Last night (22 May) Ginny and I attended a library book group meeting which was discussing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. A lively discussion followed on the book, and I found the conversation interesting. Once the group found out that Ginny and I were local farmers, the discussion turned to us, as much as the book.
Many had questions about things that I consider common knowledge. But I guess what I consider common may not be so common. One example of this was when the participants brought up the turkey chapter. In Barbara’s book she goes into details about a natural turkey mating, versus the artificial insemination used by commercial turkey growers.
Imagine trying to explain to a group of adults, why industrial turkeys no longer mate naturally. It is extremely hard for me to be discrete and explain. First you have to explain natural, so that you can say the parts no longer fit. You will have to use your imagination to come up with your own visual image.
That lead to a discuss about six year old girls starting their menstrual cycles and the doctor saying it was normal. At this point I went ape sh…….. Six year old girls, this isn’t normal, and any doctor that thinks it is normal, well I would find another doctor. Doctors by and large are in the business of treating sick people, not wellness. If doctors want to start being in the wellness business and not the sick business, they should consider teaming up with local farmers. The difference between how a local farm operates is so different than industry; it would take a set of encyclopedias to explain the differences.
The talk turned to “Free Range”, “Organic” and other terms that are thrown around without really knowing the definition. We talked about knowing your farmer and his/her management style is much more important that just words, for example; Organic does not mean the animals are on pasture only that they are fed an organic feed so they can still be in feed lot conditions. Free Range is just that they are not in a cage and are able to walk about at will; does it mean they are on pasture? Do these terms fit what people think when they see the term on nice fancy packaging, in most cases it does not. Again seeing the farm and the animals will help you determine the answer to this question. These are just a few of the items we discussed.
One example of this in the news this week is that the state of Maryland has banned arsenic from chicken feed. While I applaud the state I think the local economy ofMarylandwill take a tumble. It will be easier to move chicken production toDelawareorVirginiathan comply with the regulations. The state may apply the heavy hand of the law, but your consumer dollars is what will really change the industry.
It is import to vote with your food dollars, this is the only pressure the industry understands. I think Mark Twain sums up what happens in the food industry.
“It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” ~ Mark Twain