Taking a hiatus…

Thank you for the support and comments some of you have shown these past 18 months since starting this blog. I have decided to take a hiatus from this blog. I am not sure if I will come back to it at a later date or not. I have a horse with issues that needs me and that is where my focus is going to be this year. With wonderful organizations like the Cornucopia Institute, Monterrey Aquarium Seafood Watch, as well as dedicated farming coops like Organic Valley, I feel that there is enough wonderful information out there for those of us who are really interested in making changes and becoming a part of the Slow Food Movement.

Right now with the fight against GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) coming to a head, there is more and more information coming to light to the general public and more people are becoming involved in forcing the food laws to change. This is one area that the consumer has so much power, if you don’t buy it, they cannot sell it. You have choices to choose where you buy your food, and from who you buy your food and some of you even have a choice to grow or raise your own food, something that I plan to do myself in the near future. I encourage you to attend seminars and lectures by experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin, Joe Salatin and Michael Pollan. Read the books, see the documentaries, so much good stuff out there. Visit a feedlot, or an all grass raised ranch, see what a poultry or mass production pig barn really looks like. Remember there are vested interests and a lot of conflict of interest with the people who are working for the USDA. Many of them have worked for the giant food producers that seem to control everything, before landing their USDA jobs and the public needs to get a handle on this.

I hope some of the opinions I have expressed here has helped a few people out, or at least made you think about stuff you hadn’t thought about before. Food is a wonderful thing, we are lucky to enjoy it! So raise your animals right, with care and give them the respect they deserve, especially if you like to eat meat. Enjoy your fresh produce as much as you can,there are wonderful anti aging vitamins in fresh produce and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than getting a facelift or using botox. :) Support your local food producers when you can, don’t be a stranger, create a tightly knit food community around you and try and plant a garden this year.

Let’s bring those taste buds to a whole new level!

Thanks again for reading my blog posts.

JLW-W

Posted in Fish and Seafood, Food, Fresh and Local Foods, Humane Food, Organic Foods, Slow Food Movement | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Motives of an agricultural giant

This year it was just my husband and I for Thanksgiving, no guests, no relatives, no friends, just us, but nevertheless we had a full blown Thanksgiving meal, complete with a 10 lb turkey from Mary’s poultry farm in Northern CA. I was lucky that Natural Grocers here in Denver had them shipped in for the holiday season, so we enjoyed ours complete with many side dishes and apple pie to boot. The weather was really nice and we decided to take our dogs over to the dog park and enjoy the blue skies and warm 60 something weather that day. A lot of other dog owners evidently had the same idea, as there were many people there. As we sat on the bench watching our dogs racing around and socializing with various other dogs, we got to talking to an older gentleman that had driven in from St Louis, MO to see his son who lived in the neighborhood. Like most elderly people, he told us all about all of his sons, including one that lived in Hawaii and was working for agricultural giant Monsanto. Before we even had a chance to react, he rushed right into telling us how great Monsanto was and how they were working on trying to make weather and insect resistant genetically modified seeds that could stop world hunger in 3rd world countries and help people in those tough farming regions to be able to grow food and never starve again. It was AMAZING what they were doing, he said! WOW! It sounded great, stop world hunger? You bet, I am on board with that… no mother in any country anywhere in this world should have to hold her starving child that is dying from malnutrition. In fact no living creature, man or beast should ever have to experience what it is like to go hungry and I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

My husband and I just smiled and never said a word about what we really thought of Monsanto, despite this new “stop world hunger campaign” they seemed to have launched. This father was so proud of his son and I for one was not going to ruin his day, or his holiday with my usual frank opinions. In fact I think this father may have known ahead of time that we might not receive the subject of Monsanto too graciously, as he was sure to quickly lay the golden bricks before we had a chance to react to the mere mention of Monsanto’s name. Something I have a feeling that this proud father has had to deal with before. Now this was certainly a refreshing twist from the usual stuff I have learned or read about with Monsanto, as they have become quite a controversial subject amongst noncorporate farmers here in the states. Just ask any of the family farms that have been sued by these people.

Monsanto is an agricultural corporate bully that spends most of their time suing small 2nd and 3rd generation farms in both the US and Canada, from “stealing” their genetically modified seeds. They are also the producer of Round Up weed killer, the leader in genetically modified foods and the company that brought us Bovine Growth Hormone that invaded our milk cows. These seeds of Monsanto’s contain an organism, a living organism gene that Monsanto put a patent on and now claim as their own. They spend a lot of time going around testing the soil and crops of the neighboring farms that operate close to their own corporate farms. If they find any trace of their seed, which contains their patent gene within it on those neighboring farms, they proceed to sue the neighboring farmer, claiming patent infringement. Unfortunately they generally wind up winning in court and run the other small farmer out of business. The courts do not seem to understand how hard it would be to contain and keep one farm’s seed, from blowing onto the land of the neighboring farm. In fact one of these lawsuits made it as high as the Canadian Supreme Court back in 2004 and did not rule in favor of the farmer being sued, Percy Schmeiser. I think Mr. Schmeiser would have a good laugh to know that all of a sudden Monsanto is concerned about world hunger and wants to help 3rd world countries by applying a patent on yet another GMO seed that they are working on. It would seem to me that Monsanto, who by the way was listed as Forbes company of the year in 2010, is SO worried, that a small farmer might be selling seeds that contain their patent gene , it’s a wonder they have time to work on world hunger issues at all. Funny they would be so worried about 3rd world countries, when they are doing everything in their strong arm corporate power to eliminate, control or dominate the American farming community, including “life”. Yes they want to dominate “life”; they put a patent on a gene folks, a live gene. Now life can be corporate owned too. Just ask Monsanto, they are experts in that field as they did manage to get that done and are continuing to control all and everything agricultural.

I have just one question for Monsanto… if you are successful in creating this new golden seed to stop world hunger, are you planning to give them away, or do you expect starving countries like Somalia and Ethiopia to pay you for your seeds? You do not strike me as a company that is going to give away much of anything, you are too worried about your seed blowing onto other farmers properties and then suing them for your seed being there. If you want to patent a “seed”, then it should be your responsibility to keep your seed in place and on your land, not the other way around. This whole “we are striving to stop world hunger” campaign is propaganda at its best. This reminds me of a really great HBO series called “The Wire” about the Baltimore Maryland drug trade. The series creators were a former Baltimore Police detective, who had been on the force for 20 years and also a newspaper editor who had worked for the Baltimore Sun newspaper for just as long. The show was so realistic, in terms of showing how politics work and how it is marketed and used to manipulate the public into thinking their political intentions are for the greater good of all, when really there is a vested interest going on instead. I swear Monsanto took this play from “The Wire” series playbook. Someone on their publicity and marketing team or perhaps even a lawyer, advised them to shed their bad public bullying image and to come up with something to make them look good in the eyes of the public again. That they really aren’t a controlling, greedy corporation who wants to rid this country and Canada of all family farms, so they can have complete control. What better way than to shift it to stopping world hunger? Who could hate them then? I mean most of us, if we are decent people at all and I like to think that we are, would love to stop world hunger, but is that what they are really trying to do? I don’t think so and I tend to be a fairly gullible person, but I ain’t buying this one.

Monsanto if you can stop world hunger, I commend you. I really will think that you are a hero and it would most likely remove my bad image of you and I could even possibly forget about the farmers lives who you have ruined and run out of business, but I won’t hold my breath on this one, I will not be convinced of it, the sincerity is just simply not there. Because if it was… you would leave our own farmers alone and embrace them instead. If you are truly good and you want to help then you should be good to everybody, especially the people who live in the same country as you.

JLW-W

Posted in Food, Fresh and Local Foods, Organic Foods, Slow Food Movement | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The relationship of food

Each person has a different relationship with food, myself included. Some people enjoy it, others dread it and as Joel Salatin has so eloquently stated, some of us have made it a pit stop on our way to do something else. I once read an interview where the actress Elizabeth Hurley stated that she rarely eats anything fattening or sweet, the most she can afford herself is a handful of raisins before she goes to bed at night. She is often times hungry, but she must do this to remain stick thin. Well Elizabeth, I am glad that you are gorgeous and that you dated Hugh Grant for many years, but unfortunately your starving yourself to stay stick thin did not stop Hugh from finding company with a prostitute. Quite frankly, if that had been me who caught Hugh cheating, I would have celebrated with a nice chunk of dark chocolate, had a chocolate orgasm, (which is also good for my heart) and gotten over it. Elizabeth Hurley’s relationship with food, is unhealthy and comes across as a desperate act to hang onto her self loathing image that she feels she can fix by starving herself. For her, her relationship with food is non existent.

When we examine our relationship with food, you will find how everyone has a different perspective about it and how it affects their lives on a daily basis. A friend that I know, has struggled with food issues for quite a long time now and she has had to come to terms with her relationship with food. Lifestyle changes in generally speaking can be really tough for most people. For her, food had become an almost negative thing in her life, she was at a crossroads where she felt she could either be unhealthy and enjoy all the wrong foods, or be healthy and settle for food she would not enjoy or look forward to eating each day. Food had become a very negative thing for her, with some new approaches to her relationship with food, she has been able to turn that around to something she enjoys now and can look forward too. Changing the relationship that we have with our food, is the key to success in becoming a part of the slow food movement that is going on.

When someone says the word “DIET” we all cry UGGH! We affiliate the word “diet” as something negative and quite frankly it IS a negative thing. To me, diet means, deprivation, no fun, dead, boring,restrictions, tasteless,rabbit food, sucks, yucky and certainly nothing to look forward too. But people will do it anyway, so that they can lose weight. Weight comes with an overload of carbs,sugar,over processed and deep fried fatty foods, as well as lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, bad genes,slow metabolism and many other things factored into it. We as a society have come to feel that only these types of foods can possibly taste good. Our taste buds are numb, boring, not adventurous and have lost their function to assist us in enjoying food. By improving our relationship with food, we are given the chance to bring back to life, our dead taste buds that have been in a comatose state for so very long.

Our grandparents knew their way around the kitchen well, but our generation knows our way around the grocery stores instead. Do you ever wonder why it is that everyone loves to go over to their grandparents house for meals? It’s because they knew HOW to prepare food and often times it was fresh. You might get milk that was milked right on their farm from their one and only jersey cow, or vegetables served to you that came straight out of your grandparents garden or maybe they raised their own pig or cow and slaughtered it right there on the farm . The pies your grandma made had blueberries she picked wild in the field near her house, or maybe she served you fresh home baked bread that she made with a splash of choke cherry jelly that came from locally grown choke cherries where she lived. Back in the day of our grandparents, mealtime was a time for togetherness, a time of comfort. With warm smells coming from the kitchen , mealtime represented the hard work that been done for the good of the family and the rewards were to sit down together and enjoy good food as a family. Our grandparents had a very definite relationship with food, because for them it represented family, nutrition, and for many, that was how they made their living too. Their relationship with food was as good as it gets. My sister got an A once in a composition class where she had to write about something in great detail. She described going to our grandmother’s for dinner every Sunday when we were kids growing up. She described the tender thin sliced roast beef dinner and mashed potatoes and gravy that was prepared, with roasted carrots with real butter splashed on them. In the morning for breakfast we would have real fresh wild blueberries that had been picked near her house with half n half cream poured over them. The teacher wrote on her paper that my sister’s food description sounded so good it made her hungry to read about it and gave her an A+

People of today have a very different relationship with their food. It’s set up for convenience, to be cheap and discounted down so much the quality is lost. We buy our food at large food chain stores and the family corner store has been knocked off the corner forever. People do not understand or even show any interest in growing their own produce, much less cook a meal for themselves or their families and their idea of a healthy meal that serves fresh produce is to eat at Subway sandwich shop or order the yogurt parfait at McDonalds. When we think of produce we think tasteless, boring, and that leaves very little to be desired when you go grocery shopping or as your mealtime approaches each day. We need to get the excitement back in our kitchens, grow a few fresh herbs inside the window sill during those long winter months and try a hand at simple home made dressings that can actually enhance your fresh lettuce and tomatoes rather than smother them.

Another friend who comes to mind who I feel enjoys her food as much as I do. She has a deep appreciation for quality food and is adventurous in what she tries. She lives in a region of the country, where the slow food movement has not really taken hold, organic is offered but in very limited quantities. So she buys what she can, when she can. Each week she would post on Facebook her favorite snack for that evening as she watched her favorite show on tv. One week might mean coconut ice cream with sea salt chocolate caramel sauce, the next time might be a pumpkin flavored smoothie. Or crackers with goat cheese and some other topping. Her choices of food, are fresh, good quality and often fairly healthy too, and she enjoys it. Her relationship with food is very positive one and she makes the most of it even her limited town.

We eat meals at least 3 times a day and plus some on top of that. Wouldn’t it be great to go back to enjoying it again, to be excited about mealtime and to look forward to it, especially if you are daring enough to try new foods? For example, have you ever gone into your regular grocery store and suddenly you couldn’t find your usual products where they keep them? It can be aggravating to deal with this when you’re in a hurry and your rushing around the store wondering where in the hell they put the mayonnaise , but this is a very well thought out and crafted marketing scheme that super markets and retailers have come up with. The concept behind this change of moving products around to different aisles is to get the consumer to walk past food or items that they normally do not walk past,much less consider buying. People are like sheep, they go in and out and buy the same things over and over again and rarely move away from that. We have become so predictable that even the grocery stores figured out they had to mix stuff up to get us to change our boring routine relationship with food and to encourage us to try something different.

When you have not planned anything in particular for that evenings dinner and you can open your cupboards and refrigerators to see what you have hanging around to creatively put a meal together that tastes decent, then you will know that you have mastered the task of not so much being a great cook, but just having a great relationship with your food. Because there is no such thing as bad food, only food that has been grown or produced badly. Hopefully, you will figure out the difference and your relationship with food will become a positive one going forward.

JLW-W

Posted in Food, Fresh and Local Foods, Organic Foods, Slow Food Movement | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The simplicity of Alice Waters

I’m kind of lucky, as I have eaten at a few darn good restaurants in my short time on earth. My husband and I do not have a movie star budget by any means and we have to be choosy as to how much we can spend on a restaurant, same as everyone else, but somehow we have managed to eat at a few top notch restaurants over the years in various cities and various countries. My Japanese in laws have a deep appreciation for spending good money on a good food and wine experience and I am lucky that they have been generous enough to share that with my husband and I, whenever they come to visit us. I am also lucky, because my husband knows a good restaurant when he eats at one and has also exposed me to a few excellent places too. He told me once that the core of another culture is through the food. Food and religion are what separates one culture from the next and are the most obvious differences a person will see, when visiting a new country for the first time. But we don’t have to visit another country to get food that we don’t normally eat in our day to day lives or food that is outstandingly great. It’s easier than you think to find, because right here in the USA we have one of the best restaurants in the world.

On my bucket list of restaurants I would like to try and sitting as number one for my choice, is without a doubt, the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley California, which has run consecutively as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. That’s right people, THE WORLD. Owned by food pioneer, Alice Waters, Alice was way ahead of her time when she started this restaurant with film producer Paul Aratow back in 1971. Their style of cooking? Using the freshest of ingredients, that are local and in season, something not a lot of people were doing back then. When I say fresh, I mean straight out of the garden, straight from the vine, straight out of the sea and the meat is raised locally, free range and with the utmost care. The chicken practically clucks on your plate, it is so damn fresh. And if you’re wondering if it is expensive, sure it is, because good food does not come cheap.

However, Alice wasn’t out to serve only the “ rich, healthy, environmentally conscious, support your local farmer and raise your animals with care” type of foodie, she made her way into the northern California school system too and in 1996 she started the Edible Schoolyard Program at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley California. Primarily funded through grants and donations, Alice took an unused plot of land that was sitting behind the school and turned it into a gardening project that the kids could get involved in. A brilliant way of introducing healthy and fresh food to a poorer community and school. This kind of passion and dedication truly shows where there is a will, there really is a way in most anything… including food. Cooking classes were offered as a part of this new program after school and for a few years in the mid 90’s. Eventually it moved on and was offered as part of a summer program at the end of the school year. Using fresh produce from their own organic garden and grown right there at the school, this hands on project eventually lead to a new school food policy that encouraged the use of organic food in the children’s school lunches within Berkeley’s Unified School District. Man I wish somebody would have done that when I was growing up, as my memories of school food are horrible. Mostly what I remember on the days I ate hot lunch at school, which was most of the time unfortunately, was throwing half of it straight into the trash and puking in the school bathroom afterwards for the stuff I did dare eat. Alice where were you when we needed you in Minnesota and North Dakota?

Alice’s accomplishments did not stop there; she won the award for the best chef by the James Beard foundation in 1992 and was the first woman to win this. She has served as the vice president of the Slow Food International since 1992, won a lifetime achievement award for contributions as a chef and for her award winning restaurant and was the influence for Michelle Obama’s White House Organic Vegetable Garden. She has penned popular cook books that emphasize on using and cooking with organic ingredients and the simplicity and wonderful taste of using ingredients of the freshest nature. A real go getter that Alice is and if that doesn’t make the rest of us feel like fresh doggy doo doo right about now, just think… all of this started from a passion to eat really good food. Little did anyone know how her early ambitions would open the doors for so many organic farms, especially in the northern CA region and little did Alice know when she started this that the very best food she was seeking, would in fact, turn out to be organically grown and free range meat. Alice wants the whole world to eat good and fresh food, she wants you to think about your food, know where it came from and understand how it was raised. She does not just want this for just the rich and privileged. She comes from a place that wants this for EVERYONE. Anyone can start a garden, anyone can raise an animal and keep it organic, you don’t have to be rich to do this.

Her books will show you how to cook with the utmost ease and offer recipes that any kitchen idiot could wrap their head around. She encourages you to get to know your local farms and not always worry about buying food that has labeling or endorsements from a regulatory agency. Many organic and free range local farms see no need to have these endorsements, though they are in fact raising food organically and honestly too. Word of mouth and their honest reputation is enough for their customers, especially the ones that know them. Your job is to get to know them. Alice points this out in her book Slow Food Nation Come To The Table as she makes her way from local farm to local farm in the central and northern CA areas. She shows the light on how many wonderful farms are out there, not just in CA but in many other states as well, that will grow and raise the very best food for you. They are there and they are waiting and you may not find them in the stores where you shop, but you may just find them down the road from you. Alice points out the wonderful intimacy of getting to know a local family farm, supporting them, and yes sometimes getting to eat with them too. Many wonderful farms are now offering dinners prepared by the top local chefs to your area, right on their farms, with these chefs using the freshest ingredients straight out of the farm’s own field. You can have the experience of watching them prepare it and eating amongst others that have that same appreciation. Get to know them, go to their farms and pick your own fresh produce for that evenings dinner, then have a seat and enjoy eating real food for a change. You never know… you may find Alice Waters seated right there beside you.

JLW-W

Posted in Food, Fresh and Local Foods, Humane Food, Organic Foods, Slow Food Movement | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Seeing it” Dr. Grandin’s way…

My husband and I decided to take in the Harvestival celebration up at Grant Family Farms in Wellington, Colorado about one hour north up the freeway. I had been looking forward to going for a few weeks, because I saw on the newsletter that Dr.Temple Grandin was going to be speaking there and as far as I was concerned, Dr.Grandin alone was worth driving up there for. In case you are not familiar with her, Dr. Grandin is autistic, has a doctorate degree in animal science and is a highly respected EXPERT on animal behavior, particularly cows, as well as a best selling author and consultant in the animal industry field. Her autism she considers a gift and it gives her the ability to see what cattle and other livestock are seeing through their eyes. She sees things in pictures, just as they do, giving her an extreme advantage and knowledge of how they should be handled to avoid stress and discomfort .

We arrived to Harvestival just a little late, but Dr. Grandin wasn’t speaking until the afternoon, so we still had time to see other things. We kept ourselves fairly occupied while waiting for her to arrive. At one point we walked across the road to view REAL free range chickens running around and they were looking pretty happy to be running around. The farm had gutted out old school buses and had built in perching nest for them and had straw covered floors. These were some giddy looking chickens. Finally the time was near and we had ten minutes to spare, so we walked back across the road again and went back inside the Harvestival. There standing in the crowd talking to someone in all of her autistic glory, was most recognizably, Dr. Temple Grandin . She was finishing up having her photo taken with a fan, when I whispered to my husband that I wished I could get my photo taken with her too. He encouraged me to do so as he felt she seemed approachable. I have never been around autistic people before and I was afraid I would do something wrong and offend her, I am known for being a bit animated myself and overly affectionate at times. I am undoubtedly an autistic person’s worst nightmare, but I flat out asked her anyway, she was my hero and I had to try. With no expression, no emotion, she politely agreed.

After the photo was taken, I mentioned my blog. I told her I had written about her and my post “Bovine Angel, Dr. Temple Grandin” was to date, my most popular blog post and had received more hits than any other posting. She then wanted to know how many hits I had on the post about her (hundreds) She encouraged me to make it into my own website and upgrade. Maybe she was impressed of her own popularity, as modesty seems to be her true self. We talked about feedlots and ranch work, then I mentioned I had done both. We now had a small connection and she said to me more than once that “people do not see it” they do not see what problems they cause livestock and how it can be easily fixed, “they just do not see it”. Soon it was time for her to go and she took her place at the podium.

We took a front row, straw bale seat. As I looked around the Harvestival,the crowd had tripled. People had come a lot later in the day and I am quite sure, it was to see her. As the straw bales filled up, the crowd became quiet. Then Dr. Grandin began to talk. A modest but very matter of fact in her way of thinking, Dr. Grandin is the Mr. Spock of this century and actually last century too, as she has been around helping humans understand livestock since the early 70’s. She has a practical way of looking at things and very obvious solutions to fixing them and though no one in the audience shared her autism, she made us understand, she taught us to understand. The subject of horse slaughtering came up. I am a horse person, I trained them for many years. When the bill was introduced to end horse slaughtering in this country, I voted YES. My intentions, like many other horse people were good, but we actually did a disservice to the horses, because we did not think it through. Though the bill was passed a few years ago to outlaw horse slaughtering in the USA, now people haul them down to Mexico to be slaughtered there instead and the conditions are unregulated and much worse. I am a person who keeps my horses, even when they are old, I feel they have earned it, but not everyone feels this sense of responsibility. Dr Grandin does believe horse slaughtering in this country is necessary, until someone can come up with a better solution as what to do with the extra horses people no longer want. She feels that sending horses to Mexico, is the worst solution of all. It taught me a lesson, to think things through better and the outcome of cause and affect.

The discussion of dogs came up, how we can no longer as a society socialize them, with so many leash laws today. During her childhood, dogs ran free and learned to get along with other dogs. Humans do not try to learn animal behavior, we are so disconnected from nature and other life on this earth. Our solution is to ban a breed of dog because of our lack of understanding them or raising them properly. We do not change the way we raise them, we just blame the dog breed and then move on to wreck the next breed. She described how the simplest of changes, from the way light hits the cattle chutes and the pens they are kept in, to a simple chain or rag hanging over a fence can alarm cattle, or cause them distress to act up and cause harm to themselves when being handled. Animals see things in pictures, just like she does and when they have been abused they do not forget. Her amazing ability to be able to take that gift and use it for the benefit of the livestock we eat, is the greatest thing. McDonalds, Wendy’s, Harris Ranch and Whole Foods are just a few of the national corporations who use Dr. Grandin’s livestock designs .

Dr. Grandin with her dry and almost seemingly missing sense of humor, actually joked that she would take questions from the audience and if no one had a question for her, she would pick someone and ask them a question instead. Well needless to say there were plenty of us with our hands raised. People seeing her as the messiah of all food and animal welfare concerns, asked questions about organic food, the listeria scare, RAW milk and if eating meat was bad. Though her field of expertise lies in animal science and animal behavior, she took them all and answered as honestly and thoroughly as possible and without hesitation. Listeria is a scary thing and she wants us all to be very careful with it, pay attention to your food and where it comes from , listeria can kill you. I did not get the impression she was for or against organic foods or RAW milk. She simply stated that organic food is expensive and she is not going to tell someone who has a family and who only makes 7.00 an hour to buy organically. Her feeling on RAW milk is that you had better trust your supplier. As long as it is a milk producer you can really trust and know well it could be ok, but is nothing to mess around with. Make sure the milk producer does not introduce outside cows into their own milk herd and mix the cows. Outside cattle could bring in tuberculosis and other diseases and these things are serious. Meat eating is something she accepts. She knows certain animals are here for our consumption, we raise them to eat them, we need the protein, but that does not excuse our poor animal management or ill treatment of the livestock we eat. Animal welfare for her is the most important issue of all. It’s what she does best.

I raised my hand twice and I was picked twice. Maybe because we took a picture together, or maybe it was the bright pink shirt I was wearing and the fact that we were sitting in the front row, but I took my moment. Did she feel that meat producers and facilities had changed to her standards of facility design out of human compassion for the animals or was it merely a business decision? She responded that in the early 70’s she definitely had to show on paper how they could save money and time doing things her way with the cattle. These days, facilities do it because of the new animal welfare laws that are in place, they are afraid not to do it. She admitted that she meets a lot of wonderful people in the livestock business that genuinely want to make things better, and others according to her do not have any business working with livestock at all. I get the impression she thinks a lot of McDonalds and appreciated the fact that they as a corporation genuinely wanted to change how they handled their beef cattle. She eats there sometimes and as a person who does not like bread, she will order the sausage muffin, throw out the muffin and eat only the sausage and then order fresh apple slices to go with it for her breakfast. Her biggest challenge, is avoiding the free pastries that are served at the hotel where she stays most of the time. She travels and lectures to people across the nation, 90% of the time.

My second question: Why doesn’t she run for Secretary of Agriculture, which drew many shouts and clapping from the rows behind me. Her answer was simple: people who run for those positions have a vested interest and that is not what she is about. When asked how she chose this career, according to her it was fate after spending time on her Aunt’s feedlot as a kid. She saw what needed to change and she knew how to change it and the rest is history. The one thing she mentioned that really hit home with me, was she talked about the food wars. She is tired of the big food producers fighting the little food producers. Her final thought on that was, they all just need to tell the truth, let the public decide and move on. I had just written about that very thing in my latest blog post And the food fights continue and it only confirmed that maybe I am on the right track after all. Dr. Grandin wanted her introduction and credentials given by the emcee to be modest and short. She shows no reaction of her popularity, she makes no brag about herself, she is confident, she is truthful and she is the most real human being I have ever met. This makes it no surprise to why she remains the most popular subject on my blog. People are seeking her out, because they want to understand and they know, she does in fact “see it”… even if they don’t.

JLW-W

Posted in Food, Fresh and Local Foods, Humane Food, Organic Foods, Slow Food Movement | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And the food fights continue…

Like everybody else, I have an idea for a new reality show, we can call it “The Food Fight” or “The Great Food Debate” (how is that for originality,NOT) but instead of having a bunch of people locked in a lunchroom together launching Twinkies at each other, it can be a series of debates on who can explain and answer the public’s questions about food, in the best and most honest way possible. As always, there are new articles coming out about food almost every week now. Articles about E Coli, about meat and most recently the Listeria break out with cantaloupes. These are usually written by some disgruntled author thinking he is being clever to poke holes in someone else’s studies or theories about our food issues in this country. “A study has been done” or “A recent study that was conducted shows”… “or “ A study that was done recently, counters a different study that was done before, by the same people” or “Scientists made a mistake and now they are finding THIS to be true instead”… it goes on and on and on just like the energizer bunny. I pay no attention to it whatsoever, so shoot me.

Food is like any other controversial subject, a matter of opinion, to an extent. Let me say that again… to an extent. I read an article today where the author was determined to show that in certain studies about E coli, that grass fed beef is just as susceptible to E Coli as corn fed beef are and that it is not just dirty pens that cattle are raised in that can cause it. The author is right, a cow’s diet can cause acidity in the cow’s stomach and that in simple explanation can cause E Coli. Cornell University as well as several other sources have conducted studies that show corn is the culprit, corn ferments; causes acidity in cow’s stomachs and that cattle eating more corn in their diet are more prone to E Coli issues. However, this was another author wanting to be sure not to let grass fed beef off the hook, so he wrote that some studies in generally speaking weren’t done right and now they are finding that E Coli can be just as present in grass fed cattle too. SO THERE! Back and forth like a ping pong ball they go and it is tiring to watch and read. When will this madness stop? Despite these studies counter attacking someone else’s studies, some of the public is not swayed and are not fooled by this. I am one of those people. I use my own common sense to tell me what seems logical on food issues and what does not.

Nothing irks me more than to go into a restaurant and when the waitress asks “how many?” she proceeds to seat me at a dirty table. You know what I am talking about, the table where leftover food from the previous party wound up on the floor. Onion rings, chips, pieces of pancake, used jelly packs. Oh lovely, yes I will enjoy my meal now, while resting my feet right on top of this dirty mess. I used to tolerate it and choke my way through a meal, now I politely, but firmly ask to be seated elsewhere and if there isn’t a clean table available, I leave. It’s the same thing with what type of food I am buying and who I am getting it from. If the place of production is dirty, I would prefer not to buy from them. You can shove your studies down my throat as much as you want too, but when the obvious is obvious, I will conduct my own personal study, one of my own personal experiences, which far outweighs anything some scientist is going to argue about.

When the listeria outbreak happened right here in Colorado with the cantaloupes recently, people flat out stopped buying cantaloupe. I waited of course to see where it came from and it was in a small town called Holly, Colorado and had come from just one farm. Unfortunately, some of the other cantaloupe farms in Colorado also paid the price for this one farm having tainted cantaloupe. What caused it was beside the point, the public’s take on it was, if I don’t eat any cantaloupe I won’t be taking any chances that I or my family will get sick. Sad for Colorado, King Soopers pulled every cantaloupe that came from this state off of their shelves. I was just there today; they still do not have Rocky Ford cantaloupes on the shelves yet. The store even placed notes in front of each fruit tray that had cut cantaloupe on it, that stated CALIFORNIA cantaloupes were not part of the recall and are safe to eat. I don’t think anyone is listening. I would be willing to buy a Rocky Ford cantaloupe as long as it didn’t come from Jensen Farms in Holly, CO if one was available to purchase, but the public is not with me on this. So they steer clear of all cantaloupes, regardless. People ignored the news and did what they thought was safest and best for them.

The food feud that seems to continue going on between mainstream food producers and organic, slow food movement producers is a war that will never be won, not in words anyway. If people try hard enough, they can discredit just about anything or anyone. This is why I do not let these food wars affect my own personal decisions about how I buy and eat my food. Look at it this way, just because a defense attorney wins his court case for his client, does not mean his client was innocent, it simply means that lawyer plead a better case. I am not interested in who is pleading a better case; I am interested in what is better for me, my family, the atmosphere and the animals we eat.

I think we should stop trying to argue and convince the public to go to one side or the other. Tell people the truth, show them how food is produced, let them see it in every way. Be honest on your food labeling and answer questions directly instead of going around them to try to trick the public. Do not use marketing schemes to fool people into buying from you. Stop using the word “natural” on your meat products in hope that consumers will think that means grass fed or organic and will buy from you. Let people use their own common sense with truth about our food system to make their decisions on how they buy and see what happens.

Your scientific tests won’t mean a damn thing then!

JLW-W

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The food attitude

Early this summer I was having a conversation with a relative of mine. We were bantering back and forth about food and how our animals are being raised that we consume. He didn’t seem to think it was so bad that some chicken producers raise their chickens in closed confined cages or in large overpopulated barns for their whole life. As I tried to plead the case in behalf of the chickens, he asked me point blank, if chickens weren’t kept in cages what would they be doing? He had a bit of a smirk on his face when asking me that and I have to admit, for a moment or two I was stumped. I knew the minute we parted company the words would find their way into my brain and I would come up with my answer. Of course that is exactly what happened. It’s hard to argue with someone like that when their attitude towards animals is one of little concern or empathy.

My relative was right in his indirect way of pointing out that chickens aren’t like humans. I had a friend from Colorado tell me the same thing once, “chickens don’t have a life like you and I do”. This is very true, they do not. Chickens do not go out for happy hour on Friday nights, they don’t have friends over for dinner and then finish up the night with a good game of scrabble, they don’t water ski, or shop at Kohl’s department store to get the latest deals, or go to Yogurtland to get a yogurt. How an animal’s life is lived of course, depends on what type of animal you are talking about. Simple as their life may seem, it is not insignificant, at least not to that animal it isn’t. Since their lives are so simple… taking away the bare necessities that do make them very different than human beings, is almost that much more tragic. They don’t need much, but what they need, as simple as it may seem to you and I, is very essential for them.

So what do chickens and herd animals and pigs do when not confined? As Joe Salatin would say they are in their pigness or chickeness. These animals were initially born in the sunshine and fresh air and like any living creature they require it to remain healthy, both mentally and physically. You are not going to see a chicken talking to his therapist about the harsh conditions in which it is forced to live, but you will notice it in other ways. Debeaking was only done because chickens peck at each other when stressed out and forced to live in closed quarters. Like the streets and interstates of any major city, you experience more road rage when people do not have enough space to just “be”. Chickens sunbathe, they scratch at the ground searching for bugs and worms that would naturally be a part of their diet. They like to lay eggs and fuss over them and forage. Sometimes you see them running around and socializing with the other chickens. They like to nest, they like to perch. This is what chickens do. When you take away these very simple things, you have removed their very core of life. Herd animals same thing, they socialize, establish pecking order amongst them, care for their young, mate, wander and graze for their food. They enjoy the sunshine and like to lay there and sunbathe when given a chance. When removed from that atmosphere, we do in fact remove the very core of what makes a cow a cow, or a pig a pig, or a horse of course. All kidding aside, I have been a yogi off and on for about 7 years now. One of the things that I hear the most from people who have never taken yoga is, “but your just standing there” or “you are not doing anything”. They assume because this type of exercise appears to be so simple and calm in its very existence that there must not be a whole lot going on, when in fact if these same critics of yoga were to try and do some of these “just standing there” poses, they would experience for themselves what is really going on and it is a whole lot more than meets the eye.

As we camped at Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, I lay in my sleeping bag and listened to the elk call back and forth to each other across the meadow. A beautiful and eerie sound as everything else was so quiet. As beautiful as it sounded, the calling had the same tone and what appeared to be the same frequency going over and over again. To me, it sounded the same, but to the other elk on the receiving end of things, there was an entire conversation happening. If we could interview chickens, or cattle or sheep as to what they hear when humans are talking? Most likely they would describe what I just stated above. It all sounds the same to them.

There has been many articles written about people who lay in a coma and whether they can “hear” you talking to them or not or if they are aware of what is going on around them, though they cannot communicate that to anyone. Some who have come out of a coma did in fact confirm, they could hear people, they were aware of things going on around them, but they just could not express it. A lack of expression does not mean that things are not happening and to assume so truly is ignorant. Dr. Temple Grandin proved exactly this with her gift and dedication to observe cattle and their behavior. She could see the little details that people in general have missed; she could understand their language, what they do and why they do it. Once she became aware of how cattle really live and react to things, only then was she able to make the necessary changes in how we raise and slaughter our cattle in a better and more humane way.

I am not asking anyone to go home and spend hours observing chickens behavior, or pigs for that matter, but ask yourself if you really believe that chickens, pigs, cattle, sheep and any other livestock that we eat, deserve to have the very simple things that we do not understand taken away from them, when that is what makes them the unique animal that they are. If we are going to eat them, let’s let them live how they should live and lets buy from those who understand how very important this is. The next time you see a product that describes on it’s label that the animals are raised where they can display their natural behavior and habitat, you will understand what this really means and the importance of it all. Then reward that food producer by purchasing it.

JLW-W

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