Today’s photo was lunch for the chickens…Yummy! Even I would enjoy those ingredients (except I left them in the fridge too long). And that is the point.
We all know “we are what we eat” but do you know that “we are what our food eats”? That’s right, any animal product carries with it whatever the animal ate and whatever hormones were present in the body. Think eggs, cheese, milk, lard, gelatin and a whole lot more.
I am no longer vegan or vegetarian for several reasons, the most important and relevant to this piece being my health. One of the most exciting aspects of beginning a homestead life is the authority we have over our food; we hope to get to 50-75% self-sufficiency within the next 3-5 years. That includes fruits, veggies and yes, animal products, in the form of both eggs and meat.
So we began with raising chickens for several reasons:
- We love eggs and we wanted to know our eggs came from happy chickens.
- We wanted to know what fueled the eggs…What did the chickens eat? Did they ever see sunshine? (In fairness, we live in WA, so there is less sunshine in general!!) How much exercise did they have? All in all, we wanted to know if the chickens were happy.
- Chickens are wonderfully fun and engaging animals. They “brag” when they lay an egg and they come running whenever one of us walks past the back door (in the hopes they are getting more leftovers).
- We plan to raise heritage breed chickens which will perhaps help to save a breed from extinction.
- Eventually, I will learn how to “harvest” them (the polite way of saying “slaughter”) so we can eat happy chickens.
- What would a homestead be without chickens? It seemed the obvious place to begin the journey.
This article intends to be educational; please follow the links below if you want to read more. But I must warn you – the reading is not for the faint of heart.
Chickens comprise 95-99% of land animals slaughtered for food every year and whether they are meat birds or layers, their lives are torturous by any standard.
Meat birds have been genetically modified to go from birth to ideal weight in 42 days (if allowed to develop naturally they would be ready for slaughter between 5 and 6 months) they are unable to walk and live in filthy overcrowded sheds. The slaughter process itself is inhumane, by any standard and unfortunately the labels “free-range” and “organic” do not change any of the above facts.
Layers are held in tiny cages that force them to relieve themselves on each other, their beaks are often cut off and once their egg production slows down they are slaughtered for chicken soup or cat/dog food. Chickens are not vegetarians; if your eggs say “vegetarian fed” than you know they have never seen grass or dirt in their lives.
When I am stressed I can feel the hormones racing through my body, my breath speeds up, my joints tighten. And once the moment has passed, I am amazed at how the body functions, how the fight or flight response is immediate.
Imagine the any one of the above living circumstances translated to human lives. If one is stressful when we imagine it, how must it be to live several of them constantly?
If you would like to step off the conveyor belt of factory-farmed chickens and eggs, there are several options:
- Look for pasture-raised eggs, usually at your local farmer’s market or even from your neighbor.
- Ask around for a local source for pasture-raised meat. (Much harder to find than pasture-raised cow or pig).
- You may decide to stop eating chicken altogether.
- Get your own chickens for eggs. many areas now allow 4-6 backyard chickens. They are clean, they don’t crow and they lay fresh eggs (up to 250-300/year). And you now have someone to offload all your leftovers to.
- Contact your congressmen and women to demand change.
Best of luck if you decide to take the plunge; be sure to share your story in the comments.
And now, I am off to see how many eggs we were gifted today.
Movies and links for more info:
- Food Inc.
- Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
- Fast Food Nation