses ‘responsible’ methods, heritage and heirloom seeds and livestock (many seeds are organic), it allows for knowing where the food was grown and, with web cam transmission and other videos it allows absolute transparency. There’s a price that comes with that and yet talking about money brought a furious attack of being money orientated over everything else. Actually it’s being realistic – land costs money! The bigger questions come up – in talking with several people they love the idea – but  can’t afford it. Feedback from out of the area brings the same comments – great idea…I can’t afford it but great idea!

Knowing full well this is a specialty market for under 40 people it doesn’t seem possible to deliver for what the market can afford no matter how much food is delivered. No matter the principles behind it – those who can’t afford it simply can’t afford it.

OK so we take out the large farms. We eliminate all who don’t think on this  level – what do those people eat? They can’t afford to buy food from custom places. There isn’t food (bulk produced) at the store so what is their option? This has not yet brought a single clear answer – it’s just seen as saying small farms don’t work. NOT what I said! They can and do work – and better as our nation is much more rural than city!

But the question remains – if they can’t afford $700 or $1500 or $5,000 for a custom raised situation what do they eat? Especially if not having room for year round raising of food themselves?

Options are wonderful! Many move to the country to raise what they can and barter for what they can’t. But what about  those who can’t afford it? It seems that even though maybe it’s not ideal by many standards that volume produced food, processed or HFCS or whatever, is better than going hungry.

When you go 3-4 days without eating because you  can’t afford food it changes a great deal of perspective. We need large farms and small. We need volume as well as choices. There is no excuse for anyone going hungry in America and yet due to legislation, regulation and fear of lawsuits produce and milk is better dumped than given to the hungry.

Things have to change. Forcing people to go hungry isn’t the way to do it. Those clamoring for change put the $$ up and make it change!