Humane


…or tallow (beef fat). Or “Fatty Acids” (rendered beef fat). Dryer sheets–those static-removing sheets that we put into the dryer to eliminate irritating static cling–seem an unlikely spot to find animal products. Yet, the sheets may be coated with synthetic fragrances and a nasty helping of beef fat that is used to soften our clothes.

UGH.

So, now I have to worry about my dryer sheets as well?

You can choose to make your own dryer sheets; however, currently I am enjoying method’s squeaky clean dryer sheets for baby. These sheets are actually moist (not dry) and they can be reused, which is great, since the package has 40 sheets. I’ve successfully used one sheet three times  and my laundry feels/ smells great.

method eschews animal products and instead uses plant-based ingredients to allow for a soft, dried laundry load. method produces the sheets in different scents, including a fragrance-free option. Yet, I love the smell of the rice milk and mallow scent that is particular to their baby products. It really makes my towels smell fresh, and all of my laundry is static-free, soft, and inviting to the touch. More importantly, the laundry is not coated in unnecessary animal fat. The more opportunities I have to use products that are sustainable, and not derived from animals, the better!

You can check out method’s dryer sheets here: http://www.methodhome.com/product/squeaky-green-dryer-cloths/?free__clear  I purchased a pack of 40 sheets at my local Target. Using a coupon, I spent less than $4.00 on the item.

Let’s talk about a reality that we all know is true: industrial farming leads to abused, neglected, filthy, inhumanely-treated animals. There is no way around that knowledge, no matter how much factory-farmed food we eat, or how many news articles we purposely avoid in order not to confront this truth. The $7.00 for two strip steaks (USDA choice!) at my local market may seem easy on my wallet–I can instead put the savings to one drip of gasoline for my car–but I know, as so many others do, that the price is much higher. The pollution, the animal welfare, the antibiotics, the health hazards–so much goes into that $7.00 package of meat.

But what really is striking is what The New York Times published this week about states attempting to ban people from publishing photographs or video footage conveying the horrid conditions inside of factory farms.

Journalist A. G. Sulzberger, author of the article “States Look to Ban Efforts to Reveal Farm Abuse” writes:

“A bill before the Iowa legislature would make it a crime to produce, distribute or possess photos and video taken without permission at an agricultural facility. It would also criminalize lying on an application to work at an agriculture facility “with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner.

Similar legislation is being considered in Florida and Minnesota, part of a broader effort by large agricultural companies to pre-emptively block the kind of investigations that have left their operations uncomfortably — and unpredictably — open to scrutiny.”

It’s not hard to imagine why “large agricultural companies” would spearhead a campaign to keep their hideous practices from being captured on film and published for the populace. What is disturbing is how easily they dismiss what has been published as “inaccurate” or “misrepresentations” of what is going on in a factory farm. Yet I can’t imagine why any consumer would–rather than exert our power of choice–knowingly purchase any animal products (meat, eggs, milk, etc.) from a business that would support such a Bill. I’m wondering–what is more criminal? The empl0yee who photographs heinous animal cruelty and publishes it, or the company that knowingly allows animal abuse to continue?

Personally, I am disgusted to think that states in this country are more interested in protecting the rights of agribusiness than they are concerned with human and animal welfare. Clearly, experts have proven the detrimental effects of industrial farming–the impact that it has in polluting our environment, decaying our civility and humanity (is it really “funny” to toss live chickens into bins and joke about how their legs “fall off in the process?”), and harming our health is staggering.

So here we are, America. Let’s consider the statement by John P. Kibbie, Democrat of Emmetsburg and president of the Iowa State Senate (also taken from the same article):

“Agriculture is what Iowa is all about,” Mr. Kibbie said. “Our economy would be in the tank, big time, if it wasn’t for agriculture.”

I’ll tell you what is in the tank, Mr. Kibbie. Dead, dying, and injured animals. More animal fecal matter and its methane than can ever be productive. People eating meat that is polluted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A respect for nature. A respect for animal welfare.

Perhaps if the government weren’t so entwined with agribusiness, we would have nothing to hide in our factory farms, or our slaughterhouses. In the meantime, Bills like this –which are designed ONLY to perpetuate bad business practices, and keep the money flowing to the agribusiness elite–reveal to consumers that there is something to hide.  And what is behind the factory farm curtain, photographed or not, is still a reality.

You can read the New York Times article HERE: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/us/14video.html?_r=2&ref=us

As an omnivore with a family that likes to eat meat, I’ve been on the prowl for over a year to revamp our family’s diet and eat meat that has been more consciously raised and finished. Factory farmed meat=not for me. My toddler loves hot dogs, but I was skeptical about serving him something that I typically associated with nitrites, unsavory animal parts, and general “yuck” factor. In my local supermarket, I came across Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs and I decided to give them a try. I had been buying Applegate Farms cold cuts for some time, as I appreciate the company’s dedication to humane treatment of animals. I am happy to report that Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs are now my family’s go-to hot dog. They are delicious!

My little guy really enjoyed these hot dogs. I gave it a try, eating a little bit and finding a pleasurable beef flavor that didn’t have any chemical or acidic aftertaste. They are plump and they aren’t greasy like some other hot dogs I’ve had in the past.

What really appeals to me is that Applegate Farms is a company that is forthright with its customers concerning its practices and products. Its new “Promise Tracker” allows the consumer to track the product (in my case, the hot dogs) back to the farm from which it originated.

Simply, the hot dogs taste good because the beef is derived from grass-fed, free-roaming animals. These are cows that haven’t been sick or fed antibiotics. The meat that goes into Applegate Farms hot dogs is quality meat–it’s not a mish-mash of grade Z meat that would frighten a customer. The ingredients list is short and clear: “Organic Grass-Fed Beef, Water, Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Sea Salt, Celery Powder, Organic Onion Powder, Organic Spices, Organic Paprika.” It’s that simple. There’s nothing on the ingredients list that is a mystery or that I can’t pronounce. There’s nothing like “natural flavors” that are typically synthetic. Applegate Farms is clear and straightforward with what goes into its products and why the final product is superior.

What also appeals to me is that the organic uncured beef hot dog is also lower in fat than its counterparts in my supermarket. Weighing in with 6 grams of fat (as opposed to 14 grams in other brands) per serving makes me feel better about what I’m serving.

It means a lot to me to be able to make a conscious decision about what my family eats–and I have to say, Applegate Farms makes it a bit easier for me. I’ve stood in supermarkets, staring at factory farmed meat and felt frozen in place, wondering what I should/could buy without putting my family at risk for e. coli, omega-6 fat, etc. I’ve wondered if the labels I’ve been reading that say “cage free” or “organic” actually mean what they say. When I buy Applegate Farms products, I’m not worried. I appreciate having that peace of mind when I buy food for my family.

My favorite products are currently these hot dogs, the ham, the cheese, the uncured bacon, and the sausages. Delicious!

Hotdogs

So it’s disturbing to teach freshmen English when I am using Chew on This, Food Inc, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and a myriad of other sources to teach persuasive writing–and my students say things like “who cares if the chickens are factory farmed?” or “I would eat @ (insert a fast food restaurant name here) anyway.” It seems as though there’s an apathy that can’t be shaken because it’s not “cool” to care about treating animals humanely, or to learn about how genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are not always regulated  by our government.

But then I encounter this article– http://news.change.org/stories/food-fight-college-students-demand-cage-free-eggs-on-campus

So 10,000 Penn State students are advocating for cage-free eggs in the university’s dining halls. I’m encouraged that the apathetic attitude I see from fourteen year-old students transforms into a call-to-action only a few years later.

It’s hard to live in this era without realizing the detrimental after-effects of factory farming–especially the current method of farming chickens. The manure alone pollutes our water supply, our soil, and the billions of tons have nowhere to go. Chickens–social, intelligent creatures, deserve respect–even if they are being bred to be our meal. The challenge remains to enlighten without preaching, and remove a veil of ignorance perpetuated by deceptive marketing and clever labeling. It’s great to see our collegiate generation responding to the current issues. It gives me hope that the nonfiction unit I am doing with my students will resonate with them long and hard enough to truly affect change.

Although I greatly admire vegetarians and vegans for their commitment to meat/dairy/fish-free lifestyles, the truth is that my family is more omnivore that not–thus, prompting me to find grass-fed, grass-finished beef.  I’m a stickler when it comes to eating meat that is sourced humanely and sustainably whenever possible, and I’m lucky to have two Whole Foods Markets near my home.

Whole Foods has a blog on which is an article recently posted concerning their grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Although some detractors are disappointed that not all of the beef sold in Whole Foods is local, the Whole Foods standards for beef are up to my standards. The information that you can find on the Whole Foods site concerning their business practices, philosophies, and products is plentiful–and plainly stated. The blog article “The Scoop on Grass Fed Beef” by Paige Brady is definitely worth checking out, if you want to learn more about grass-fed beef.

I heard about the recent egg recall due to salmonella and immediately checked the eggs I purchased. I was glad to see that my eggs were from Sauder’s Eggs  which has such stringent testing for their eggs quality/ safety. I found these eggs for sale at Fairway Market and immediately, I noticed the “CERTIFIED HUMANE” stamp on the carton. I’m always on the lookout for food that comes from organic, sustainable, and humanely-produced sources. Sauder’s Eggs is a company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania–a place that I love to visit!–with a genuine, honest approach to fair treatment of animals and the employees who work there. I wish that there were more businesses like this one who sold their wares in supermarkets. After watching Food Inc. and doing a bevy of research, I’ve been bypassing “traditional” factory farmed food as much as possible. I can’t imagine serving my family eggs that were produced by chickens living in such unsanitary, inhumane conditions (as most of the “agribusiness” eggs are). Now that there is more demand for healthy, organic, humane food, prices are becoming more competitive and are falling within my price range. The Sauder’s Eggs dozen that I bought cost less than $2.00 at Fairway. Not bad!

It disturbs me that so many people are sick from the salmonella–instead of spreading illness to hundreds or thousands, agribusiness should be working to improve working conditions and living conditions–lose the overcrowded cages, sheds, and fecal-encrusted enclosures in which millions of animals “live” and thousands “work.” It’s so far beyond the time for change.

In the meantime, I will continue to buy meat and eggs from Fairway Market, Whole Foods, and local businesses. 

Keep informed on these pressing issues at http://www.takepart.com/news/tag/hungry-for-change/