Factory Farms

I saw the ad on tv last night. It made me cry, just as much as I cried the first time I saw it. I watched it again just now and again I cried. You can watch it here.

I am a meat eater and I am ok with that. However, more and more the cruelty of our meat industry tears at my heart. And more and more I can see that there really CAN be a world without factory farms.

Stop for a moment and think. What did our ancestors do? My mum was born on a farm in country NSW and I know they slaughtered their own meat. It was just too far to drive into town. Even after they moved into town they kept chickens for eggs and meat. My grandfather, her father, who was also raised on the farm would most definitely have eaten meat either raised by his father and older brothers (he was number 10 of 11) or at the very least, raised by his uncles. My father’s family were city folk but I reckon you wouldn’t need to go back too far to find backyard chickens raised for eggs and for a Sunday roast. It was just how it was done.

Nowadays, meat is something that comes in nearly bloodless form, definitely without skin or wool or hair, on an unenvironmentally friendly styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic, already cut into convenient sized pieces depending upon our need. The offasl is also dealt with quietly and away from our sensitivities. We are so far removed from the sources of our meat that we can just about ignore the fact that an animal has died to provide it. And the fact that we have allowed factory farms to proliferate shows that we do in fact ignore the origins of our steak or roast.

In factory farms animals are packed in to very tightly combined spaces. How many can we squeeze in the maximise production? Think of that crowded elevator at 5pm on a stinking hot Friday as everyone is making their way home. Squashed in with other people, everyone perspiring and uncomfortable. Now stop that lift, wedge the door open a mere 20cm and place a bowl of food for you to eat. But it’s not the meal you are used to eating, just a bowl of oats (not rolled or processed oats like we usually eat in our porridge either) with no milk or sweetenener or flavour. And that meal is placed there every time. It’s not food we are designed to eat. Now, you need to use the toilet… I won’t go on, but this is pretty similar to the life of factory farmed animals. Unnatural foods (cows are supposed to eat grass, not corn and neither chickens nor pigs are vegetarian in nature – both eat insects for starters), pumped full of antibiotics to prevent infections that are being shared in unsanitary and crowded conditions (think how cholera and dysentery spread in concentration and refugee camps) and no natural light, just artificial lights kept low to conserve electricity or switched on and off at unnatural intervals to convince you to lay faster.

We are already low meat consumers. We would have a meal with meat in it maybe once every 10 days with the exception of ham. We do eat a bit of ham. Our egg consumption is pretty high although I buy free-range eggs (I have my suspicions on how free range free range eggs really are though) or from our own backyard, mostly organically raised, free-ranging grass accessing and hiding their nests hens. I have no intention nor the inclination to give up eating meat, a personal choice that I hope can be respected. Believe me, it is something I have thought about and it’s not just a non-choice of that’s how I’ve always done it. The true test will come. I also believe for optimum health that animal products are required in our diets unless you try to substitute with synthetic ingredients but I also completely respect those that choose white meat vegetarian, full vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. It is a totally personal choice and it gets my complete respect. One day, in the not too distant future I hope to be able to raise most of my own animal products. That way I can ensure that they live clean and healthy lives, enjoying room to roam and be the animal that they are. In the meantime though I do pledge to you all to start making a change to eating non-factory farmed meat.

I urge you to watch this film, I really do. And I urge you to think about what you can personally do to make factory farms an embarrassing part of our history, not of our present.

Caged eggs. Makes you think twice about that omelette.

Or that Parma down at the pub.

Steak? Hamburger? More like sardines.

Christmas ham? This image is rather close to home for me as a breastfeeding mother.

How many sleeps? Part II

Yes, I am continuing to post on that dreaded date that is looming over all of our heads.

This time I want to talk about Christmas food.

Our day before we had kids would entail dragging our backsides out of bed at around 6:30, hauling over to Heidelberg where my parents live (a 40 minute drive around the city) and trying to be there in time for breakfast at 8 before hauling off to church at 9:30. We tried to keep up with that with the kids but it was hard enough to do without kids so we soon gave it up as a bad idea. In recent years we’ve aimed to arrive around 11ish after having opened gifts from Santa in the morning so we can meet up with my brother and sister-in-law who have a chaotic time fitting in seeing her extended family. We’d lunch to bursting and then after snacking throughout the afternoon on food we neither really wanted nor need and then inevitably stay and eat dinner with my parents before heading home with a car so overloaded with toys and gifts that we can barely see out the rear window and bellies several inches larger than they had been. Gluttony to the max.

They each came home with a bag like this FULL of toys last year

In our societies, we are very blessed to have access to food so readily and Christmas is a time that proves the point in fine style. Christmas dinner is usually enough to make the belt buckles need loosening, the shirt buttons pop and the mouth to salivate at the thought of all the delectables reserved especially for this time of year… And that is just thinking about it! The meal itself often includes greater excess than imagined. Roast turkey, pork and glazed ham or some tiger prawns for the less traditional. Apple sauce, cranberry sauce and gravy or seafood sauce. Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans, corn, roast potatoes and pumpkin, carrots and parsnip, coleslaw, green salads and of course potato salad. And then there is dessert… Pavlova, trifle (loaded with grog of course), ice-cream plum pudding, plum pudding, brandy butter, brandy cream, custard, cream and ice-cream. Then there are the fruit trays. Being Summer here we have an amazing array of divine fruits. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, oranges, kiwi fruits, mangoes, pineapples, apricots, cherries and I know I have forgotten a heap. Have I forgotten anything else? Oh yes, the nibbles. Pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, chocolates, lollies (sweeties or candy), a ring of prawns as well as cheeses and meats, cocktail onions and other such pickles. *groan* I think I’ve just gained 5kgs simply typing it all out!

But here is something to think about. When are the fruits and vegetables actually in season which means they are then grown locally and not shipped from interstate or international locations.
Apples – in season from February
Nashi pears – in season from January
Nuts – mostly in season from March, if not April
Grapes – in season from January
Figs – in season from February
Kiwi Fruit – in season from March

And the veggies:
Broccoli and cauliflower – in season from July to November
Pumpkin – in season from March
Carrot and Parsnip – in season from April
Onions – in season from February
Celery – in season from January
Mushrooms – in season from March to November

Now, these are just Victorian peak seasons taken from here and I’m sure there is room for variation depending on growing seasons but it goes to show that many of the fruit and veggies we source for our Christmas dinner may well not be fresh or local. And as much as I would prefer to buy something shipped from Queensland rather than overseas, there are still carbon miles that need to be considered.

PicturePrawns were to me growing up, a real delicacy. You had a few baby shrimp or prawns in your Chinese Fried Rice take out and they were divided equally and to be squabbled over. I still remember my first ever taste of king prawns in a strawberry sauce when I was in my early teens – my grandmothers 70th birthday I think (she’s nearly 90 now). It was a special food allowed only for a special occasion. I was also allowed to try some barramundi then too. However, prawns and many other fish are over fished or farmed in a way that is damaging to the environment. Others are very slow-growing which means they take a long time to replace those we catch and eat. Check here, here and best of all here for more information on fishing practices and good seafood choices.

What about the meat we eat. Turkey, ham, pork, chicken, beef or any other meat is, at least in our recent history, usually factory farmed. I cannot recommend enough watching this video about factory farming. Factory farms traditionally raise limited breeds which have been bred selectively for fast growth and may have been pumped with hormones to increase that rate of growth. They’re fed corn and soy instead of their natural foods of grass, insects and other free-range available foods, and both soy and corn can be GMO. They are raised en masse and slaughtered en masse too. And due to their crowded conditions, any diseases or infections will spread en masse too so they’re often routinely fed antibiotics to prevent this. The cycle continues when antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria arise and I know in the USA there have been outbreaks that have caused people to die from eating meat products infected from these antibiotic resistant strains. Kevin’s story is one that is more well-known due to being shared through the movie Food Inc. So, how can we enjoy our Christmas meats but not eat foods that are treated with cruelty and disdain? Well, there are options like not eating meat and having a vegetarian or vegan Christmas but this is not for everyone. Restricting your meat intake can go a long way too. Do we really need 6 different meats on our plates? If you do still want the variety and traditional Christmas meats then buy organic and free-range. Certified organic foods will contain neither hormones nor antibiotics. However, this does not necessarily mean it’s slaughtered in a way that is different to the usual processing plants but from the research I have done I’m not coming up with much good news. If you can source direct from the farm itself where the processing has all happened on site it may be different. The best option I can think of if you do choose to eat meat is to raise and harvest it yourself.

Our Christmas meal plans will be for 1 meat only – home raised duck and it will have free-ranging access either in the chicken run which we plan to be of a goodly size, or indeed truly free ranging around our garden. When we do slaughter it we plan to do so as humanely as possible (yes I understand the oxymoron of ‘humane slaughter’) and we plan to not gorge ourselves to excess either so 1 duck will sufficiently feed the 5, or possibly 7 of us and I suspect we will have leftovers for dinner too. I’m planting carrots this weekend but I’m not sure they will be of a size to harvest, even as baby carrots and the peas will go in too along with the rest of our seedlings. Hopefully we get some perfect weather for an early harvest of just a few items. Whatever we haven’t grown in time will be purchased from the Ballan Farmers Market or possibly the Trentham Farmers Market in the 2 weeks before Christmas. At least then it will be locally sourced, keeping the carbon miles low.

Well, that’s enough from me today. Just some food for thought if you can excuse the terrible pun.