Getting to the meat of eating local

Goldie Rich of Community Connections' Food Waste Recover Program looks at the impact of meat farming and local meat producers

  • Dec. 2, 2016 9:00 a.m.

Greenslide Cattle uses a barge to transport their cows between pastures on either side of the Columbia River.

By Goldie Rich, Community Connections

While the contemporary food system frees most of us from toiling for our food beyond the task of pushing a trolley around the supermarket, it has also removed a significant amount of consumer responsibility.

“What we eat and how we eat has more impact on earth than anything else,” wrote Dr. Colin Sage, a researcher at the University of College Cork in Ireland, in his book Environment and Food.

A lack of consumer responsibility in our food system has supported the opportunity for large factory farms to take over the majority of global meat production. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, factory farming now accounts for 99 per cent of all farmed animals raised and slaughtered in the United States. These corporate farms have significant impacts on our environment. “Meat production is now estimated to account for 18 per cent of global warming, an effect greater than the transport sector worldwide,” says Sage.

We as consumers have adapted to a food system where less expensive and more convenient food is our biggest purchasing factor. Corporate marketing, confusing labels and a lack of transparent information about our food system has led consumers to purchase unethical and unhealthy food.

There are many opportunities to support a more sustainable food system that provides the high quality foods we seek. For example, we can shop directly from farmers at farmers markets and at the farm.

Historically, Revelstoke was a rich agricultural area, with more than 200 farms in the valley. Today, there are two local farms carrying the torch of sustainable, ethical, organic meat farming.

Terra Firma Farms

Terra and Rob from Terra Firma farms offer many types of organic food products including chicken, eggs, pork and fresh produce. They were inspired to start farming livestock because they wanted to provide quality meat from animals that were ethically raised. They started with chickens and found the experience really fun. Rob especially enjoys watching the connection kids have with their chickens.

Terra and Rob now raise 400 meat birds per year. Their chickens have a large coop for shelter and about three-quarters of an acre to roam free and feed on organic grain, grass, and veggie scraps. Terra and Rob use a more expensive type of bird called a Mistral Gris because it’s a better tasting bird with a more natural growth curve and foraging ability over the conventional Cornish Cross.

Last summer, Terra and Rob raised eight weaner pigs. The pigs had plenty of forest to roam in; Rob says the forest is a pig’s natural habitat and his pigs loved to be outside. The pigs ate organic food waste from the farm and fruit from the local Bear Aware gleaning project.

All animals are required by law to be inspected and slaughtered at a government-regulated abattoir. Terra and Rob’s animals travel to the nearest abattoirs possible, in Falkland and Enderby, B.C. They assured me the abattoirs are clean and humane, and they are pleased with the efficiency of the process.

Terra and Rob want to highlight it’s not possible to raise meat ‘sustainably’ and sell it at a price you get from the grocery store. Their organic chicken costs approximately $6 more per kilogram than a product from the grocery store.

Greenslide Cattle Company

Photo: Greenslide beef can be purchased at Le Marche, Mountain Meals and Dolan Home Delivery. ~ By Goldie Rich

Jim and Adele Graham from Greenslide Cattle Company have been farming in Revelstoke since 1994. They were both inspired to start farming because they were exposed to farm life at a young age and as adults they missed the experience.

Jim and Adele have about 200 cattle on their farm, and they send 50 to 60 to slaughter each year. The cattle eat organic grass all summer, organic hay during the winter, and they feed them organic spent grain from Begbie Brewery.

With 2,000 acres of grazing land, Greenslide Farm provides three acres of land per cow, which is about triple what cows require, in addition to indoor shelters. Most of their cattle prefer to sleep under big old cedar trees.

Their cows are slaughtered at Valley Wide Meats in Enderby, B.C. In order to avoid a crowded transport trailer, they only transport four to six animals at a time. They transport their cattle themselves and appreciate the efficiency and humane slaughtering practices at the abattoir.

Jim and Adele choose to practice sustainable animal husbandry as a morally driven decision, rather than just business advantage. They follow ‘organic’ practices, however they do not certify as organic, allowing them to provide quality meat at a more affordable price.

Desirable meat cuts such as ribeye and striploin cost around $8 more per kilogram than a product from the grocery store. You can purchase Greenslide ground beef at a comparable price to the product offered at the grocery store.

Where can I purchase these products?

Terra Firma chickens can be purchased at Le Marche. They will be ready to sell bacon with a limited supply at the winter Farmers Market on December 1 and 19.

Grocers who sell Greenslide products include Le Marche, Mountain Meals and Dolan Home Delivery.

Some restaurants in town are sourcing sustainable meat products as locally as possible, such as Salmon Arm and Armstrong.

Consumer responsibility

In order to be an ethical meat consumer, one must ensure there is little to no waste. A significant amount of energy and water is used to raise livestock. According to a study completed by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, it was estimated 200,000 litres of water is required to produce one kilogram of factory farm beef. If these animals were fed on only good quality pasture, the energy inputs would be reduced by half.

Purchasing sustainably raised meat costs more, so consider smaller portions and meatless meals a few times a week. Most importantly, respect your food and don’t waste it.

Next month we will be checking out our local butchers providing information about their no-waste practices and advice on how you can make the most out of your meat purchases.

Goldie Rich is part of the Community Connections Food Security Team. This article was written in partnership with the employment program of BC.

 

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