Fohn and Jana Bendele raise Animal Welfare Approved beef cattle on their farm, Grass Field Beef, in Hondo, TX. The slogan at Grass Field’s is “Better for you, better for the animals, better for the planet.” Fohn and Jana believe that beef raised on pasture is not only healthier for the animals, but also for the consumer and the environment. For contact information and inquiries, visit Fohn and Jana’s website www.grassfieldbeef.com. Fohn and Jana are proud to supply their AWA grassfed products to their local San Antonio area.
As the August 13 recall of eggs from Wright County Egg Farm expands, it continues to show us all how fragile our nation’s food supply is while highlighting the risks we run by concentrating our egg production in vast warehouses. A single group of battery caged hens appears to be affecting millions of people in the West and Midwest. Another day, another big food recall—it’s not a surprise—but it is a good example of how our food system fails us in almost every way.
Salmonella is an unintended consequence of industrialized food production. No one set out to design a system that promotes disease; they just wanted to produce cheap food. However, it is a biological fact that if you keep animals in large numbers in a confined environment then pests and diseases will inevitably spread. Recent research has shown a direct correlation between flock size and confinement and the presence of salmonella. The bigger the flock and the more confined, the greater the risk of infection.
Alvin and Terrie Simons raise Animal Welfare Approved laying hens and pigs at Alvin & Terrie Simons Heritage Pigs in Halfway, Oregon. Relative newcomers to farming, Terrie spent 19 years as a real estate agent in Phoenix, Arizona before leasing the farm in 2008. “I wanted to take care of something that would take care of me in return,” Terrie says of her decision to return to her home state of Oregon and purchase her first flock of laying hens.
Kimberly and Brian Harry raise several breeds of Animal Welfare Approved laying hens including Delawares, Khaki Campbell laying ducks, and Angus/Hereford/Gelbvieh purebred and cross-bred cattle in Efland, North Carolina. Minka Farm, located in Orange County, is a young and growing farm and Kimberly and Brian are highly committed to running a sustainable, high-welfare operation. All of Minka Farm’s animals are raised outside on pasture year round. Their feed is 100% vegetarian, and no pesticides or herbicides are used on the farm’s grass. “As a family, we decided that a strong connection to the land and a good work ethic are important for us,” the Harrys say. “We are constantly learning about how best to keep our soil healthy and our animals happy while we grow products for ourselves and our customers.”
Roger Harris started South Chestnut Farm in Chatham County, North Carolina, in the early 2000’s on land that had been in his family for at least four generations. Inspired by stories of successful small farms from across the country, he envisioned an opportunity to manage a 60-acre cattle farm in a sustainable and environmentally-sound manner while producing farm products for local customers.
“What makes a good steak?” asks Mark Schatzker in his new book, Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef (Viking, 2010). Schatzker is a man who loves steak, unambiguously and with abandon, and he makes the perfect guide for an adventure filled with cowboys, cattle and rib eyes. His devotion to his favorite food and his interest in how steak comes to be steak—good and bad— kicks off an always fascinating, often hilarious, around-the-world search for the best steak ever.
More than just an excuse for the author to eat a variety of steaks of varying degrees of fabulousness, Steak is an exhaustive, highly entertaining study of the traditions and science of steak. In America, steak has a cultural reputation as weighty as Tiffany’s: both are symbols of prosperity and opulence. But like so many once-revered emblems of the good life, the quality of steak in the United States has steadily diminished, even if its reputation hasn’t.
Just about everyone has eaten something that comes from a crop doused with pesticides so toxic that no one is allowed in the field for five days after it is sprayed. Or that must be stored for six months after harvest to allow the pesticides to fade. What crop is it? Learn that and so much more in the young readers edition of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Dial Books) by Michael Pollan, adapted by Richie Chevat. Based on Pollan’s adult book of the same title, the new version is simplified and updated, contains informative side notes and visuals and concludes with a new afterward, eating tips, a question and answer section and empowering resources. Though intended for ages 10 and up, Pollan’s detective work, substantive content and eloquent writing will engage readers of all ages interested in food production.
To solve the modern “omnivore’s dilemma” (we can eat anything, but how do we know what to eat?), Pollan investigates four meals representative of four different food chains – the system for growing, making and delivery food. He wants to share with us where our food comes from and what exactly it is we are eating. So, he starts in the farms and fields where our food is grown and personably chronicles its creation and consumption.
| August 13, 2010
What if our newest invasive species is one that started in the lab and was unleashed on an unsuspecting world despite abundant warnings from scientists and others? And what if it is not even really “natural” to begin with? And what if this new invasive species, once liberated from a controlled setting, became even more potent and more persistent in the wild? Then you would be talking about genetically modified (GM) canola, which according to a report presented Friday at the Ecological Society of America, is now growing in the wild and is busily evolving into a plant that will outstrip our best efforts to contain it. It also has the potential to cross-pollinate and swap genes with other non-GM wild plants.
More than 83% of the wild canola tested by researchers traveling through North Dakota tested positive for GM genes. But this is what’s really terrifying: some of the plants tested positive for resistance to both glyphosphate (Roundup) and glusfosinate (Liberty). Commercial GM canola is resistant to either Roundup or Liberty, not both. The dual resistance evolved in the wild, after the plants had escaped. The wild canola is doing what living things do—mutating and selecting for traits that will best ensure its survival. And all without our help.
| August 10, 2010
I don’t often find much to cheer about when I read the food and farming news. But a new report from the influential National Research Council (NRC) on the future of U.S. farming had me reaching for my pom-poms.
On the face of it, the NRC’s report, “Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century,” might not seem like headline-grabbing stuff. But this report really is big news for anyone interested in a sustainable future for farming—and not just because its conclusions represent another damning indictment of industrialized farming.
You see, the NRC is a prestigious, independent U.S. scientific body, established in 1916 “to provide elected leaders, policy makers, and the public with expert advice based on sound scientific evidence.” And in publishing this report, the NRC joins a growing number of leading global scientific organizations in effectively throwing down the gauntlet to Big Ag, publicly criticizing the negative consequences of industrialized farming and calling for a more holistic approach to food production in the face of increasingly scarce natural resources and the growing threat of climate change.
In response to Facebook Fan Lisa’s questions regarding the source of the bison burgers she purchased and also about the USDA rule regarding feedlots for Certified Organic bison and cattle, we emailed her the following information:
Unfortunately, Superior Midwest Foods said they wouldn’t be able to tell us the names of the bison farms for their burgers. They said they get the bison meat from several different farms, make it into burgers and ship them off to the retailers. This means the bison could have been raised on pasture or on a feedlot, no one really knows.
Regarding Certified Organic, sadly, this certification does not guarantee that the animals didn’t come from feedlots. While certified organic does require that the animals have access to the outdoors, and ruminants must have access to pasture with exception of the “finishing phase”, this doesn’t mean they actually have to go outdoors and graze on pasture to be considered organic or not be on a feedlot. To avoid this issue buy only from AWA or AGA farms as they are the only two labels that prohibit feedlots. A good source of advice would be http://www.organicconsumers.org/.