Saturday, April 12, 2008

clearing up some congestion on the pasture

I think I need to be more clear on how to eat meat and poultry/dairy.  I will start with poultry products, then i'll talk about pigs, then the bovines.

Eggs - as a preface - Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids exist in many foods.  Eggs should have about 1.3:1 ratio (O6:O3).  Humans should have a diet that is about 1:1.  Since the vegetable oil revolution and the introduction of corn and soy feed to laying hens, this ratio has climbed.  In a 1986 study in Greece, a ratio of 19.4:1 was discovered in "supermarket eggs".  

What has this done?  In a nutshell - too much Omega 6 = bad.  For more information read this article.  It is well sourced.

also - my taste conclusions are entirely subjective, based on my own experiences with different egg producers.  I have never done a strait taste test...I'll have to get on that.

from worst to best:

Factory Farmed eggs.  Non Organic.

These are easily the worst.  The eggs from these birds are also most likely to be sold for $1-2 per dozen.  
The hens will likely live in massive houses - 20,000-50,000 hens in a house.  These birds do not need to look good, as they will be discarded with the other industrial waste once they have lay'd their last egg.  (laying hens do not produce their whole lives, laying their last at about 120 weeks of age, or 2 1/2 years)  As a result they do not need to be kept happy and healthy.  Most will rub their breasts against their cages, an expression of agony (this is not an anthropomorphizing statement, these birds are miserable, you will never see a hen mutilate itself on a farm)
Their feed will be corn and soy feed that is full of chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc...all designed to increase egg production in the short lives of the birds.  Eggs that make it down are washed and boxed.  Washing is a completely absurd process.  It pulls off the protective sheet of antibody mixture that the mother hen slimes each egg with.  
NOTE:  washing eggs is ILLEGAL in france, which has an entirely intact pastured chicken food culture.
this whole industrial process is heavily regulated, and so favors larger productions in which regulation costs can be spread out over a wide area.  The regulations are identical from top to bottom of the market which, again, favors the larger producers.

Nutrition:  poor.  a healthy egg comes from a healthy chicken.  The eggs from large producers have less nutritional value across the board (see earlier posts on this subject below).  Omega 6:Omega 3 - up to 20:1.  
Taste:  poor.  slightly better then powdered eggs.
Ethics:  poor.  Unhealthy, disgracefully treated animals.  
Price:  $1-2/dozen
Overall:  Drive a Hummer?  These are your eggs.

Factory Farmed Eggs - Organic

The advantage here is the lack of chemicals in the feed.  Many producers are now adding kelp or fish oil to the feed to decrease the Omega ratio.  

Nutrition:  fair.  no bad chemicals.  but a lack of greens and insect foraging still keeps the eggs from gaining the robust nutrition most humans have eaten over the generations.  The hens are treated just as badly physically in these houses, as there is no reason to treat them better, decreasing the nutritional value.
Taste:  fair/poor:  pretty similar to the non-organic ones.  (again, this is my personal experience, take it or leave it)
Ethics:  poor, see above.
Price:  $2-4/dozen
Overall:  you can at least be confident that you are not getting roided out eggs.  But your eggs will still be coming from the industrial corn/soy agri-business producers, as all their feed is corn and soy.  These producers which have destroyed traditional american agriculture. (perspective:  the Iowa Corn Belt soil has lost 2 full feet of topsoil in the last 30 years)
They are like the Hybrid SUV.

Factory Farmed Eggs - "free-range" organic

These are almost exactly the same as the factory farmed organic eggs in terms of nutrition and taste.  The "free range" distinction is acquired when the birds either A) have a yard to wander into, outside of the house (they NEVER use it, from what I have read) or B) they live on the floor of a chicken house.  These chickens will have to be de-beaked - so they do not peck each other to death.  Their stress is phenomenal in these houses - and stressed chickens produce shitty eggs.

Overall:  no better then the factory organics

Farm eggs - pastured (organic status not important)

A farmer that pastures her eggs produces the healthiest, most diverse eggs.  They will not all look or taste the same.  Hens that forage are healthy, happy, cared for.  Organic is not an issue here, because the birds will eat mostly forage.  If the producer uses feed (which all do, for a very small portion of the feed) then you want to find out where they get their feed, if it is not organic or if it is organic.  Either way, you want local feed producers that are not tied into subsidy farming.   

Nutrition:  low Omega ratio, high vitamin content.  
Taste:  like night and day compared to the others.  Thick pasty orange yolk, albumin (white) that has integrity (read:  it won't slide all over the pan, it will stay together), and the taste is exactly what an egg should taste like, only eggier.
ethics:  no waste.  no chemicals.  natural food source (sun, grass, insects).  Happy, healthy animals.
Price:  $2-4/dozen
overall:  These are so much better then the competition, that it begs the question:  why eat any others?  The price is similar to the factory organics.  The only problem is that they are far less available.  They are sold only in farmer's markets.  Make sure to ask your local vendor at the farmer's market about pasture - some of them are loosely veiled factory producers.  Be vigilant!

CHICKEN - broilers.

Most of the information above is similar when applied to broilers.  The difference is that broilers need to be "processed".  If you can possibly get a chicken from a farm that process its own birds then you are in good shape.  Otherwise, we have to settle for second best.  

To remind you though.  The difference between a pastured chicken and a non-pastured chicken is massive.  So if you can get it, go for it.  You will pay the same or less for pastured birds then you will for the bell and evans or D'artagnon, or murray's or whatever.  


As their diet is similar (omnivorous) to chickens, most of the above applies.  But, pigs are not foragers in grassland.  They are diggers, nosing their way into soil and roots and such to find food.  They eat literally anything, so it is vitally important to have a good idea of their food sources.  Is it local?  Is it organic?  It should be both.  
The other issues here are is density.  How many pigs are living together.  Pigs have a relatively nasty temperament, when they live too close together they are constantly biting each other.  Many pigs are now given psycho-active drugs as part of their feed to combat their growing neurotic behaviors on feedlots.   

One good way to eat pig product is to get imported treated products.  Such as italian prosciutto.  In europe the production of food has not changed to fit industry.  Their foods are almost exactly the same as they have been for generations.  In many cases, food that would be considered bio-hazard here in america (raw milk and cheese) is completely normal in Europe.


Here is the real trouble.  I'll say it strait away:  There is NO substitute, NO other option.  You can ONLY drink pastured cow milk, and eat pastured beef.  We are dealing with Ruminants here.  They cannot digest corn and soy without chemicals that alter their entire digestive system.  This causes their immune systems to break down, requiring antibiotics.

The meat from the industrial system has so many problems.  This includes ALL organic producers that are not pasture based.  And I am not talking about "access to pasture"  or simply "grass-fed".  I mean cows and steers raised, fed, and finished on the pasture.
The industry cows are overlarge, many times to the point where they cannot even stand on their legs.  This is from the hormones, which make them grow larger, and quicker - meaning more product in less time.  

If you could care less about the beeves themselves, think about the laborors - unskilled, many times illegals with no access to health care.  The number of mutilating injuries is astronomical.  The conditions are terrible, and there is little oversight, as we found out recently in the news.

A pasture farmer will generally need to work through a smaller slaughterhouse, which will mean more oversight, more sanitation, and less worker injury.  

Overall, there is simply no comparison.  

But then there is the price - in my local butcher shop, grass fed rib eye's are $21.99/lb.  Painful really.  But this is a result of the top heavy regulations.  Small producers have to meet all the fees/fines/regulations that the large producers do, even though their entire business model is smaller, safer and cleaner.  There is absolutely NO flexibility or exemption for small producers of pastured animals.  For instance, if I wanted to raise 10 steers a year to slaughter, I would not be allowed to slaughter on my farm, which would be cheaper, safer (no transit), and cleaner.  Instead I would have to move the animals to a slaughterhouse, move the carcasses back, and then sell them.  But not on my farm stand, as that would be illegal without proper regulations.  This means they have to spend a much higher percentage of total budget on regulations.  Their pricing is increased vastly by this alone.

To review:  Pasture = good.  Everything else = bad.  Pastured are unfortunately only available at farmer's markets and almost nowhere else.  

I am exhausted by this.  I hope it helped.  

Be well.

1 comment:

Karina said...

I can assure you all, after not eating eggs for 8 years, pastured farm fresh eggs are the way to go. They were SUPER delicious!!! Luke and I got 3 dozen eggs from Meadowstone and I got to collect them myself! It was a great experience, and I highly recommend you go out and find some farm fresh eggs!!!!!