Lately, there have been more than a handful of high-profile books touting a vegan existence. Freedman and Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch (pictured above) and Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet among them; I read one, skimmed several others and I have, to risk the use of a terribly cheesy pun, beef.
While I can, mostly off the top of my head, recite for you the nutritional needs of every animal in my care human nutrition is, admittedly, not my strong suit. For that reason — and because I find it largely irrelevant, another story for another day — I will not argue against the premise that meat is nutritionally detrimental to humans.
What I will point out — over the course of the next few weeks — is that books like those listed have completely overlooked an important and rapidly growing demographic of food producers in North America and that the consequences of doing so, on a mass scale, will negatively affect not just the people, but the animals therein. Yes, even those intended for slaughter. And that it is, as long as we’re speaking in cheesy puns and cliches, possible to have your happy, healthy pig (or cow or chicken or quail or duck or goose) and eat it too!
So what about the people? For the first time in decades the U.S. is seeing a significant increase in the number of small farms in operation. Perhaps since WWII herself, when the industrialization and centralization of our food system hit full stride, David is wiggling from under the thumb of Goliath. And, most significant, he’s being backed by consumer dollars. The very thing that makes the world, or at the very least business, go ’round.
But it’s not just David either. “Donna” has also entered the brawl. Between 2002 and 2007 the number of female farm operators increased by nearly twenty percent. Like medicine, engineering, mathematics and countless other industries agriculture has always been a boys’ club, but today women are playing a major role in the restructuring and revival of it from within. They’re supporting their families, strengthening their communities and paving the way for a healthier, more equal society tomorrow while implementing systems that can sustain both the earth and its people.
In fact, organic produce was harvested from more than 200,000 acres in 2007. That’s just from the farms that are not so small they’re flying under the census radar; and where there is organic produce, there are small meat producers not far behind. In many instances they are one and the same.
Small, diversified farms may, as a matter of fact, be the single most sustainable model on the agricultural landscape today. Able to produce natural fertilizer off their land, by way of animals they feed from it, they can create a cyclical balance that cannot be reproduced. And the people behind those farms are the ethically astute people we need behind the scenes of our Agricultural Evolution. Stop supporting them and we stop supporting the sustainable restructuring of our food system.
So how do we cut through the jargon and find the right meat, milk and egg producers? Join me next week when we’ll look at just that.