The Only Hope For Mankind

No, this isn’t hyperbole, and I’ll tell – or rather, show – you why in just a moment.  But first:

It’s no secret that I eat meat; some might suggest I eat far too much of it.  It’s no secret that I’ve bettered and even eliminated a great many health problems by eating meat that has been raised in keeping with its biology and by curtailing or eliminating my consumption of certain non-animal foods.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe monocrop agriculture has done far more to harm our environment than the proper raising of food animals.

I don’t get much argument on that last point here; I don’t know if it’s because the vast majority of the people who come here are just looking for a good recipe and don’t want to get caught up in a debate about how the food they’ll be cooking came to be, or if it’s because most of my regular readers agree with me, or if it’s because those who don’t necessarily agree are being respectful of my opinion.  It’s likely all three.

My Facebook page is a different matter, probably because I actively promote it and there are a LOT of people on Facebook.  But whatever the reason, I get a fair amount of nasty comments on my recipe posts – particularly those that feature meat (with a nice, big, color photograph).  A couple have been about the quality of my photography (I’ll be the first to admit I am no professional), but most have been about, well, the meat.  For some reason, vegans have this driving need to tell me that my recipes, especially the photos, gross them out.

(My favorite comment so far was on yesterday’s venison post – which has gotten more likes, and more derogatory comments, than any to date – “I just threw up in my mouth.”  Since I try very hard not to feed the trolls, I refrained from suggesting that some nice, rare venison might solve that digestive issue.  But I digress.)

Vegans have many reasons for being vegan, and one that is almost universal among them is that livestock A) is one of the major causes of “climate change” and 2) will never be able to feed our rapidly growing numbers worldwide.

The video below is a TED lecture given by Allan Savory, a biologist and environmentalist who used to agree.  He has since come to believe – no, prove – that this is absolutely incorrect.  His lecture runs 22 minutes, but it is so fascinating you’ll never be aware of the time that’s gone by.  I won’t go over everything he says, but the title of this post is a direct quote from the lecture:  the holistic management of large numbers of livestock is the only hope for mankind.  It’s the only way we’ll reverse global warming and the only way we’ll be able to feed the 10 billion people that will populate this earth in just a few short years.

Plant-based diets aren’t the answer.  You can not deny the science.

Fight Back Friday

Posted in participation of Fight Back Friday

Shameless Heartland Pandering

It’s been a little more than a week since the Superbowl, and arguably the most-talked about commercial was the one featuring legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s “So God Made A Farmer” speech for Dodge trucks.

I both liked and disliked the commercial.  I liked it, despite my lack of belief in a higher power, because it evokes intense personal feelings; the things Mr. Harvey says about farmers is very true.  At least, they’re true of my farmers, and all of the small farmers who work outside of industrial agriculture – farmers that are the driving force of the Real Food Movement.  I can’t even begin to express the admiration and respect I have for the people who raise and grow the food my family and I eat every day.  I was practically in tears by the end of the commercial the first time I saw it, even if I don’t believe God has anything to do with these remarkable and devoted people.

Paul Harvey wrote the original speech in 1975 and the recording used in the Dodge commercial is of Mr. Harvey delivering it to the 1978 Future Farmers of America convention. However, the speech itself was based on the definition of a “dirt farmer” published in The Farmer-Stockman, then the Ellensburg Daily Record, in 1940.  Prior to the United States’ entry into World War II, most of the food in this country was grown or raised on small farms and in backyard gardens.

Sadly, this is no longer true, which is why I also disliked the commercial.  So when Beloved found this parody of it, I knew I’d post it.  It’s hilarious and depressing at the same time, but it’s also true.

Which is the saddest thing of all.

Home is Where the Farmer Is

I was born in El Paso, and grew up in Dallas.  I spent the last 4 years of my life in Texas living in the mid-cities area – a collection of suburbs connecting Dallas and Ft. Worth.

I’m a Texan, through and through.  To this day, if someone asks me where I’m from, I’ll tell them, “I live in Podunk, Ohio but I’m from Texas.”

I was 42 when I left Texas and moved to Ohio, and I hated it.  I cannot even begin to describe how incredibly homesick I was.  It didn’t help that I went from a metropolitan area of over 3 million people to a small city of barely 73,000 – heck, the suburb where I lived in Texas was nearly that big.  Worse yet, the only decent ethnic food in the area I now live is Italian – if you want French or Thai or Mexican or Vietnamese or Colombian or Middle Eastern or, gee, anything that isn’t pizza or pasta (well, maybe German), you better learn to cook it yourself, because it pretty much doesn’t exist here.  There are exactly 3 ethnic markets in our area; one Mexican, one Asian, and one Halal – all approximately the size of my walk-in closet (you think I kid).  You have to spend $20 at the Asian market before they’ll take a debit or credit card.

Don’t even get me started on what passes for barbecue here.

Dallas has more shopping malls per capita than any other city in the world…Podunk has one.  The tallest building downtown is a whopping eight stories tall.

The area we moved to is also pretty insular; in Dallas, there are a lot of people from not just all over the country, but from all over the world.  Here, it’s not uncommon for young people to move into a house down the street from their parents when they leave home.  And I’d never been met with so many cold shoulders as I had when we moved to Podunk – it was literally years before we made friends here, beyond our co-workers and a lovely woman I’d actually met online years before.  To this day I get asked, “Why on earth did you move here??”

I guess it just turned out that we weren’t looking in the right places for friends, and it took changing the way we eat to meet them.

They’re called farmers, and they are just the nicest, warmest people. In. The. Whole. World.

We friends with our beef farmer, hog farmer, poultry farmer, vegetable farmer; we’ve made friends with a lovely lady who makes artisan goat cheeses.  We’re friends with our butchers.  We found someone who grows the best damn watermelon in the area, as well as someone who not only grows a dazzling array of winter squashes (and sells them dirt cheap), but raises the tastiest goats you’d ever hope to find.

They all think we’re a little off our rockers.  Which makes them pretty smart, too.

I’ve become quite attached to these people, and while I was becoming attached to them, I became attached to the entire area because you simply can’t separate these people from the land.  And I surprised myself recently with the realization that I don’t dream of moving back to Texas any more; bluebonnet season may be spectacular, but so is autumn in Cuyahoga Valley.  Downtown Oak Cliff may be full of history and character, but so is downtown Wadsworth – and you don’t have to worry about being mugged.  People may not drive with any sense of urgency here, but I never have to worry about the traffic on I-635, either.  A 45-minute trip to have dinner in Dallas used to be nothing; nowadays, a 45-minute trip to Cleveland for dinner calls for an overnight stay.

Somehow in the last couple of years, this became home.  I’d like to stay awhile.

For more Hometown Spins, go visit Gretchen at Second Blooming.  Take her some barbecue from The Salt Lick; she’s homesick.

Beyond Organic and Why Joel Salatin Is Our Hero

I’ve been working on cleaning up the photos of Patty being, well, butchered (now, now – it’s not as bad as you think) (TONS more photos than I thought), working on my poor cookbook and dealing with a mild cold, so Beloved – who is reading (and really, really enjoying) The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – has come to my rescue with what is, so far, one of his favorite passages in the book…and a question at the end.


This text is a direct quote from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  The only setup you need is to know that Polyface Farm in Swopes, Va is a sustainable heritage farm and George Naylor operates an industrialized mono-crop corn field in Iowa that, as Pollan said is “floating on a sinking sea of petroleum.”  Michael delivers up a great dish of Joel.

Hard to believe, but Joel Salatin and George Naylor are, if regarded from a great enough distance, engaged in much the same pursuit: growing grasses to feed the cattle, chickens, and pigs that feed us. Compared to Salatin, however, Naylor participates in an infinitely more complex industrial system, involving not only corn (and soybeans), but fossil fuels, petrochemicals, heavy machinery, CAFOs, and an elaborate international system of distribution to move all these elements around: the energy from the Persian Gulf, the corn to the CAFOs, the animals to slaughter, and their meat finally to a Wal-Mart or McDonald’s near you. Consider as a whole this system comprises a great machine, transforming inputs of seed and fossil energy into outputs of carbohydrate and protein. And, as with any machine this one generates streams of waste: the nitrogen and pesticides running off the corn fields; the manure pooling in the feedlot lagoons; the heat and exhaust produced by all the machines within the machine – the tractors and trucks and combines.

Polyface Farm stands about as far from this industrialized sort of agriculture as it is possible to get without leaving the planet. Joel’s farm stands as a kind of alternative reality to George’s: Every term governing a conventional 500-acre corn-and-bean operation in Churdan, Iowa, finds its mirror opposite here on these 550 acres in Swope, Virginia.

To wit:

Naylor Farm Polyface Farm
Industrial Pastoral
Annual species Perennial species
Monoculture Polyculture
Fossil energy Solar Energy
Global market Local market
Specialized Diversified
Mechanical Biological
Imported fertility Local fertility
Myriad inputs Chicken feed


For half a century now, which is to say for as long as industrial agriculture has held sway in America, the principal alternative to its methods and general approach has gone by the name “organic,” a word chosen (by J. I. Rodale, the founding editor of Organic Gardening and Farming magazine) to imply that nature rather than the machine should supply the proper model for agriculture. Before my journey through the organic food industry I would have thought that virtually any organic farm would belong on the Polyface side of this ledger. But it turns out that this is not necessarily the case. There are now “industrial organic” farms that belong firmly on the left-hand side. Then there is this further paradox: Polyface Farm is technically not an organic farm, though by any standard it is more “sustainable” than virtually any organic farm. Its example forces you to think a lot harder about what these words – sustainable, organic, natural – really mean.

As it happened, the reason I found my way to Polyface Farm in the first place had everything to do with Joel Salatin’s unusually strict construction of the word sustainable. As part of my research into the organic food chain, I kept hearing about this organic farmer in Virginia who had no use for the federal government’s new organic standards. I also kept hearing about the exceptional food he was producing. So I gave him a call, hoping to get some salty quotes about the organic industry and perhaps get him to ship me a pastured chicken or steak.

The salty quotes I got. Speaking in a rapid-fire delivery that sounded like a cross between Bill Clinton and a hopped-up TV evangelist, Salatin delivered a scathing indictment of the “organic empire.” I struggled to keep up with a spirited diatribe that bounced from the “Western conquistador mentality” and the “clash of paradigms” to the “innate distinctive desires of a chicken” and the impossibility of taking a “decidedly Eastern, connected, holistic product, and selling it through a decidedly Western, disconnected, reductionist Wall Streetified marketing system.”

“You know what the best kind of organic certification would be? Make an unannounced visit to a farm and take a good long look at the farmer’s bookshelf. Because what you’re feeding your emotions and thoughts is what this is really all about. The way I produce a chicken is an extension of my worldview. You can learn more about that by seeing what’s sitting on my bookshelf than having me fill out a whole bunch of forms.”

I asked him what was on his bookshelf. J. I. Rodale. Sir Albert Howard. Aldo Leopold. Wes Jackson. Wendell Berry. Louis Bromfield. The classic texts of organic agriculture and American agrarianism.

“We never called ourselves organic—we call ourselves ‘beyond organic.’ Why dumb down to a lesser level than we are? If I said I was organic, people would fuss at me for getting feed corn from a neighbor who might be using atrazine. Well, I would much rather use my money to keep my neighborhood productive and healthy than export my dollars five hundred miles away to get ‘pure product’ that’s really coated in diesel fuel. There are a whole lot more variables in making the right decision than does the chicken feed have chemicals or not. Like what sort of habitat is going to allow that chicken to express its physiological distinctiveness? A ten-thousand-bird shed that stinks to high heaven or a new paddock of fresh green grass every day? Now which chicken shall we call ‘organic’? I’m afraid you’ll have to ask the government, because now they own the word.

“Me and the folks who buy my food are like the Indians—we just want to opt out. That’s all the Indians ever wanted—to keep their tepees, to give their kids herbs instead of patent medicines and leeches. They didn’t care if there was a Washington, D.C., or a Custer or a USDA; just leave us alone. But the Western mind can’t bear an opt-out option. We’re going to have to refight the Battle of Little Bighorn to preserve the right to opt out, on your grandchildren and mine will have no choice but to eat amalgamated, irradiated, genetically prostituted, bar-coded, adulterated fecal spam from the centralized processing conglomerate.” [emphasis mine]


Whew is right! Which side of the ledger do you eat from?


Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday