Ethical. Sustainable. Non-GMO. Organic. Pasture Raised. Grass-Fed. Freaking Complicated.
I don’t know about you but my head still spins as I try to navigate the various claims made by both large and small farms and corporations.
Big business knows consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about animal welfare and knowing where their food comes from. And, they’re exploiting it.
Have you seen the signs at A&W lately? They’ve decided to embrace ‘sustainable’ farming practices. Not sure I agree with their sustainability claims considering their beef is finished in a feed lot — a practice considered by many industry leaders to be a form of animal abuse.
Pumping your cows full of GMO grains in a feed lot is sustainable? I think not!
How about the many farms who consider beak and toe trimming as an expectable practice?
When your chickens are so closely confined in such stressful conditions that you need to cut their beaks and toes to prevent them from maiming each other then you couldn’t possibly be able to get an animal welfare certification, right? WRONG!
Ok, ok, I know this is all very confusing stuff. So, what is the consumer to do when they want to navigate through all the false claims out there to make choices that reflect their personal values?
Look past the labels
I’ve personally visited farms who are not organic certified yet I can guarantee you that their produce is grown under more sustainable practices than some of the large ‘organic’ farms out there.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again — It’s all about getting to know your farmers.
Since there’s no one governing the use of terms like cage-free, pasture raised, and free-run, in Canada it’s up to all of us to ask questions.
Are your animals physically altered?
Does the farm you support employ practices like de-beaking and toe clipping? This is often a sign their animals are housed in cramped quarters.
Do your animals get to go outside?
This isn’t so simple as a yes or no. If they get access to the outdoors, is it during restricted hours? Is it grass pasture or a cramped concrete pad?
How much space are your animals given?
Every farmer should be able to tell you this. In most factory-farms a chicken gets 3/4 of a square foot of space in the barn and no pasture access.
At our farm, our birds get just over 2 square feet each in the barn. We could give them more but chickens instinctively gather together so much more than that, in my opinion, would be a waste of resources like heating, lighting, and bedding. Plus our birds get extra space when in pasture.
Does your farm use any cages or confinement systems?
Do the eggs you eat come from hens kept in cages? Or are the mother pigs kept in gestation crates after giving birth? Figure out what your personal values are and find a farmer who meets or exceeds them.
What do your animals eat?
Do you care that the meat you eat comes from animals fed only non-GMO feed? Or does it also need to be organic certified? Maybe the farm utilizes waste food — like ours does — for their pigs. Also remember that grass-fed beef and grass-finished beef are two different things. The cow that grazed in rolling grass pasture may have spent it’s last months in a feed lot eating GMO grain.
Your values are just that — Yours. The key to navigating these farming and food buzz words is finding out what matters most to you and finding farmers who align with those values.
My promise to you is that I will to always be transparent. And, if you don’t feel I align with what is best for your family please find a farmer who does! Until we start asking questions we will never have a true connection to our food.
Kendall ~ The Chick Behind Central Park Farms