Do you eat abused chickens?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlastras/3456719415

Sorry to say, you probably do… after reading this, you might be compelled to go purchase your chicken from local farmers who treat the animals with compassion.

Perdue proudly displays a seal of approval from the Department of Agriculture asserting that its bird are “raised cage free.”

But, a farmer who actually raises Perdue chickens is incredulous!! “My jaw just dropped,” he said. “It couldn’t get any further from the truth.”

Here are some excerpts from this NY Times article. 

  • “Most shocking is that the bellies of nearly all the chickens have lost their feathers and are raw, angry, red flesh. The entire underside of almost every chicken is a huge, continuous bedsore.”
  • “Chickens are now bred to have huge breasts, and they often end up too heavy for their legs. Poultry Science journal has calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as modern chickens, a human would weigh 660 pounds by the age of eight weeks.”
  • “These chickens don’t run around or roost as birds normally do. They stagger a few steps, often on misshapen legs, and then collapse onto the excrement of tens of thousands of previous birds. It is laden with stinging ammonia that seems to eat away at feathers and skin.”
  • “I called Perdue to see what the company had to say. Jim Perdue declined to comment, but a company spokeswoman, Julie DeYoung, agreed that undersides of chickens shouldn’t be weeping red. She suggested that the operator was probably mismanaging the chicken house.”
  • “[The claim by Perdue] doesn’t go over well with Watts, whose family has owned the farm since the 1700s and says he has been raising chickens for Perdue since 1992, meticulously following its requirements.”
  • “The claim about the chickens being raised “cage free” is misleading because birds raised for meat are not in cages. It’s egg-laying chickens that are caged, not the ones we eat. So “cage free” is meaningful for eggs but not for chicken meat. Moreover, Perdue’s chickens are crammed so tightly in barns that they might as well be in cages. Each bird on the Watts farm gets just two-thirds of a square foot.”
  • “U.S.D.A. is the accomplice of Perdue in the fooling of consumers,” says Leah Garces, American director of Compassion in World Farming, who calls it a marketing scam.
  • Perdue may now be backing away from some of its claims. It settled a suit with the Humane Society of the United States by agreeing to remove the “humanely raised” line from some packaging, even as it denied wrongdoing.”
  • “Look for labels that say ‘certified humane,’ ‘global animal partnership,’ or ‘animal welfare approved.'”

BuzzNutrition’s two cents

Best bet is to buy your chickens from local farmers who treat their chickens well, and feed them what chickens are meant to eat!

Here is another link to a slew of comments from people on Reddit, which is “never accused of being a hippie earth mother site”

Sustainable meat

Enjoy the following excerpts from this article from the LA Times. It’s  a review of a book that makes a case for the sustainability of raising cows for their meat. It’s written by Nicolette Hahn Niman, who is co-owner of cattle farming company, a lawyer and a vegetarian.

She believes that “cattle are necessary to the restoration and future health of this planet and its people.”

  • “Nearly everything we accept as gospel about the negative environmental effects of cattle ranching, and the ill health effects of eating red meat, is wrong”
  • Author of the book is a lawyer, wife of a rancher and vegetarian. Her name is Hahn Niman and she has now been added to my list of heroes.
  • Hahn debunks the myth that cattle cause global warming & deforestation, that eating meat causes world hunger & heart disease & that overgrazing ruined the American West.
  • “She has you so deep in the minutia of studies that you’ll be gasping for air.”
  • She stresses that ALL FOOD IS GRASS… I would insist that all food is actually soil microorganisms, but since I didn’t write a book, I defer to Hahn. She says, “We need grass, and that grass needs cattle.”
  • “Ruminants like antelope and bison — and now cows — create healthy grasslands when they’re kept by predators in tight “mobs” and constantly moved place to place, digging up the grass and leaving a steady stream of manure. Those grasslands thrive, preventing erosion of topsoil, which is one of our worst global environmental crises, sequestering massive amounts of carbon, and producing dense, nutrient-rich food from marginal lands. Moving those herds requires cowgirls and -boys, which also brings more jobs to farm country.”

What is success?

How are you defining success? That’s an important question, since the answer drives what you do. It sure would suck to work really hard only to discover your answer was really someone else’s.

Everyone benefits from glancing at the horizon to make sure we’re headed where we intended. This quote from BrainPickings.org might serve as a check-in to help you get reacquainted with what is important to you.

“One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.”

~Alain de Botton, modern philosopher

Legalizing Backyard Hens in Staunton

“Cluck” below to “chick” out the video presentation I created to explain why backyard hens should be made legal in Staunton. Staunton City Backyard Hen Advocates presented this video to City Council on October 23, 2014, after which City Council unanimously voted to move the proposal forward to the Planning Commission!

<Spoiler alert: We won! On August 27, 2015, City Council voted (4 to 3) in our favor and legalized backyard chickens! Thanks to our hard work, each household is allowed to own 6 chickens per household, no roosters!>

…Scroll down for my reasons for wanting to legalize backyard hens…

The following experts and advocates are featured (in alpha order): Ryan Blosser, Jenna Clarke, Courtney Cranor, John Matheny, Emily Melvin, Lisa Pie Millette, Steve Moore, Holly Parker, Adam Rosen, Joel Salatin, Tracey Shiflett MPA AICP, Polly Smock, David Thomas NDhc, and Roger Woo.

Until August 27, 2015, it was illegal to own a flock of Backyard Hens in residentially-zoned areas of Staunton. I think residents everywhere should be permitted to own, care for, and choose/grow the feed for their own personal supply of sustainable, clean, happily clucking protein.

Eggs are hands down, one of the most nutritious protein sources on the planet. Eggs from any fowl provide easily-digestible protein, a healthy source of cholesterol (specifically proven to enhance heart health), choline (which boosts brain health) and other crucial nutrients in abundance.

They’re arguably the easiest protein source to prepare. And that can be done with an amazing amount of variety by the least skilled of cooks, from boiled & scrambled to frittata & soufflé.

Eggs laid by fowl have been devoured by humans for a very long time. After hunting eggs of wild fowl, we decided they were so scrumptious that we gathered the birds in pens to make their eggs easier to find. East India domesticated egg-layers as early as 3200 BC. Ancient Egyptian and Roman people ate eggs on their own, as well as in breads and cakes. Europe domesticated chickens in 600 BC. You could say humans and chickens progressed through time together, hand in… talon!

The American Egg Board estimates that roughly 75 billion eggs are produced in the United States each year. The average American consumes +/- 246 year. That translates to ~20 eggs a month per person and includes home preparation, restaurants, and dishes/condiments that contain egg as an ingredient. Most Americans buy their eggs from huge factory farms that host 20,000 birds in chicken houses the size of football fields.

Considering humans’ long and intimate (and delicious) history with fowl and their eggs, it’s surprising that some cities have laws that prevent their citizens from owning their own chickens. Staunton is one of those cities. In Staunton, we can own cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, snakes, lizards and non-egg-laying birds, but we may not own chickens.

My reasons taste like chicken:

Humans have been eating domesticated chickens and their eggs for a very long time. As early as 3200 BC, humans have been living with egg-laying fowl. Ancient Egyptian and Roman people ate eggs on their own, as well as baked in breads and cakes. Europe domesticated chickens in 600 BC. You could say humans and chickens progressed through time together, hand in… talon!

If humans and chickens living together was a bad idea, we would not be here today. Or, we would have abandoned the practice of owning domesticated chickens thousands of years ago.

Today, chicken’s eggs are hands down, one of the most nutritious protein sources on the planet (besides liver… yeah, I know.) Eggs from any fowl provide easily-digestible protein, a healthy form of cholesterol (proven to enhance heart health, even touted by Dr. Oz the Great), choline (which boosts brain health) and other crucial nutrients in abundance.

My reasons sound like chicken.

Hens are not very loud. Roosters are loud, and are completely unnecessary. Frankly, most everyone, including hens, is much happier without those machismo alarm clocks running around. At their loudest, with someone standing in the coop with them, hens produce 70 decibels, which is the same as normal street noise. But this is only at their loudest, when they’re excited. Normally they’re much quieter, especially since people are not generally hanging out reading a newspaper in their coop. A babbling stream is 50 decibels, and quiet conversation is 30 decibels.

My reasons smell like chicken.

Chickens do not smell when taken care of correctly. I’ve stood in front of the huge coops of chickens at Polyface Farm admiring and inhaling for many minutes. I didn’t smell a thing. Also, while visiting coops in Augusta County and in Seattle, Washington, I smelled the same thing: nothing.

When chickens are not taken care of, they smell. They also don’t survive and are not fun or worthwhile to own. This equates to animal abuse and is reported by neighbors. In other cities in which chickens are legal, the reports of “chicken abuse” are minimal. I am currently doing research to compare those instances to dog abuse.

When chickens are legalized in other cities, people do not run out and buy them en mass. Chickens are a big responsibility that people don’t take lightly (plus a significant cost is involved). I probably will not have chickens because I like to bundle up when it’s cold, rather than trudging in my yard caring for a coop. And when it’s hot, I like to go to the beach, rather than sweating in my yard caring for a coop.

But, if I were ever able to, and did decide to get a few hens, I would hire someone to come consult with me on the best place to put them in my yard. I might save up some money to have a custom coop made that looks like a hobbit’s house from Lord of the Rings. I would definitely pay a consultant in dollars, or in hOURs, to periodically come make sure I’m doing everything right. And I would pay someone else to come feed and care for them when I go to the beach or spend a weekend in DC. I may even buy my ladies chicken sweaters for the winter holidays.

My reasons look like chicken.

Chickens are hearty animals, which do not succumb easily to disease. When fed foods that Nature intended they eat and given clean places to live, they are not dirty or unsafe. They are nostalgic. Many feel close to their hens, like they are pets. Chickens are hypnotic, the way they strut and peck (and by the way some of the things they peck at are ticks, which spread the dreaded Lyme disease, a growing epidemic in Virginia with which I have personal experience). Some people enjoy sitting on an overturned bucket and watching them, like fish in a tank… but unlike fish, chickens make delicious eggs.

My reasons feel like chicken.

Few things can match the sense of pride and empowerment provided by growing one’s own food. Whether harvesting kale, string beans or chickens, being self-sufficient is incredibly gratifying.

Few lessons for children can match those taught by homegrown food. But better than carrots, chickens teach invaluable lessons of respect for fellow life forms no matter their category, awareness of the connection between the Earth and all of life, empathy for the basic needs of other organisms and the natural cycle of life to death. Children who grow up with Teacher Chickens in their yards, or the yards of their neighbors will, in many ways, be better off.

Finally, nothing can match the feeling of security of raising chickens in one’s back yard. Chickens produce a fantastic source of sustainable protein that vegetables cannot provide. When families are struggling to make ends meet, chickens can provide both confidence and relief. Food security is a right of every human on this planet and if Staunton can provide that in a safe and well-regulated way, it is absolutely obligated to do so.

What’s all the fuss about Backyard Hens?

At this time, it is illegal to own a flock of Backyard Hens in residentially-zoned areas of Staunton. But, I think residents everywhere should be permitted to own, care for and choose/grow the feed for their own personal supply of sustainable, clean, happily clucking protein.

Eggs are hands down, one of the most nutritious protein sources on the planet. Eggs from any fowl provide easily-digestible protein, a healthy source of cholesterol (specifically proven to enhance heart health), choline (which boosts brain health) and other crucial nutrients in abundance.

They’re arguably the easiest protein source to prepare. And that can be done with an amazing amount of variety by the least skilled of cooks, from boiled & scrambled to frittata & soufflé.

Eggs laid by fowl have been devoured by humans for a very long time. After hunting eggs of wild fowl, we decided they were so scrumptious that we gathered the birds in pens to make their eggs easier to get ahold of. East India domesticated egg-layers as early as 3200 BC. Ancient Egyptian and Roman people ate eggs on their own, as well as in breads and cakes. Europe domesticated chickens in 600 BC. You could say humans and chickens progressed through time together, hand in… talon!

The American Egg Board estimates that roughly 75 billion eggs are produced in the United States each year. The average American consumes +/- 246 year. That translates to ~20 eggs a month per person and includes home preparation, restaurants, and dishes/condiments that contain egg as an ingredient. Most Americans buy their eggs from huge factory farms that host 20,000 birds in chicken houses the size of football fields.

Considering humans’ long and intimate (and delicious) history with fowl and their eggs, it’s surprising that some cities have laws that prevent their citizens from owning their own chickens. Staunton is one of those cities. In Staunton, we can own cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, snakes, lizards and non-egg-laying birds, but we may not own chickens.

My reasons taste like chicken:

Humans have been eating domesticated chickens and their eggs for a very long time. As early as 3200 BC, humans have been living with egg-laying fowl. Ancient Egyptian and Roman people ate eggs on their own, as well as baked in breads and cakes. Europe domesticated chickens in 600 BC. You could say humans and chickens progressed through time together, hand in… talon!

If humans and chickens living together was a bad idea, we would not be here today. Or, we would have abandoned the practice of owning domesticated chickens thousands of years ago.

Today, chicken’s eggs are hands down, one of the most nutritious protein sources on the planet (besides liver… yeah, I know.) Eggs from any fowl provide easily-digestible protein, a healthy form of cholesterol (proven to enhance heart health, even touted by Dr. Oz the Great), choline (which boosts brain health) and other crucial nutrients in abundance.

My reasons sound like chicken.

Hens are not very loud. Roosters are loud, and are completely unnecessary. Frankly, most everyone, including hens, is much happier without those machismo alarm clocks running around. At their loudest, with someone standing in the coop with them, hens produce 70 decibels, which is the same as normal street noise. But this is only at their loudest, when they’re excited. Normally they’re much quieter, especially since people are not generally hanging out reading a newspaper in their coop. A babbling stream is 50 decibels, and quiet conversation is 30 decibels.

My reasons smell like chicken.

Chickens do not smell when taken care of correctly. I’ve stood in front of the huge coops of chickens at Polyface Farm admiring and inhaling for many minutes. I didn’t smell a thing. Also, while visiting coops in Augusta County and in Seattle, Washington, I smelled the same thing: nothing.

When chickens are not taken care of, they smell. They also don’t survive and are not fun or worthwhile to own. This equates to animal abuse and is reported by neighbors. In other cities in which chickens are legal, the reports of “chicken abuse” are minimal. I am currently doing research to compare those instances to dog abuse.

When chickens are legalized in other cities, people do not run out and buy them en mass. Chickens are a big responsibility that people don’t take lightly (plus a significant cost is involved). I probably will not have chickens because I like to bundle up when it’s cold, rather than trudging in my yard caring for a coop. And when it’s hot, I like to go to the beach, rather than sweating in my yard caring for a coop.

But, if I were ever able to, and did decide to get a few hens, I would hire someone to come consult with me on the best place to put them in my yard. I might save up some money to have a custom coop made that looks like a hobbit’s house from Lord of the Rings. I would definitely pay a consultant in dollars, or in hOURs, to periodically come make sure I’m doing everything right. And I would pay someone else to come feed and care for them when I go to the beach or spend a weekend in DC. I may even buy my ladies chicken sweaters for the winter holidays.

My reasons look like chicken.

Chickens are hearty animals, which do not succumb easily to disease. When fed foods that Nature intended they eat and given clean places to live, they are not dirty or unsafe. They are nostalgic. Many feel close to their hens, like they are pets. Chickens are hypnotic, the way they strut and peck (and by the way some of the things they peck at are ticks, which spread the dreaded Lyme disease, a growing epidemic in Virginia with which I have personal experience). Some people enjoy sitting on an overturned bucket and watching them, like fish in a tank… but unlike fish, chickens make delicious eggs.

My reasons feel like chicken.

Few things can match the sense of pride and empowerment provided by growing one’s own food. Whether harvesting kale, string beans or chickens, being self-sufficient is incredibly gratifying.

Few lessons for children can match those taught by homegrown food. But better than carrots, chickens teach invaluable lessons of respect for fellow life forms no matter their category, awareness of the connection between the Earth and all of life, empathy for the basic needs of other organisms and the natural cycle of life to death. Children who grow up with Teacher Chickens in their yards, or the yards of their neighbors will, in many ways, be better off.

Finally, nothing can match the feeling of security of raising chickens in one’s back yard. Chickens produce a fantastic source of sustainable protein that vegetables cannot provide. When families are struggling to make ends meet, chickens can provide both confidence and relief. Food security is a right of every human on this planet and if Staunton can provide that in a safe and well-regulated way, it is absolutely obligated to do so.

Links between Soil, Food, the proposed Pipeline and Governor Terry McAuliffe

This blog post is about food, but it’s also political.

This post is about food because it’s about land. “Land” is soil, and soil is so much more than dirt. Soil is a melange of minerals, insects, water, microbes, plant roots, mycelium (mushroom roots) and trapped gasses… and likely more that I don’t know about.

Soil can be assembled and poured into bags and sold at a store, but real soil that’s appropriate to the life that’s living in and on it is made by Mother Nature, which is the same as saying “made by time”. Over time, the soil and everything living in and on it responds to the effects of weather, and the needs and actions of all the other living things around it. Its formation is dynamic, despite its slow pace.

If we could look closely enough at the formation of soil and speed up time, what we’d see would have the feeling of a blizzard of interdepartmental memos… everybody is talking and reacting… that’s soil.

Plants that live in soil depend on this dynamic adaptation to the effects of Nature (living things in and on the soil + weather). We rely on plants to feed us, whether we eat them directly, or by eating eggs or milk made by animals that eat plants, or the flesh of animals that eat plants.

Food is good because it keeps us alive… but food, just like soil is more than just dirt: it is more than just calories. Food is a melange of nutrients: minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, fats, proteins, starches, fiber and water.

Being nourished by food is to be alive, but being alive is about more than having a heart beat… it’s about being vibrant, responsive, creative, thoughtful and compassionate. Food that offers the bare minimum of nutrients will fuel a bleak life with the minimum of potential.

When soil is disrupted, the conversation gets interrupted. Opportunistic plants, microbes and insects can move in… invasive weeds, fungi and bacteria, pests… It’s like unlocking a door and allowing crowds of interlopers to move in and squat.

And, food grown in soil that is disrupted or denuded or demineralized is not the same.

Land is also valuable when it doesn’t grow food. It gives us a place to stand. It provides a place for trees to anchor. It makes hills for us to roll down like we’re five again. It cools and heats the air, air that holds sweet smells of pine, wisteria and cow manure, that shuttles animals’ pheromones and transmits birds’ calls. To stand on virgin land and feel the time below your feet and smell and hear and see the results of the soil’s interdepartmental memos, that is one wonderful facet of being alive. And if standing on virgin land does not make something inside your soul shimmer with familiarity and magic, you’re likely not eating enough real food.

Land also provides a barrier between our life and the water table, which, like our bloodstream does for our body tissues, nourishes the soil and removes its waste. And below the water table is the seething, bubbling, molten & gaseous world that we are not meant to be part of. When the worlds above and below Land collide, the results are explosive, gnashing and disastrous.

When Dominion Virginia Power Company representatives insist on tearing into Land to build a pipeline, they are being insane. And when our representatives, like Governor Terry McAuliffe support and approve of such a project and hard evidence that it is a bad idea, they are ignoring their responsibility to look out for their voters’ wishes. We’ve signed petitions, spoken at meetings, written letters, made phone calls and sent emails. To no avail.

Besides ignoring the preference of their citizens, those legislators who favor the pipeline are ignoring the Land. 

I attended a Staunton City Counsel meeting on August 28 at which a Dominion rep actually reminded us with a smile and jovial lilt in his voice that the George Washington National Forest has a sign at its entrance that says “Land of Many Uses”. The original pipeline proposal was to rip through sections of that forest, some of our most Sacred Land. When he said that, the crowd howled with disapproval and hissed with disgust. If we’d have been in an alley, it would have gotten very rough.

Beyond the valid complaints of politics, greed and profit-focussed agenda, these are two the deeper issues that I think are important to consider:

  1. We need to get our power from somewhere… I enjoyed a hot shower while contemplating what I was going to say in this blog post and I know that Dominion heated my water. I enjoy that hot water, as well as cooking and having light when it’s dark outside. A friend of mine appreciates being able to refrigerate his wife’s breast milk and heat it at 3am to feed to his hungry child. A man who spoke at the 8/28 meeting proclaimed that he cooks pancakes just like the rest of us. We all need power. And we have the responsibility to derive that power responsibly.
  2. An even deeper issue for consideration was brought to my attention by another friend. He urges us take our responsibility a step further and consider which of our electricity-requiring activities are truly necessary. We need more sustainable sources of energy that don’t damage our land, but we also should use much less electricity in the first place.

Governor McAuliffe, if this blog came up in your Google Alert search and you’ve read this far, please take a moment this week to stand on a quiet, sweet-smelling piece of Virginia Land. Take your shoes off. Close your eyes. Breathe. Hear. And consider whether that luxury is worth any amount of money. As you walk away, hear the sounds fade and feel the scents wrap around you, pulling at you to stay. Recognize the land is not inanimate. It is not separate from us… it’s an extension of us. And it would appreciate if we were its stewards. As you walk away, remember Land has a face. Our Land is in the face of every one of your voters, and in their children’s faces and in your own.

 

What Does a Dietitian Eat For Breakfast?

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A few people have asked me this lately, so here’s the scoop:

What do YOU eat for breakfast!???!!?!??!!

 

Saturated Fat Redeemed!!!!

iu-11Time Magazine’s cover story for June 2014 was called “Ending the War on Fat”, by Bryan Walsh.

My reaction? HALLELUJAH! ABOUT TIME!! And then I smugly patted myself on the back because I’ve been preaching that for many years now.

…Then, I wrote my own article published on Augusta Free Press (see below).

…Then, I went and ate a stick of organic butter from pasture-raised, grass-fed happy-to be-vindicated cows.

 

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Seven reasons why saturated fats should be valued, not vilified

For many people, the word “fat” strikes instantaneous fear of heart disease and weight gain. Add the word “saturated”, and the brain sounds alarm bells. But, if Mother Nature made saturated fat so delicious, how could it be death-inducing? And, if saturated fat kills, how did humans survive for so many generations without margarine, fat-free yogurt and skim milk? And why has heart disease, obesity and diabetes increased as saturated fat intake has decreased?

The easy answer is: Sometimes Science makes mistakes. A few examples:

Continue reading “Saturated Fat Redeemed!!!!”