Monday, September 6, 2010
If A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
I thought this was a lovely picture ... the grassy field in front of the non-descript buildings. It could be any non-offensive warehouse business in the world. There could be books in those buildings! Or things to make books! Or even people making books!
The fact is that that picture does show a warehouse, but nothing as lovely as books are housed there. What is housed in those buildings are chickens. MILLIONS of chickens in cages.
When I first started researching keeping chickens, I learned that the MINIMUM size area for one chicken was two square feet inside and four square feet outside for EACH chicken. If I had a million chickens, that's a lot of square feet.
The space allotted to the chickens who are housed in these sorts of buildings does not even begin to meet the minimum space requirements to keep healthy and happy chickens. They don't ever see the light of day. They don't ever get to scratch the ground or take a dirt bath with the sun streaming on them through the leaf cover. They don't ever get to hunt bugs or nibble fresh grass. They live their short lives in a cage, roughly, the size of a piece of copy paper - about 8 1/2"x11".
If we didn't care about our chickens, and all we wanted was the eggs they could give us at the highest profit margin possible, then, we wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to make them such a comfortable place to live.
There are some stark differences between our chicken living quarters and the one in the picture above. The first is that when a newcomer walks up to our chicken run, there's no doubt as to what's inside. See? Chickens.
But the most stark difference is this:
Children play where our chickens live.
Children play where our chickens live.
I would never take a child into a confined animal operation - especially not one of my girls, who are beautiful and sensitive and have only seen happy chickens with plenty of room to cause mischief.
This is a great article in support of local foods and against the S. 510 bill I wrote about a couple of days ago.
My favorite line in the piece was this: Unless all the food you eat comes from the farm stand down the road or your backyard garden, you too are consuming industrial food, and I thought of the dairy farms where we get milk, and our friends at Broadturn Road Farm, which looks exactly like the pictures on their website (I know, because I've been there on many occasions - and was even able to help out on the farm once or twice :), and Snell Family Farm, where I have a CSA (and which also looks just like the pictures, and I know this, because I've been there, too), and I thought of my little nanofarm, too, with my wild and crazy gardens and my ducks and chickens and rabbits, which serves to perpetuate the Old McDonald's Farm myth, and, actually, people who have visited have commented that we have "Old McDonald's Farm" here.
I smiled, smugly, after reading the line, because, for the most part, my food supply is that myth, and not the reality of factory farms.
While factory farms do, indeed, have the largest part of the market share, I know that in every community in every part of our country, there are small farms that look just like the Old McDonald's Farm, and those small, local farmers, are all too happy to sell their lovely crops at small farmer's markets across the continent. All they want is a customer who values what they do, and understands that their product is *not* what's available in the grocery store. Most just want to be able to live comfortably, and they just want an honest wage for an honest days' work.
I pay more for tomatoes at the Farmer's Market than I do at the grocery store. I pay more for corn, and more for potatoes, too, but while the actual dollars I spend may be a bit more than what I would if I bought the same item at the grocery store, I know that the items are not comparable and there is no comparing the tomato picked green and artificially ripened with the box of canning tomatoes I bought from Snell last weekend.
And it may cost me more to can those tomatoes than it would to buy a can of tomatoes from Hannaford, but I know there is no comparing my home-canned tomatoes to the ones canned in the factory in a BPA-lined can.
The bottom line, though, is that by supporting my local growers and by growing some of my own, in the event of a hiccup in the on-demand food delivery system, I don't have to worry, and that's worth every penny and more.
Food safety? Definitely! Food security? Absolutely!
Old McDonald's Farm is not a myth. It's up the road, and around the corner, and in my backyard.