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Pastured, Free Range, Cage-Free

Posted on January 19, 2018 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

What is the difference and what do these terms mean?

Confusion is easy unless you know a little background.  Most people today seem to know that 95 percent of all the eggs in America come from battery caged chickens.  These are the wire cages you see on those animal welfare sites, often explaining that these birds spend their lives in less room than a sheet of standard notebook paper.  These are the same birds who brought us the bird-flu a few years ago which sickened and even killed people.

Animal welfare groups like to publicize this model to gain support for legislation that would ban these practices.  In the last few years, some pretty big companies (from fast-food chains to Walmart), have signed pledges to discontinue buying these caged eggs in 6-10 years.  6-10 years!

One positive step forward from these terrible cages is what they call cage-free.  It sounds so good.  In this model, here is what happens: thousands of birds in a giant factory house can sort of run around.  They aren't confined to a tiny wire cage or a cell.  Animal welfarists love to point to this big victory, and we might feel better when we see 'cage free' on the label, but it isn't what it seems.  Chickens aren't potty trained in case you didn't know, so when they go to cage-free, their living conditions actually become more unsanitary.


At least in the cages, their droppings (manure) fall through the wire bottom and down into a pit.  Without these cages, the birds create more fecal particulate air and can't get away from their own feces.  Yes, it's true, they can move around, but moving around on their own feces is not a step in the right direction. 


The egg industry is using this nuance to attack the cage-free production model hoping to derail it before these long-year buyer commitments kick in.  We can be pretty sure that these big buyers making these pledges have no intention of using cage-free eggs; they are hoping that the industry and their taxpayer-funded scientists at the land grant universities will be able to sway public opinion that the scientific way to grow eggs is in a secure battery cage.  Why else would they say they will stop in a lengthy 6-10 years?  That's a long time, enough time to try to sway public opinion in their favor.


So now for the next step.  That would be called free range. This term gives us the vision of the little red hen on a field of green grass with a barn in the background.  But actually, the USDA definition of free range only addresses freedom to move all appendages.  It speaks of range of movement but not of range as in open range, pasture, home on the range!  This is the kind of speech that is quite clever and is used often in these food industries to buy the favor of the consumer without much real function.


In the case of organic cerfification, the free range requirement is sadly abused.  The watchdog group Cornucopia hired an airplane a few years back to fly over many organic egg operations to document the lack of required range.  They sent their photos in to the USDA, that is the agency in charge of policing the organic standards.  Instead of their response being one of shock and concern, they simply answered condescendingly and to our knowledge, have done nothing to change it.


So the result of all this is that free range is now more meaningless than cage-free.  It can be anything from beautiful pastures to confined birds who are able to flap their wings.  That's a large range of possibilities.


And so now you will hear about pastered eggs.  We do like the term pastured because it at least speaks to the idea of green grass.  To us that means it's not a dirt yard.  It's not a gravel strip outside a massive chicken housing building.  But what makes a piece of land real pasture is fresh green grass.  Thankfully, the government has not created a license to define the term pastured.


If you've been around chickens at all, you know that after they have been on a piece of land more than a month, they will tear it down until is becomes a dirt yard.  They must be rotated!  Even some farmers we know of who raise chickens outdoors, do not rotate their chickens and the yards they are in do become void of grass and bugs.


So our advice to you is to visit the farm and see for yourself.  If a farmer is reluctant for you to come and visit, quit buying from that farmer.  Don't worry if you don't have much farm experience, you'll be able to compare farms very well once you've visited a couple.  The good ones always stand out.  You'll see.. you'll be able to tell.


As for the long time period for some of these buyers to make this change, farms like Liberty Mission, with true pastured eggs, could meet the demand quickly if we had the real time and committment of these buyers.  And we wouldnt need 6-10 years to do it!  The problem we face is that these corporate farms want to keep things the way they are for as long as possible; they aren't really committed to anything different, regardless of what we may hear from the activists.


Get pastured eggs from a farm that welcomes your visit, where you feel comfortable being with the animals.  And remember to ask questions, such as what feed are the chickens given?  What are the ingredients?  Is it non-GMO or organic feed?  How often are the chickens moved to new pasture?


Then you'll be part of the solution too!


The Real Cost of Cheap Food

Posted on March 6, 2017 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (1)



As 4th year farmers, we are constantly looking for ways to keep prices affordable without compromising the quality of our food. There is compromise everywhere – even on many local farms – make no mistake.


Many will say to us, “Well, I would like to eat more healthy, but it’s just too expensive.”


Is it?


Well, the deeper we delve into the industrial food industry, the more we have come to realize just how expensive cheap food is.


That is, IF you do true accounting.


That $2.00 dozen eggs at the store is cheap at the register, but its true cost – to the environment, to your health, to the taxpayers – is unimaginably steep.


First, there’s the cost of the corn it took to feed the chickens, corn grown with vast quantities of fossil fuel and pesticide and chemical fertilizers. There’s the subsidies paid to the farmer to grow the corn - $5 billion a year!


Side note 1: This is a big one. Government subsidies pay for a large amount of costs to large farms. Farmers who sell those “cheap” eggs aren’t actually getting the money they need to survive from their eggs – they are getting it from your hard-earned tax dollars. So you aren’t really paying $2.00 for eggs… you’re paying much, much more.


Side note 2: These same corporate farmers, who sell the $2.00 eggs, have also purchased (with help from the government… i.e., your tax money) large equipment and chemicals which has left many of them deep in debt. They are in debt to the government without much hope of getting out. They have, in essence, sold themselves as slaves to the government and are left with little or no inheritance for their children. Those who wish to get out of this debt feel they cannot, and many are simply selling or giving up their farms, never to return.  This "large scale farming" is anything but sustainable.  Much like the Biblical times when the people needed food in times of famine: They ran out of money and sold their livestock to the pharaoh; ran out of livestock and sold their land; ran out of land; and sold themselves… into slavery. You can read the Bible to find out how that ended.


Second, there’s the military spending to keep the oil flowing to grow the corn to feed the chickens to make the eggs. And then there’s the cost to your health of eating that high-fat corn-fed eggs or poultry, which must also be given antibiotics so the animal can tolerate its corn diet—yet another cost to public health, in the form of antibiotic resistance. So, cheap food is actually astonishingly expensive.

The food you purchase from our farm isn’t expensive, it is HONESTLY PRICED, non-subsidized by the taxpayer and grown in a way that is sustainable.


It’s true that not everyone in this country can afford to buy honestly priced food—and we need to find a way to put healthy food in reach of those people. It’s a crime that the cheapest calories in the supermarket are the least healthy ones: added sugar (from corn) and added fat (from corn and soybeans). But that’s because we subsidize those calories—by paying farmers to grow more corn and soybeans than we need. Why don’t we subsidize the healthier calories over in the produce section?


The majority of us, though, CAN afford to spend more for honestly price food. The last statistic I read said that Americans spend less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food—less than any people on earth (the French spend 20 percent; the Chinese 50 percent), less in fact than any people in history. Why is it we understand “quality” when it comes to a car or television set but not when it comes to something as important as what we eat? Why do we assume that a five-cent egg, from a factory farm where the chickens lived in battery cages, had their beaks clipped off to prevent them from cannibalizing one another, and were fed pig meal, is the same product as a thirty cent egg from a chicken that lived outdoors and got to eat grass and insects as it was designed to do?


And so we say, if you want to change your food options, you must “Eat Your View.”


Meaning, support local farming in order to move towards healthier food options. This takes some work, of course. To participate in a local food economy requires considerably more effort than shopping at a grocery store. You won’t find anything pre-cooked or microwaveable at a farmer’s market or in your weekly box of organic produce from your food co-op. And you won’t find a tomato in December or a strawberry in February.


You’ll have to put some effort into sourcing your food – learning who grows the best beef or pork in your area, or the best lettuce. And then you will have to reintroduce yourself to your kitchen. Much of the appeal of our industrialzed food chain is its convenience; if offers us busy people a way to delegate our cooking to others.  Sixty years ago you'd would not see a grocery store in existance.  The great achievement of our industrial food system over the past-half-century has been to transform most of us into rather lazy eaters, avoiding spending too much time in our own kitchens.


Knowing this, a successful local food economy implies not only a new kind of food producer but a new kind of eater —one who regards finding, preparing, and preserving food as one of the pleasures of life rather than a chore. One who is ruined for the taste of fast food, instead craving a home-grown tomato! One who trusts “the George Family” more than he trusts Wal-mart.

 

Can You Afford to Eat Healthy?

Posted on March 5, 2017 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

At a recent gardening event I had several discussions with a variety of people regarding how we raise our food naturally without chemicals. Many  who had great interest in the whole process were supportive and even excited about what we are doing. But some of those same interested folks ended with, “I want to eat healthier and organic, but I just can’t pay that much for a chicken (or eggs, or _____).”


When you think about it, isn’t it odd that something as important to our health and general well-being as the food we eat, is so often sold and purchased almost strictly on the basis of price?


Look at any supermarket ad in the newspaper and all you will find in it are quantities—pounds and dollars; qualities of any kind are nowhere to be found.


I see people who put months and years into determining what make and model of a car to buy, or finding a builder for their home; but those same people put little into the value of knowing who will grow and prepare their food.


So when I’m met with someone who says he or she “wants to eat healthy” but “can’t afford it” – I believe that in many (not all, but many) cases, this is a false concept. I say this because typically that same person is carrying a cell phone with internet and I know how much those cost! Those same people have cable TV at home, perhaps have two or even more cars. And have you noticed that ounce per ounce, a bag of potaoes is tremendously cheaper than a bag of potato chips?  So, what they really mean to say is that “eating healthy isn’t a priority.” I suppose that sounds harsh, but when we really think about how we spend our money, that shows what is truly important to us.  Where our money is, so is our heart.


I like to remind folks that we can pay for good food now, or we can pay the doctors later!  Truly this is the case as we watch cancer, autism and other diseases rise almost in direct alignment with the increased farm chemical use and preservative-filled foods.


Conversations like the one I describe above, are the reason why we want to encourage people to really get to know their farmer.


The value of having a relationship with your farmer is that it allows many kinds of information besides price to travel up and down the food chain:

- stories, as well as numbers,

- qualities, as well as quantities,

- values, rather than “value.”

And as soon as that happens, what we typically see is people beginning to make different kinds of buying decisions, motivated by many criteria other than price.


Sadly, so much of our food system depends on our not knowing much about it beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner. We get a bar code. Which tells us nothing. Cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing. And it’s a short way from not knowing who’s at the other end of your food chain to beginning to not even care much —and once the public doesn’t care much, there becomes the carelessness of both producers and consumers and many of the troubling outcomes we see in the news today. (E.coli breakouts, recalled foods, etc.)


That is why we invite you to our farm. That is why we share our stories – the great times and the challenges. We want to encourage you to: Know your farmer… and know your food!


Watch for my next article coming soon: The Real Cost of Cheap Food


 

Honey

Posted on November 16, 2016 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

This was a long awaited event... Dylan started raising bees with his dad about 3 years ago.  He invested his own money in some of the hives and equipment.  And the first two years had many ups and downs.  Even the most seasoned bee keepers have hives that die, or swarm and are lost.  It's an expensive business to be in, and the bees don't always cooperate.

But we are glad that he was so diligent and did not get overly discouraged - even when he lost one of his best queens earlier this year (despite great efforts of capturing them and re-homing them.)

So today, the boys went out and took two frames from each of the remaining hives and extracted their first batch of honey!

It was a crowd gathering event because we've waited so long to have our own honey, and because we've never done this before so there is always an interesting learning curve.

First, getting the new equipment unpacked and learning proper use of it: 

 

Finally, it's all set up and ready to go! 

 

They pulled just two frames from each hive so they could be sure to leave enough honey for the bees to overwinter.  It's a fine art as I understand it - you must leave enough honey for the bees to overwinter, but NOT too much because with too much honey they will not get rid of any bees over the winter and end up so crowded that you'll get half the hive leaving in a swarm the following spring.  Leaving you to wait for a new queen to be raised up.

 


First a hot knife is used to get the "caps" off of the honey.  The goal is to take off the caps but leave the honey comb in place so the bees can reuse it.

 

 

 

 

 

 Then the frames are put into the honey extractor and the handle on top is used to gently spin them around, releasing the honey to fall to the bottom.

 

 

And finally, honey came pouring out.  I was amazed that they had over a gallon of honey from just 4 frames!  And so thrilled for Dylan who has put so much time and money into this.  He will now get to sell his first batch of honey.  And we all get to enjoy our own honey this winter!

 

   

 

Endurance (vs. Giving-Up) - The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God's best.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. - Galatians 6:9


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 


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