Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Building a Better World by Eating Responsibly


I have been paying $5 for a dozen of eggs because the label reads free roaming and am furious with myself because it does not mean "roaming freely out in the open green fields under the beautiful sunshine." Sharing my thoughts with you was a struggle to compose, but a photo recently posted on Instagram about the poor treatment of dairy cows sent me on a rampage, questioning the choices I had been making. What is most infuriating is that I thought I had been doing the right thing all along. I miss the days when I used to sing "Old MacDonald," then eat steak for dinner, not making the connection between the pretty cow in the book and what was on my plate. 

History repeats itself, because we teach our children the same nursery rhymes from the same classic books that show happy animals on a pretty farm with a red barn amidst green rolling hills. I hear myself telling Daisy that is where milk comes from and where eggs come from. This is the message we were given and the one that we, in turn, pass on to our own children. 

But, that is not the truth. No one wants to talk about the physically and ethically filthy factory farms, huge conglomerates ruling the market. Livestock and birds are packed in huge numbers into ugly, dirty cages or barns and fed garbage. For years, I have been reaching for the organic, free-roaming, wanting to provide the best quality foods for my family. As a bonus, I thought I was supporting an industry committed to safe, humane treatment of the animals that nourish us. 

Accessibility and affordability continue to be a constant challenge. I will no longer be purchasing milk, eggs, cheeses from major supermarkets, despite the labels claiming honesty in sourcing organic goods.
But, even driving out of my way and paying an extra pretty penny does not guarantee a good night's sleep. The FDA defines the labels and has published a document discussing farm animal welfare. However, there is no government agency tasked to enforce standards. Even third-party certification entities fail to audit the very standards they set. Grass-fed does not mean the cow was allowed free reign over the land. It means exactly that - fed grass. Pasture-raised is more expensive, very difficult to find in metropolitan areas and makes no promise that you are getting something from those happy cows dotting the foggy hills of seaside Cambria. It really is hard to know who to trust. 



Then, what is the answer? The extreme approach is to give it all up...eggs, milk, meat, the whole lot. But, this really does not address the issue very well because, the world is filled with products tested on animals and made from animal by-products, some of which are life-saving. 

Medications, sutures, heart valves, buttons, shoes, handbags, briefcases, wallets, watchbands, belts, jackets, chairs, couches, pillows, cleaning products, cosmetics, Jell-O and many more are all made from animal products. Even Cheetos are fried in lard. There is no guarantee the creatures that were sacrificed to make any of these products were treated humanely. 
It is easy for the consumer to feel overwhelmed and powerless, but there is so much a person can do.

Remember that the busy honey bee plays a big part. This hardworking little creature has a profound impact on the livelihood of the planet. Campaigns like Project Pollination lead the way to save the honey bee. Anyone can help just by purchasing a (very cute) T-shirt or going into the garden to plant flowers that attract bees. It is an easy and relaxing way to spend a lazy afternoon. 

Then, treat yourself to a night out on the town. The culinary world has become sophisticated in its approach to supply sourcing. More restaurants proudly announce that they support sustainable farms, offering truly free-range eggs, pasture-raised meats and produce from local farms. Supporting your local farms can be a refreshing change to the old weekend routine. Take the family out for a fun day of apple-picking.



When I was a little girl, my uncle Feri lived in Switzerland. Whenever he or my aunt would visit, we knew we were going to get boatloads of delicious Swiss chocolate. Maybe the chocolate was so good because the milk came from healthy cows roaming the alpine landscape. I grew up thinking that was how all cows were raised. Alpine farm-steading has its own challenges, but is a much better approach to corporate factory farming. 

There are some good resources to help locate quality meat and dairy products. The Humane Society explains food labeling. Watchdog organizations like the Cornucopia Institute maintain scorecards of meat, egg, dairy producers listed by location in neatly organized tables.
The Organic Consumers Association sums everything up nicely and recommends using the Animal Welfare Organization (AWA) search engine to find grocers in your area that carry certified humane productsMore and more families and workplace cafeterias are dedicating at least one day each week to vegetarian cooking, usually with the "Meatless Monday." Make meat an occasional indulgence and splurge with the best quality. Homegrowncow is a great source for a wide variety of pasture-raised meats. 


Switch to almond, soy or coconut milk which is now available everywhere. I tried vanilla almond milk for the first time this morning. Poured some into a tall glass with a slice of orange peel and brown sugar. It was delicious. I must confess the vintage-looking hourglass bottle caught my eye, after a few sips, I did not even miss real milk. Almond milk has less calories, less fat and more calcium than cow's milk. Do not give up if your first try is disappointing. Try various brands until you find one you like. The Calafia Farms one is my favourite so far.

You know you got the good stuff when you pop the lid open on a dozen eggs and the shells are all different colours. The same farms that offer pasture-raised milk and eggs, also offer sour cream, yogurt and my beloved butter. Most natural food grocer have everything you need to bake a cake, which is always on my agenda.

Keep up with the latest at Sustainable Table. What is on your mind? I want to hear from you!


*Content not sponsored. All opinions are my own.

16 comments:

  1. We, too, have been asking these questions! We have seen the farms where our chicken, beef, pork and lamb are raised, and e one that brings us our goat cheese and eggs. But milk and butter are harder. Our milk (organic in most seasons - there are some seasons when it is too grassy for me), comes from a local dairy, but we have yet to visit. Butter? I just try to go with the best and say a little prayer... xo, David

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, David. No one thinks about butter or sour cream. Horizon does offer both, but I read some negative claims about them and have to research further, because I was purchasing their eggs and milk religiously. I've recently switched to Organic Valley - the eggs are obviously from happy hens - they're different colours like the ones in your latest post! xo

      Delete
    2. You got me thinking, D. So I did a bit more digging. It looks like the same people who provide good milk & eggs, also make butter. I've been buying Organic Valley, but have to drive a li'l bit to get it. I will be pricing some goods at Whole Foods tonight. Have a great w/end! xo

      Delete
  2. This is such an informative post! Providing food responsibly and fairly from the environment is one of the most important aspects we could focus on - thank you so much!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chippy, you Aussies are at the forefront of caring for the planet. The first time I saw biodegradable plastic grocery bags was in 2006 on my first visit to Oz. The US is sloooooowly catching up.
      xo

      Delete
  3. Hi Coco, I agree with you, if we all stopped buying the factory meats they would have to change. We pay more for what we believe are the right meats and because they are so expensive, we eat less. Better for us this way. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Cheri. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  4. You're so right, It's so confusing ...that's why I stopped eating red meat & Chicken and it's been a few weeks that I'm trying to use less animal products too. My new motto is if it grows I eat it ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great start, Fariba joon. We're working on the same. xo

      Delete
  5. such an important post, Colette. Wishing I had room to have my own chickens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Valentina bella, my husband actually looked into it. Our city won't really allow it. You need more space between neighbours and they are very strict. Then there is also the danger of inviting predators into your backyard (we are fairly close to the hills). So it's a big challenge.

      Delete
  6. Oh Coco!!! Thank you for writing this post - I think SO many of us feel your rage - myself included. I made the decision to give up red meat, veal, pork and chicken. It's hard because my family still eats it and I still write about it!! I go months being vegan and then feel the need for more protein. I would LOVE to keep my own chickens and goats!!! maybe in a few years:) For our 20th anniversary I set my husband up with a bee keeping kit!! Eating local and being as green as we can is a great step forward. God Bless!!
    Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary, thanks so much for the encouragement. I feel very strongly about the subject and wanted to share my frustration with other moms and foodies like yourself. It is really difficult to fix the problem, but all of us can work toward a change for the better together.

      Delete
  7. Hi Coco,

    You are right! We must be kind to the environment so that the environment can give us better food. I must say that it is really tough to be a vegan... The least that I can do is not to waste food :D

    Zoe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zoe, that's a great motto. I am guilty of wasting food, especially fresh produce. I buy too much when I shop on an empty stomach. I'll have to get into the habit of eating a candy bar before I got through those double doors at the market!

      Delete
  8. Hi Coco,

    Great article, I didn't know that about Horizon. Ok, I'm going to buy Organic Valley. I'm the only one in our family that drinks milk. :o) We do eat eggs, and now you've got me thinking I should buy them from my daughter's friend who raises chickens and sells eggs. Do you know anything about Whole Food's farm raised fish? The seafood guy said they have their own farms and they know exactly what they feed them. Their salmon is really yummy. I only eat seafood but mostly I eat vegetarian dishes for the rest.

    Janine

    ReplyDelete

Tell me what you think or just say hello!