I’ve on occasion seen a bumper sticker on a car that says “Eat Local”, it’s typically plastered on a car of someone that you would deconstruct in an instant, a couple of piercings, probably a vegetarian, or vegan, definitely a tree hugging, socially conscious, pot smoking, protest attending, intellectual elitist, who still probably wears Doc Martins, and participates in drum circles.
Until reading the Omnivores Dilemma, I never understood what the “Eat Local” meant.
The sad part of the type of person, who would place that bumper sticker on their car, is that they turn off the vast majority of us to their message. The evangelical nature with which they approach moral injustice is easily comparable to the religious fervor of the New American Christian. Only difference is that moral superiority doesn’t have tidings, so their message can’t fill former football stadiums on Sunday, and the cost to broadcast that message via Satellite unreachable.
(Douchebag number 4)
I am becoming that deconstructed hippie in regards to food. I won’t ever become a vegan or a vegetarian, as I love meat too much. Taking a bite out of any piece of protein gives me something my body and brain truly need, not to mention regardless of your beliefs the human intellectual capacity has provided us the ability to overcome the instinctual defenses of most animals, which is why I feel it is completely in line with evolution that we has humans are the highest rung on the food chain. Our ancestors used spears, then arrows, and eventually guns, yet in previous generations the demand drove supply. When a hungry tribe needed food they hunted. They lived amongst their prey and respect was shown for how the animals lived, and how they treated those animals in death showed a deference we only show for the loss of one of our own.
Unfortunately intellectual superiority usually breeds a type of hubris typically driven by some outside desire which is not an integral force in the situation at hand, in this case the drive of financial gain outweighing the simple need to satiated hungry. Today we no longer see the blood which pours out when killing an animal, we no longer look in the eye of a pig or cow before it takes its last breath. Most of us will never kill an animal; we are so far removed from our foods we no longer give a moment of thought of how the food we eat was raised, or the consequences of how rearing and farming practices will have on the animal, on our planet, and ultimately to our bodies.
I had an opportunity when I was 16 to participate in the slaughter of a chicken. I held the legs of the bird while my partner placed the chickens head between nails on a wood stump. When his clever cut thru the head of the chicken I had to brace for dear life, as the involuntary muscle reaction had the chicken flopping in my hands for a few minutes. It is the “realist” thing I think I’ve ever done. I am not by nature a violent person so that moment is like a splinter in my mind.
The next video don't watch if you are squeamish, it's from Polyface. Chicken's get slaughtered.
Our collective apathy towards how and where our food comes from has allowed big conglomerate corporations to write all the rules, and make it impossible for small farmers to be profitable without the hand of the big companies. Companies you never knew existed like Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM control our food supply, and the USDA which is supposed to protect the American Consumer. Our ignorance has allowed these companies to write farm policies which create oversized feed lots where cows for 3 months prior to slaughter literally stand, eat, and live in their own shit. Mad Cow disease is a direct descendant of these practices, further the environmental fall out is so bad that the water table in the communities that surround these feedlots have high traces of hormones, and parasiticides in the drinking water.
Don’t let the labels fool, and the cute logos are all there to distract you. The reality of it is most of the foods we get are from large national corporations, who give two shits about what you or family eat, as long as we keep buying with blind ignorance. The supply will control the demand, the marketers behind large food companies find new ways to process and package the foods which makes us want to buy more shit. Until we demand better, the supply will drive our demand.
What can you do? It’s quite simple.
You and I are the most powerful people in this equation from farmer, to food conglomerate to end consumer. It is us that control the market. Every dollar we spend in blind ignorance with these nameless faceless companies is another dollar justifying their practices. We are the single greatest power in our country; the American Consumer is like a Roman Soldier standing beside Julius Caesar, the only problem is we don’t realize that we have the superior weapon against these companies. Our pocket books are what they want, and if we choose to spend it somewhere else because we won’t eat their crap then they will make the changes which make our world better.
Farmers like Joel Salatin are the future of how we should eat. It’s ironic that his method of farmer is today considered “alternative farming” when what he does used to be the norm by generations of farmers all across America. He is a self proclaimed grass tender. By using the lands in harmonious balance with nature he is able to produce an uncanny level of food production from a 100 acre pasture. In a given season he will produce 40,000 lbs of beef, 30,000 pounds of pork, 10,000 broilers, 1200 turkeys, 1000 rabbits, and 35,000 dozen eggs which Chef’s will tell you are the BEST eggs ever produced.
How is this done? By doing what is done in nature. The birds follow the herbivores. A given part of the pasture will first be mowed with the shavings of grass used to create bails hay to feed the animals in the winter. This is followed by his cattle which will graze the pasture. After the cows he brings in the chickens which provide an “ecological service” they are sanitation crew for the field as they will pick out the grubs and fly larva from cow patties, by doing so they remove parasites from the grass at the same time helping to spread the manure around.
The chickens further eat the shorter grasses left behind by the cows, and will produce several thousand pounds of nitrogen via their own poop, and when returned to the chicken coop they will produce several thousand eggs.
This symbiosis which Salatin exercises on a daily basis is a small part of what Polyface Farms does to produce better higher quality food. He is a firm believer in eating locally, and sourcing foods from someone you can actually meet face to face. His farm is open to tours, and the days when chickens are available for purchase and pick up people can arrive early and watch the slaughtering process.
He won’t ship meat anywhere, but does visit farmers markets up to 2 hours away in Northern Virginia where I live. In fact my favorite restaurant Liberty Tavern sources meat from Joel Salatin’s farm. My favorite dish is the skirt steak salad, and I recall eating this salad at Liberty tavern for the first time and thinking “WOW”! That’s the best damn piece of beef I’ve ever had.
To ship meat across state borders contradicts his principles of sustainability. In our present system of food consumption it costs 7 calories of fossil fuel energy for us as people to eat 1 calorie of energy. Think about the inherent waste in such an equation, and how over the long term it is impossible to sustain such an equation. Salatin’s methods not only create harmony among the animals and land, but his fields actually get healthier with each passing season. The high levels of earthworms help create a soil which is the Godzilla of green pastures. If you think about what industrialized farms do to the soil, which is to drain every bit of life out of it, Salatin’s practices seem almost genius.
All the information I’ve posted above comes from Michael Pollens book Omnivores Dilemma. I feel as if I’ve awoken from the energy fields of the Matrix, and Morpheus has just shown me what the real world is. In this case Pollen being my Morpheus. I can’t ever go back to the world I once knew as “real”. Will I be able to eat 100% of the time from locally sourced food…NO the system is not setup that way. In fact it’s setup to be ultra convenient to buy their crap, but impossible to buy the good stuff. Farmers markets have to by my source of personal revolution.
In creating new habits for myself, for the better well being of my body, eating locally seems to be the safest avenue towards this long term physical symbiosis. It was Jean Savarin who said “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are”. So is it now wonder why when we eat foods produced in a manner which contradicts the natural order of the planet, and filled with pesticides and herbicides, and hormones all used to either enlarge the yield of anything produced or offset the side effects of the industrialized farming methods it is no wonder we are getting bigger and fatter, yet feel worse.
But how different would we be and feel if we ate foods which are in harmony with nature, cows that get their nourishment from grass fed by the solar energy of the sun. In essence we would be eating solar energy, the single greatest source of energy in our universe. There has been enough research on beef to show that grass fed pasteurized beef actually has higher levels of the Omega-3 fats which our bodies need and less of the Omega Fats which are toxic for our bodies, where as the industrialized feedlot beef has an inverse relationship of Omega Fats.
In being released from my energy pod, I can’t go back to my old reality. I choose to eat locally, and will do so as best I can. Thank god for people like Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms as he is a lone crusader trying to change one of our most fundamental needs in life which is to eat. He has inspired me enough I am going to make trip to Swope Virginia this summer to learn more about what he does, and talk to him about finding a farmer to share crop 40 acres of land my family owns in Thornbug, VA. It sits idle today, and I can’t imagine it not being used by another Crusader like Salatin.
From the crusader himself.