One thing I didn’t mention in the introductory post to this series was where the idea for the series originated. I’m sure, like most blogs or other places that discuss homesteading and related topics, the primary focus here will be on the how of homesteading. Recently, I read a post in Homesteading Today that got me thinking about the why.
The poster asked about a book called Enough! A Critique of Capitalist Democracy and a Guide to Understanding the New Normal by Jerome D. Belanger. The discussion led me to a good article written by the author explaining the book, which I now want to read. It also made writing out my current reasons why seem like a good idea so I have something to compare after the book.
Anyway, today is the first of the more in depth posts, and our topic today is food production. Up until recently, I didn’t give much thought to food production and the impacts it has on the animals, the environment, and our health. Some recent documentaries have made me stop and think much more deeply about this, and I don’t like what I see.
Raising beef in the modern factory farm is a major environmental issue. Pollution from the cattle’s waste products pollutes nearby water sources, and the methane produced by these cattle is the largest worldwide source of greenhouse gasses released into the environment.
It also uses up a considerable amount of farmed food resources, using many more calories of food than it creates, with corn and other grain as a major ingredient. The corn provides another greenhouse gas whammy because it is one of the most petroleum intensive farm products.
Going further, the grain is not the cattle’s natural diet, so it fattens them up faster and makes the meat produced fattier. It also causes digestive issues for them and makes them susceptible to bacteria like e. coli, which then goes on to infect people. Not only that, but the nutrients they need are not available in this feed, so the meat does not give the nutritional value it would if the cattle were grass fed exclusively.
Moving one step forward in the production line, the meat producers operate in a manner that is at best questionable from a legal standpoint. As for the product they distribute, any food that has a measurable fecal content seems like a problem to me. As they say, you don’t shit where you eat. I’ll take that one step further to say you don’t eat shit. This seems logical to me. However, the producers think this is acceptable as long as it is below some legal limit. I disagree.
Without going into details, the poultry industry isn’t any better, nor is pork production. Animals are treated cruelly, with no regard to their well-being, and sent through a system that has just as little regard for the end consumer. Industrial fishing destroys the very habitats they rely on for their livelihood. People have relied on the sea for food for eons, yet in modern times we destroy it as though there will be no tomorrow. It is shameful.
The difficulty in changing this system is that the end consumer is only the customer at the end of the process. The fast food industry needs excessive quantities of meat to satisfy their customers (according to an article on Business Insider, McDonalds serves 75 hamburgers every second), which leads to these factory-like conditions from the farm up. The only way to make it change is to vote with your wallet.
Opt out – avoid the fast food places completely, and look for alternatives for getting meat. Look for local sources of grass fed beef, truly free range chickens and their eggs, and other meats. Learn to hunt, or buy meat from a local hunter or butcher if you can find one who sells wild game. If enough people go this route, the system will have no choice but to change.
When it comes to plant foods, a major issue is the chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and such used in their production. Also, the monoculture environment they grow in, miles of nothing but one crop, is very unnatural and has a direct impact on the local ecosystem. I believe this is a primary factor in the current honeybee collapse, which I see as a canary in the mineshaft. The entire system is unhealthy, and it’s killing us.
I could go on for pages with all of the issues in the food system, but I won’t. But I don’t trust the system, and I want to get out of it as much as possible. That means growing my own food primarily. It also means find local farmers who are willing to be open about their operation for things I can’t or don’t produce. By opting out I’m hoping I can make a difference. I’m certain it will make a difference in at least my own life. I would certainly recommend that you consider your options here as well.