Homogenous Factory Animals Versus Heritage Breeds

Okay, so two months ago I published a blog post about Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals. Yes, I bought a copy. No, I’m not finished with it yet. Why?

Well, it’s not really bedtime reading, which is when I have the most time. One little excerpt is all it takes to turn your stomach or boil your blood.

On factory-farmed piglets (page 187):

As in any kind of factory, uniformity is essential. Piglets that don’t grow fast enough–the runts–are a drain on resources and have no place on the farm. Picked up by their hind legs, they are swung and then bashed headfirst onto the concrete floor. This common practice is called “thumping.”

There are many more visuals throughout the book in regard to pigs, chickens, turkeys, and cows. It’s hard to read. The animal suffering is getting to me. Animals should not be living in conditions like factory farms.

What’s even more disturbing (as if these visuals aren’t enough) is the way we’ve been breeding our animals for consistency, to please a market of tastes and fuel an economy of efficiency and cheap goods. The animals suffer for it because they’ve been bred for the traits that matter to the farmer: producing the most meat in the shortest period of time under a factory farm roof. The result is animals in pain because their limbs can’t support their weight. And that’s just one example. Read Safran Foer’s book for more.

But, my blog post actually has a happy twist. The New York Times published an article today about the SVF foundation, a heritage livestock preservation facility in Newport, RI, which breeds a number of endangered breeds of livestock, including goats, sheep, cows, and chickens.

SVF foundation executive director Peter Borden claims these animals are well suited to meet the demands of evolving culinary and farming trends. “People are demanding choice at a time when commercial livestock are being bred for consistency,” says Borden.

For example, goat meat, once considered a culinary preference of Caribbean, Hispanic and Middle Eastern cultures, has made its way to farmers’ markets and locavore restaurants. (Here in Michigan, it’s offered by S and S Lamb via the West Michigan Co-op.)

“Heritage breeds have not been continuously ‘improved’ by humans,” Borden said in The New York Times. “They have been shaped by natural survival-of-the-fittest forces and can get along without human intervention. Typically, rare varieties exhibit good birthing and mothering abilities. They can thrive on native grasses and other natural forage, and many know how to avoid predators….We have to eat these animals to save them….Ultimately, food is the reason heritage breeds are important.”

Want to know more? Read The New York Times article or check out these videos about SVF foundation.


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