Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Take the red pill and I'll show you the truth (about farming)

While Stumbling around this morning, I came upon The Meatrix - a delightful, well-produced and informative parody of the incredible "Matrix" movies. I couldn't resist the spot-on monologue by Moopheus as he led Leo to the truth of factory farming.

Many people don't know and don't care about how their meat and poultry come to the grocery shelf. But as the media carry more and more stories about superstrains of drug-resistant bacteria, massive manure spills into local rivers and aquifers, and other results of factory-farm techniques, a growing group of consumers has chosen to do something about it: support sustainable agriculture and small, local farmers.

As I understand it, the thinking goes like this: Small-scale farmers can provide consumers with meat and dairy products from animals that have been allowed to live a more natural life, including free-range as opposed to crated existences, without the systematic use of artificial growth hormones and antibiotics to make up for the unnatural living conditions found in factory farms. Animals that live relatively natural, stress-free lives will require far less medicating and will therefore produce higher-quality foods.

While a sizable number of people who are concerned about where their food comes from choose to become vegetarians or vegan, others choose to continue consuming animal products - and for them, sustainable agriculture may be the answer.

For example, my sister conscientiously selects organic foods whenever the options exists and buys her meats and cheeses from local producers. By buying foods from local farmers, she knows how her food was produced and can see for herself the conditions under which the animals were raised. Not only that, but she's contributed to the local economy, ensuring that her dollars are circulating within the community and benefiting her neighbors - not some faceless corporation with unseen, unknown farming practices.

For anyone thinking of exploring the world of sustainable and/or local agriculture, several routes are available to you. Try finding a food co-op or buying club near you. Support your local supermarket chain (preferably one whose home base is in the same city or at least the same state) that places a priority on foods from local farmers. If there's a regional farmers market in your area, go and visit with the people who grow your food and see how your grocery choices affect your community.

I'm open to ideas: can anyone add to my short list here?

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