Friday, June 11, 2010

Where's the Red Barn?

There is a red barn, green grass, and happy animals. But they're probably not the inspiration for your average grocery store label.

The red-roofed barn at Paradise was built in the late 1800's.

Friends and customers have been telling me about their reactions to some of the recent food documentary films, most often Food Inc. So, Ross and I decided that we needed to watch the movie. On a dark, rainy night we sat down to watch what we knew would be some distasteful content. We weren't disappointed.

Food Inc goes a long way to show the real world of food production as it's predominantly practiced in the US today. We weren't shocked or surprised at any of the farming and ranching images. I was surprised that they didn't go further showing more examples of inhumane treatment, but I do realize that most farms that engage in these inhumane practices don't welcome film crews. Here are some things we can add to the examples based on our own knowledge and experience:

Beef cows aren't the only cows living miserable lives. Dairy cows are often kept in HUGE dairies (My AI teacher provides semen to a dairy in western Oregon that has 24,000 cows). The only way to manage these numbers is to keep cows crowded in closed spaces. Many dairy facilities are actually under roofs and the cows never even get in the sun. They certainly never stand on grass at anytime in their lives. And because they're kept in such crowded places, they stand in a slurry of their own manure and urine. We've personally seen them in such filth up to their bellies. Their long tails become saturated with the filth and their caretakers are annoyed when they swish their tails and get them dirty. The solution? Cut their tails off. It's been a common practice in dairies to dock the cow's tails for many years. But you'll never see a tail-less cow on a milk label and you'll certainly not see a cow standing in its own waste on that same label. What they do depict is red barns, green pastures, and very clean animals. You ARE being lied to.

Jiggy is one of our milk cows. She's enjoying the green grass and her tail.

The food industry is not interested in producing a quality product. It's interested in producing a cheap product. Whether that's healthy for you or not. Dairy cows, beef cows, poultry, and pigs are all being fed garbage and industrial waste because it's cheaper than the real food these animals naturally eat. Cows that naturally eat only grass are being fed grains, food processing wastes like sugar beet pulp (from making sugar), and animal wastes like poultry manure. How do you get a cow to eat manure or garbage? You make it sweet with molasses or other additives. Grass-fed animals rarely have the bad e-coli strains or other bacterial infections like salmonella. These are all common in feedlotted animals that are eating our garbage which their digestive systems simply cannot handle.

Our cows at Eden eating what cows should eat: grass.

You should really think twice about eating a fast food burger. Ross and I still eat burgers out occasionally, but he's refused to eat at McDonalds for many years. If you want to know why, come visit us. We'll take you to a livestock auction and show you where some of the fast food burger comes from. Many burger buyers buy cows that are taken to auction because they've been culled from someones herd. Why does a cow get culled? It's a cow or bull who is too old to be productive. It's a cow or bull who is sick, injured, or diseased (like with a tumor). McDonalds can sell $.99 hamburgers because there isn't much buyer competition for the type of beef they purchase. You certainly wouldn't buy an obviously broken-down, sick, or injured animal to feed your family.

So, what do you do if you want to know for sure that the meat products you're buying are from healthy and humanely treated animals? You buy them direct from the rancher or farmer and you visit his ranch or farm so that you know he is accurately representing his business. Our own local butcher told us recently that he has a customer who buys beef cows at the local livestock auction (where buyers know nothing about the history of the cows being sold), trailers them direct from the auction to the butcher, and then sells the beef as grass-fed. So, some unwitting person who is trying to do the right thing for his own health and the health of the animals he eats, is actually eating meat that could contain hormones, antibiotics, other drugs and come from an animal that has never eaten grass. Even when buying food, remember the old saying: Buyer Beware.

Understand that when you see those beautiful, pastoral labels at the grocery store, they're probably fictional. And they depict something that is VERY far from the truth. It takes some effort, but you can find an alternative. There are many small farms and ranches that are doing what we do here at R&A Paradise Ranch where it is beautiful, the animals are well cared for, and they live healthy lives.

Find a red barn, green pastures and happy animals near you.

The gate is always open.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh. Don't forget that those McDonald's buyers at the auction are competing with the dog food buyers who add "real beef" to their dog food.