Saturday, April 14, 2012

Field Trip to Heritage Prairie Farm

Have you seen the documentary Food, Inc.?  It's meant to educate viewers on where their food comes from.  If you're a meat eater, I definitely recommend you watch it, and I'd like to assure you that it is not a grotesque exposé of farm animal cruelty, and it is not meant to turn you vegan.  Not even close.  If you are a vegetarian or vegan, I might still recommend it to you, because it's not just about where your meat comes from.  It's about where all your food comes from.

The documentary came out in 2009, but we just watched it a couple of weeks ago.  Not surprisingly, it was a good companion to Fast Food Nation (read the book; the FFN movie just doesn't cover it all), which I read and we watched a few years ago.  I'm not going to go on and on about it, because that's not the point of this post, but here's a brief summary so you can understand what the movie has to do with today's field trip.

Most of what we eat is beef, chicken, corn and soybeans.  Giant agricultural companies pretty much control the production of these products, and the demand for the products is so high that a factory-line system is the only way to keep production high and prices low.  This means the livestock are crowded together and eat a cheap corn diet, and it requires fast-moving slaughter houses where contamination of the meat and crippling injuries to the workers are commonplace. The live animals are pumped with hormones and antibiotics, and the meat is treated with things like ammonia.  Meanwhile, smaller farms are being crushed financially by these big companies, and even the farmers working for the big companies aren't being treated all that well.  The moral of the story is that it's better to let the animals roam around a little, eat grass like they're meant to do, and grow at a natural pace.  And, you should read the labels on all of your other food, because corn is in everything, and soy is in a lot of it, too, and you're supporting the big guys when you buy it.  The whole idea is that we should buy food that is healthy for ourselves and fair to the farmers (and, in the case of meats, that was raised healthily and humanely).

So, today we went to the market at Heritage Prairie Farm, a pretty cool place about 35 minutes from our house.  We tasted herb-infused honey and medicinal-mushroom–infused green tea, talked to some goats and a donkey, took a peek inside a bee hive and then bought some expensive pork chops, a jar of pumpkin honey mustard, a roll of Wisconsin goat cheese and a small loaf of smoked Gouda bread.  Oh, and we had a "cinnamon honey cow latte." 

The people were really friendly, and I think we'll go back—gotta try Chuck's Wood-Fired Pizzas!—to check out the seasonal changes in products.  But it sure ain't cheap to give up hormone-rich meat and dairy. 

I think we'll move slowly in that direction, making meat more of a luxury item, trying to get more out of our own garden.  I'll definitely be more hesitant to buy the really big boneless skinless chicken breasts.  (Those aren't natural!)

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