Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.
Preparing the meat that we raised together as a family.
July 11th 2016
This is our fourth year of running our backyard rabbitry. Our rabbits are cared for and loved. We have a great admiration and respect for the animal. Before we butcher our rabbits my children have learned to say, “Thank you for being here for us and for making us stronger, we will not waste your meat, you are now a part of us.” The children do not have any problems with the harvesting of the rabbits they help raise. They are excited and feel like they are contributing to the family. We believe this makes them more confident growing into the people they will become and more respectful to the environment they are growing within. There is something that has changed within us since we began raising our own meat. There is an understanding that is gained by being responsible for the lives that we end so we can continue. We are tighter as a family because we shoulder the reality of understanding how much dies to keep us alive. Past experience in sharing these particular endeavors that we engage in as a family lead me to believe that many of you reading this may find it unsettling, to say the least. We only ask that you try to understand that we are choosing not to participate in factory farmed meats. The meat that we harvest and eat in our house has been loved or, if hunted, has lived a real life.
We hope our latest family blog post finds you doing well and in the present moment with an open mind.
Charles Hendrix showed me around his Aquaponics greenhouse the other day. Aquaponics is a growing process in which Tilapia (and, less so, goldfish and koi) provide nutrients for the plants (which are primarily lettuces and others which thrive with constantly wet roots) and the plant beds help filter the water. It has a lot of potential to feed hunger stricken communities near rivers and could help lessen agricultural water waste in drought-stricken areas like California.
Living skyscraper concept is straight out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s dreams
Our greatest cities could see massive tree-like structures rising amidst their skyscrapers one day. Teeming with life, these vertical gardens could provide both food and a bit of green space for city folk. These enormous vertical farms could be the self-sustaining hearts of their host cities. They’ll scrub the air clean, purify local water and produce renewable energy. They’ll be so wonderful that it’ll almost be like living in Lothlorien.
Chickens on an unsupplemented vegetarian diet typically fall short of an essential protein-based amino acid known as methionine, and without it, they fall ill. Worse, the birds will also turn on each other, pecking at each other in search of nutrients, and these incidents can escalate into a henhouse bloodbath, farmers say.
Shrimp is the #1 seafood in the USA. It is tasty, usually quite inexpensive, and is easily cooked and eaten. Unfortunately, such a craze for shrimp has created an environmental nightmare.
Americans currently consume over one billion pounds of shrimp every year, and about 90% of that is imported from overseas. The primary producers of shrimp—namely China, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil and Ecuador—provide mostly farm-raised shrimp. American shrimp is almost always caught in the wild. Nevertheless, neither options are ideal or sustainable, and both have horrific consequences on the sea.
Shrimp farming affects human health
The majority of shrimp farms is comprised of open ponds with a small amount of water exchange. Shrimp farming is usually based in coastal areas, and can be destructive to both the ecological and human communities with which it comes into contact. When multiple intensive farming operations are concentrated around the same river, estuary, or bay, as they often are, the waste, uneaten feed and bacteria produced by the farms pollutes the surrounding waters, overwhelming the environment and harming other species. This waste also creates conditions that breed infections among the shrimp themselves.
To protect from the shrimp pathogens that inevitably spread, some farmers feed their shrimp chloramphenicol, a carcinogenic antibiotic which may be unsafe for human consumption. Shrimp may also be treated with sodium triple phosphate, a neuro-toxicant, to prevent it from drying out during shipping, and borax to preserve its pink color.
Upon arrival in the U.S., few if any, are inspected by the FDA, and when researchers have examined imported ready-to-eat shrimp, they found 162 separate species of bacteria with resistance to 10 different antibiotics.
(Shrimp farms in Borneo on the edge of mangroves. Photo by Marc Gunther)
Shrimp farming affects mangroves and local ecosystems
Scientists have found that shrimp farms have destroyed over 40% of the world’s mangroves, which are some of the most diverse, productive and necessary ecosystems on the planet. Mangroves indeed act as carbon sinks, and serve as valuable buffers against hurricanes and tsunamis, while also providing a safe nursery habitats for many invertebrate, fish, and shark species.
A shrimp farmer will clear a section of mangroves and close it off to ensure that the shrimp cannot escape. Then the farmer relies on the tides to refresh the water, carrying shrimp excrement and disease out to sea. In this scenario, the entire mangrove ecosystem is destroyed and turned into a small dead zone for short-term gain. Even after the shrimp farm leaves, the mangroves do not come back.
Wild-caught shrimps, bottom trawling, and bycatch
Farmed shrimp have their problems, but wild-caught shrimp aren’t always a much better alternative. Fisherman catch wild shrimp using fine-meshed trawl nets pulled through the water. Worldwide, for one pound of shrimp, there can be 5 pounds of bycatch—other species that become trapped in the nets. Scientists have found that up to 90% of marine life in the nets brought onboard during shrimp harvesting is actually not shrimp! On top of fish that ultimately end up being dead or dying from being in the net, nets routinely pull up 9,000 endangered or threatened sea turtles annually, in addition to sharks, red snappers, and other animals.
The vast majority is caught using trawling, a highly destructive fishing method. Football field-sized nets are dragged along the ocean floor, scooping up and killing several pounds of marine life for every pound of shrimp they catch and demolishing the ocean floor ecosystem as they go. Where they don’t clear-cut coral reefs or other rich ocean floor habitats, they drag their nets through the mud, leaving plumes of sediment so large they are visible from outer space!
While shrimp trawl fisheries only represent 2% of the global fish catch, they are responsible for over 1/3rd of the world’s bycatch. Trawling is comparable to bulldozing an entire section of rainforest in order to catch one species of bird.
The truth is, not everyone is willing to give up eating shrimp. And you don’t necessarily have to. New, more sustainable production practices are being developed, but it’s up to the consumer to ask for them in supermarkets and restaurants.
What You Can Do!
Eat less shrimp! The Worldwatch Institute estimates that for every 1,000 people who stop eating shrimp, we can save more than 5.4 tons of sea life per year.
Replace your industrial shrimp purchases with Henry & Lisa’s Natural Seafood (Ecofish’s retail brand) available at 3500 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Target Superstores.
Seek out the blueMarine Stewardship Council ecolabel, which indicates sustainable practices, when shopping or dining out. Here’s a list of stores and restaurants that stock MSC-certified products.
When buying wild-caught shrimp, look for varieties from the Pacific coast, particularly Oregon and British Columbia.
Ask your favorite restaurants and stores what kind of shrimp they are stocking, and if you’re not satisfied with their answer, let them know!
Last summer I created this series of images to show some of the summer menu at Cure (http://www.curepittsburgh.com) using local, fresh and sustainable products. All being used and combine to create dishes that landed Cure on Bon Appatit’s best new restaurants list. http://www.adammilliron.com
Because animals are so densely packed on today’s industrial farms, they produce more manure than can be absorbed by the land as fertilizer. The runoff from these facilities often leaks into nearby rivers and streams.
Hügelkultur (German, meaning “hill culture” or “mound culture”) is the garden concept of building raised beds over decaying wood piles. Decayed timbers become porous and retain moisture while releasing nutrients into the soil that, in turn, promote root growth in plant materials. As the logs decay, they expand and contract, creating air pockets that assist in aerating the soil, allowing roots to easily penetrate the soil. This decaying environment creates a beneficial home to earthworms. As the worms burrow into the soil, they loosen the soil and deposit nutrient-rich worm castings, beneficial to plants. An earthworm can produce its weight in castings on a daily basis.
The best decayed wood for a Hügelkultur, according to A Growing Culture, comes from alders, applewood, cottonwood, poplar, maple and birch. Use wood products that have been in the process of decay for about a year (using green, or fresh, wood products will rob the soil of necessary nitrogen). Some wood products, like cedar and black walnut, should be avoided because they produce organisms that negatively effect plant growth.