November 12, 2018 • 0 comment(s)
The other day at Polyface I spent the majority of the day working with the cows. In the morning I took part in the sorting. We were sorting out eight steers to be processed next week and 16 cow/calf pairs to move to a rental farm. The sorting corral is made up of three different areas with gates in between and a holding pen. The idea is to separate the easy from the hard. What that means is that instead of trying to get eight steers separated from the herd, we separated the herd from them. I worked the gate and had to let the right cows through but not any of the wrong ones. It sounds simple but when there are 70 cows moving around and multiple ones coming toward you at the same time, it’s a little overwhelming to not know what you’re doing. In the beginning I was nervous to make mistakes, hesitating, but as we went I had a few moments of getting it right. Moving to face the cow at the exact right moment and getting that reaction I was looking for. Communicating with the animal in that delicate dance is pure magic to me. The only thing I can compare it to is riding a well-trained horse. You’re sending subtle messages from every point of contact with the horse at the same time, and they are responding to all of them. The world around you blurs and all you can feel in that moment is you and the horse and the perfect connection. Those moments are rare and magical and the few I felt with the cows were incredible.
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November 12, 2018 • 0 comment(s)
Two years ago I considered myself an educated food consumer. I was aware of the atrocious practices of factory farms and factory processing facilities. I had read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, watched all the food documentaries, and Joel Salatin was my favorite celebrity. I shopped at Wholefoods and turned my nose down at others for their food choices that included Tyson chicken and conventionally farmed beef. It took me about five days of farming at Polyface to realize my purchases at Wholefoods meant almost nothing. Those pastured, grass-fed, free range, and cage-free labels have more to do with marketing than the actual welfare of the animal. I have seen a USDA pastured chicken processing facility, where the vast majority of chickens sold in grocery stores are processed, which was frankly horrifying to me. (Yes, the acid baths are real.) I have observed other farms in the area that raise cows on pasture. Their animals are constantly loose and there is plastic and garbage littered about on their farm. Yet the animals are still technically grass fed, pastured, free-range, and any other fancy food label you could imagine. Without visiting or knowing of the exact farm your meat comes from, there is actually no way of knowing how it has been raised.
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