Cows Being Fed Candy- Coming Soon to a Burger Near You

English: Candy corn, specifically Brach's cand...

The heatwave and drought of 2012 is already effecting the food supply. With the skyrocketing price of corn,  at least one rancher has turned to a different source of food for his cattle.

In Mayfield, KY, Rancher Joseph Watson of Mayfield’s United Livestock Commodities, can no longer afford to feed corn to his 1,400 cattle.

“Just to be able to survive, we have to look for other sources of nutrition,” he said. Watson mixes the candy with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient.

It’s creative at least, but nothing close to natural. I’m sure at least Joel Salatin is saying “Folks, This Ain’t Normal.” Hey, if you pass candy under a mass spectrometer, it still looks like corn, doesn’t it? After all, the candy is just high fructose corn syrup.

But, wait a minute…Cows are herbivores and meant to eat grass, so this just kicks our out- of-balance industrial farm system to a whole new level. Doesn’t it look like those cows are eating the expired candy in the wrappers? Bon Appetit.


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Joel Salatin: Folks This Ain’t Normal

UntitledI just finished the latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World, by farmer/author/educator extraordinaire Joel Salatin.

This book is overflowing with the type of contemplative life wisdom you’d expect from a Buddhist monk. Ponder this little gem: “In our Western Greco-Roman compartmentalized fragmented systematized linear reductionist individualized disconnected parts-oriented thinking, we tend to disassociate the seen from the unseen. We do so at our own peril. We are all, every one of us, simply a manifestation of this invisible world.”

And this one, Do you ever wonder why people have such an unprecedented demand for sensationalism, for fantasy, for celebrity? It’s because life without responsibility is boring. Personal responsibility is thrilling. Wow, what a ride! Sure, dependency is easier. It feeds my laziness, but it doesn’t feed my humanness.”

While you might not agree with everything in this book, you definitely appreciate Joel Salatin‘s perspective and his opinions on how to fix our broken food system, our broken selves and our broken world.

I’ll add, I met Mr. Salatin a couple of months ago at a speaking engagement he did at Camino de Paz Middle School in Santa Cruz, NM. He’s even more charming in person than his books convey and he has rightly earned the title (given him by the New York Times), “High Priest of the Pasture”.

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Food for Thought: A Brunch with Joel Salatin

UntitledYesterday was the 5th of May, Cinco de Mayo, a big celebration in Northern New Mexico, as you can imagine.

It was also the ‘s Connect the Dots event with actions going on worldwide like this one of firefighters in the Santa Fe Forest remembering the largest wildfire in New Mexico history that was connected to climate change.

My family and I spent our day at another lower profile, albeit just as important event, the Food for Thought brunch at the Camino de Paz School and Farm in Santa Cruz, New Mexico. The brunch’s guest speaker was Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

Set in the idyllic country, 23 miles north of Santa Fe, Camino de Paz is a private Montessori middle school for students in grades 7-9. The farm provides a model classroom for the hands-on learning that goes on here. Camino de Paz is also a working biodynamic farm where the students tend to goats, sheep, horses, and chickens while raising crops that they sell along with their eggs, goat milk, and hand-made soaps through their CSA and a farmer’s market. Students even learn to use a QuickBooks program to manage their farm-related businesses.

UntitledThe young learners understand their connection to the earth and the larger eco-system around them. This observation wasn’t lost on Joel Salatin who spent the day before working with the students on the farm. Salatin lamented that today’s youth are at risk for hospitalization due to injury sustained from walking into utility poles while being consumed by looking at an electronic screen and wearing ear buds.

Looking slimmer than I’ve seen him in the past, Salatin talked about the unconditional love one receives from working on a sustainable organic farm. “The chicken’s not thinking about it’s divorce” and “the cow  doesn’t care about the Dow Jones Industrial Average.” The animals radiate complete love in being allowed to live their life to the fullest potential of their being while working as a partner in this symphony of creation.

Therein lies the physiological difference in how Salatin, the Camino de Paz kids, and local sustainable agriculture people view food differently from most the rest of the country. One this side, the small farm, sustainable foodies see our food system as biological; it has resiliency and can heal.

The corporate industrial agribusiness worldview is that this system is mechanical, reductionist, linear. That’s why, as Salatin puts it in an interview, “we can pull DNA structure and genes from a pig and put some in a pepper plant and some in a salmon and have a brand new life form; that’s a parts-oriented thing, like pieces of an engine.” The latter system lacks respect. As Joel calls it, honoring the “pigness of the pig” and the “cowness of the cow”.  And a society that views life with “that kind of conquistador, mechanical, disrespectful, manipulative mentality will soon view its citizens the same way and other cultures the same way,” asserts Salatin.

This was food for thought as we enjoyed the breeze, the love that created the delicious farm meal, and the interconnectedness of all life at Camino de Paz. For another course, check out Salatin’s new book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World.


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Your Carbon Footprint At the End of Your Fork

This week my son and I visited the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. As part of an exhibit entitled “Degrees of Change”, visitors can select items from a menu and calculate the carbon footprint of their meal. Ian had a great time checking out the footprint of various food items. A carbon-intensive meal is one that puts out over 2,000 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere. An individual might be surprised to find out that their yummy beef filet alone puts out 4000 grams of CO2.


Vegetarianism seems to be on the decline of what is en vogue these days-with true foodies opting for “sustainable” meat options like “grass-fed” or “locally-raised” beef. But are these more earth-friendly meat options really sustainable for a planet already home to 7 billion humans? After all, we careen closer and closer to the tipping point for survival of so many species, biodiversity, and preservation of civilization itself.

We should also consider the hefty water component of our carnivorous cravings. According to Hoekstra and Chapagain ( -2006) it takes 2400 litres (over 600 gallons) of water to produce one hamburger. Modern humans are observing the rapid melt of glaciers and increasing evaporation due to warming temperatures. In a world that has only a 3% supply of fresh water, where ground water aquifers are pumped at a faster rate than Mother Nature can replenish them, and the pollution of existing water supplies due to extreme energy extraction is happening at almost warp speed, intelligent people should question, “is how I eat really sustainable?”.

There is no question that industrial agriculture has an enormous footprint and the existence of CAFOs with their great lakes of residual manure, even with a modern bio-energy converter, are not sustainable for the planet. Small farmers raising their cattle or chickens in a more holistic way, like that exemplified by Joel Salatin of Polyface farms, are far better for the health of the planet. But can the earth really support 7 billion or more humans eating a locally raised organic meat-intensive diet? That answer is probably “no”.

While this post is not advocating you become a vegan or vegetarian, I suggest you check out some cool ways to decrease your meat intake like Meat Free Mondays or opting for only eating meat once a day, like Lance Armstrong. Armstrong says his mostly vegan diet has brought him increased energy where he saw a significant difference after the first month. That, my friend, sounds like it could be a good place to start and might just serve as a gateway drug to a truly more sustainable and more fulfilling life.