Sunday, January 27, 2013

Voting with your fork (and your dollar)

Here's a little painting I just finished last week. (This painting, like most of the paintings I've featured here, is for sale in my Etsy shop.) The subject of the painting is one of a bunch of awesome Berkshire pigs, which are owned by the fine folks who run North Woods Ranch. I featured this ranch once before, right here, after I had painted a different sow from their growing herd.

Their ranch is home not just to the Berks, but also to Scottish Highland cattle. All the animals at North Woods Ranch are privileged (in modern America, anyway) to live their creaturely lives in the traditional, humane way that was intended for such creatures. They roam freely, eating or rooting in grass, exploring small sections of field to which they're confined for a few days before being moved to another plot to exhaust that space, and so on. Their food is supplemented with natural, non-corn-based feeds. Nothing that goes into the animals is genetically modified, none of the critters require regular does of steroids or antibiotics (because they're not living nose to hind end in filthy quarters, eating food that makes them ill), and the animals are never caged or confined. As a result, the pigs and cows are healthier—and therefore, their meat is healthier in every way.

One of my favorite books of the last decade is The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I recommend it to people who can handle the truth. (Remember A Few Good Men?) I have read and re-read it, and I'm more and more determined each time I revisit it to stay committed to the task of eating responsibly and with as much awareness as I can. It's not just about meat, though; it's all the food in our industrial system. What most of us are really eating, every day? Corn and petroleum. But I'll let you read it for yourself.

The copy I have right now (having lent a couple of others, and subsequently replaced them) seems to be a signed paperback. I found it at Half-Price Books (love that place) and it sure looks like Pollen's name in the front title page. Whomever it is urges the book's owner to "vote with your fork," and while I agree with that sentiment in an indirect way, I feel as if Americans grasp the idea of voting with dollars a little better. Where we spend is what we value.

Will free-range, homegrown foods of all kinds cost more? Yes. Is it a deliberate choice about where you put your money? About which system you support? You bet. All that inexpensive food in the markets has a different price, really, but you'll never see it because the real cost is under-cut by our government. The people who help keep the sick, limping, oil-dependent system in place. Those people (as if I need to tell you this) don't care about your welfare. They talk a good talk, but in the end, when you need them to explain how all that corn syrup and corn-fed beef and steroids and antibiotic-resistant bacteria got into your and your children's bodies, you won't get any answers—they'll be on vacation in Hawaii, likely. So.

Inform yourself. I'll stop ranting now, but I encourage you, implore you, beseech you to learn more. To become a food radical. Your body will thank you. You'll be doing something meaningful, making a statement (however small). People don't need meat every day, at every meal. It's only possible because of a twisted means of bringing it to you in bulk for very little money. And when the animals suffer, so does your health. It's all related.

In the meantime? Go here and read about North Woods Ranch. Support it, and also other people who are trying to do it right. Community Supported Agriculture buy-ins are another great means of helping the little guys, as are farmer's markets. Or heck, grow your own food! Victory gardens are a fantastic idea all the time, not just in wartime. And stop buying tomatoes in winter, and asparagus in fall. Buy what's in season, from people nearby that you know, if you can. It's better for everyone.

Okay, done now.


Mel said...

If you are interested in purchasing products from North Woods Ranch, including maple syrup and honey products, please send me a note with your email; I'd be happy to pass it on to the family who runs the ranch. (I think their website has a link to their email, but just in case, I'd be happy to arrange it.)

Facie said...

I know I need to change my food-buying ways. I have put that book on my to-read list.

I am guessing if food is free-range, it is indicated as such on the package, but I don't notice it because I don't buy it. I tend to buy frozen chicken at WM, the kind that has a solution injected in it. I cringe every time I read that. I did stop buying the frozen steak for that reason. Baby steps?

My aunt and uncle had two cows a few years ago. It was so much work and a lot of $$ to raise them the right way that they have not done it again. I wish I knew someone else who was doing that sort of thing (or just looking in the right places). I also wish the hub and kid weren't such carnivores!

Mel said...

a baby step is still a step! ; )

what is WM? Walmart?

cows are work; any animal raised humanely is work. but it's a symbiotic system among people, plants, and animals that cannot be imitated in industrical design. definitely read the book. and North Woods comes to Baker's Square sometimes, esp. in summer for markets? maybe catch them there or email them to see next time they'll make deliveries there? I would much rather pay more and know I'm supporting a good, worthy cause and healthier food. we just cut down on meat consumption, try to cook it other ways, use less popular cuts cooked more slowly, etc.