Hello and welcome EOM nation! This post is a wonderful, joint, labor of love and it will continue to grow as our stories keep coming in to add to our collective voice and community. We are here to tell the story of how we came to be Ethical Omnivores against all odds and with so many choices out there. Our journeys are all different and unique but one common thread runs between us and that is one of trial, failures but more importantly one of forward movement towards a more ethical, sustainable and humane way of living on this planet. Please read, share and add your voice to our own growing one.
I will go first as the founder of this particular community but certainly not the leader, as this community has many wonderful and influential movers and shakers. I’m just the one who came up with the logo first 😉
My story. (the very short version)
My story starts with a very young girl who goes to live with her beloved Grandfather at the age of 9 years old. The lessons about love for nature, organic farming, composting, fishing, prospecting, holistic living and eating and the power of the little people instilled upon her were not even fully realized until many years after this great man’s death.
Grandfather Robert Salant was an avid fly fisherman who had fresh trout on the table almost every morning for breakfast and lunch kit lunches could vary from beef tongue sandwiches to hard boiled eggs with a side of fresh garlic from the garden… which consequently was about 3 times taller than all the surrounding neighbors due in part to composing and also due to the odoriferous “sheep shit” fertilizer. Both of these occurrences were much to the chagrin of the competitive and might I add unrequited LOVE stuck, elderly neighbor ladies flanking our little patch of fertile heaven in small coal town Alberta, Canada. Needless to say I did not catch many colds in my early days of living with Gramp but I soon realized peanut butter sandwiches or tuna sandwiches might be a better option if I were to ensure a certain amount of popularity amongst my peers. Either that or take up boxing.. which wasn’t quite on the radar for this little burgeoning fitness fanatic.
I have been, due largely in part to my Grandfather’s influence, a holistic health disciple. I had my Gramp driving me to Whitefish Montana to see a Naturopath to help cure my childhood allergies when I was fourteen years old which was in 1980! Where has the time gone?? I took a Herbology course when I was 20 years old and gradually went from a 4 hour a day weightlifting obsession to one of all things Yoga in 1989. As many do with Yoga.. I became vegetarian (except to spare my Grandfather’s wrath and my LOVE for it.. I still ate fresh trout when I went home for visits… now living in Vancouver. I then in 1993 became ever so briefly a vegan mostly because of the pressure from my immediate Yoga community and the vegan mentor at the time. My swift health deterioration led me to not only not rejoining the vegetarian ranks but led me to look at ways to eat meat to save my physical health and mental sanity but also to honor the lives of the animals I had vowed not to put on my plate.
At the time one of the new books out that helped many of us turn away from a completely plant based diet and start to look at grain consumption as something that was not good for us was the “Blood Type Diet”. Me being type “O” the quintessential “hunter/gatherer” of the blood types, led me to a new found love of red meat which when I took my first bite of.. quite literally made my cells sing with glee! I might add that although this book gave me a fresh look, it is not my current eating philosophy. This was the time first time I heard of grass fed and finished beef, learned the difference between factory farms and ethical producers (always ate organic veggies.. my Gramp taught me well.. young!) The other thing my Grandfather taught me was a love for the Ocean as he took a yearly trip to the West Coast to Salmon fish.. that was cut short due to all the restrictions the commercial fishing guys put on a few fishermen with poles for the love of all things just??!! But dear old Gramp knew long ago that something terrible was up with the state of the Oceans and it wasn’t until 2011 that a few key documentaries hit hard home with me and got me very much on the Ocean conservation band wagon.. especially with regards to the abomination that is Shark Finning.
So to conclude…. I went in search of these wonderful farms and ranches and forced my way into the remarkable and courageous Ocean conservation community and with a many failings and dust ups and dust offs over the years I find myself in this community, which I might add is my most brilliant idea to date 😉 A community of remarkable people from all walks of life and demographics including ethical consumers, ranchers, farmers, urban growers, homesteaders, back yard chicken keepers, hunters, butchers, ocean conservationists, raw milk warriors, animal welfare activists, environmentalists, bee keepers, rewilders, paleo/primal/ancestral/jerf/Weston Price/GAPS (the list goes on AND ON) Foodies/Chefs/Bloggers.
We are a wonderfully unique and varied bunch and we sometimes argue like big loving families do but what does hold true is our commitment to human and self compassion by striving for optimal omnivoric health, humane treatment of our food animals and all other earthlings.. including our own kind, and forever endeavoring to lessen our individual and collective environmental footprint that we may honour and protect our gracious Mother Earth.
That is my story, a story that I feel has only just begin. Please keep reading and please contact us with your story as every voice counts if we are to make a differenc!)e and a difference we MUST make and we must start now.
Lana Joe Salant
(EOM Founder and chief bottle washer)
Yesterday I was told I was obviously miserable, like my Dad.
The comment was dispensed by someone that I haven’t seen in over 40 years after a brief facebook chat. I did not take it personally and was frankly a little perplexed, so nothing I had said was, in my opinion, in the least bit grumpy or indicative of being miserable. It did get me thinking though, which is sometimes a good thing. 🙂
I did however KNOW the reason why my Dad was miserable. He had heart disease and diabetes and as I found out lately, problems with his cognitive function. I, like my Father was heading down that same road, even though I did not realize it at the time. I struggled with weight and health issues and read all that I could in an effort to be healthy. I thought that a low fat vegan diet was the EPITOME of health, because that is what THEY told me was correct. I have since learned that these health issues are exacerbated by the standard advice of a low fat high carbohydrate diet.
Six years ago, I discovered Weston A. Price and started eating more fat and cooking more at home adapting more traditional foods. It wasn’t a fast shift and honestly, other than the weight issue, I *thought* I was healthy. Three years ago, I started to learn about the paleo whole foods way of eating. It had a lot in common with the Weston A. Price method of eating, but removed grains and things that were allergens. Essentially, it is an elimination diet. My life started changing, the chronic congestion that had plagued me 24/7/365 since I was a child went away… the eczema also went away. The border line asthma was also gone. My skin was clearer and I was sleeping better and my life just got better and better. A year into the grain free whole foods approach I came across an old journal. I hadn’t noticed the trend at the time, but every time I had renewed my intention to eat low fat vegan, two weeks later I was deathly ill.
As I continue on my journey, I have learned the benefits to myself, the animals and the planet of consuming ethically raised and humanely killed grass fed beef, pastured eggs and chicken and pork. I am encouraged that through the work of Alan Savory we are learning how changing the way we raise beef can restore our top soil instead of destroying it..
I’m still learning and growing, but every day I wake up grateful to be an ethical omnivore and continue to learn, grow and improve my health and well being.
I also have to add that grass fed beef, butter and bone broth are delicious and nutritious. 🙂 I also have to admit that locally grown produce is much more flavorful and nutrient dense than the store bought stuff that has traveled miles.
Mary-Anne Wise (EOM web specialist)
I think I started really thinking about food in Iraq. I was a contractor there, eating at military DFACs (dining facilities), and really noticed a lot of people having a momentary nap just before eating. I wondered if it was a good idea, so I tried it. I closed my eyes before eating and thought for a moment. I thought about the trials and tribulations my food had to go through to get to me – the roadside bombs, the logistics nightmare, the procurement nightmare, the corruption, the safety issues involved. I followed the thought to its conclusion of the animals themselves.
If I had fish that day, I thought about the ocean it came from. I thought of the trawlers I’d recently seen in the Mediterranean, purse seining everything they could – I thought of how rare it was to see a fish in my last snorkeling episode. I thought of the guy who spent 2.5 hours spearfishing, and only found one small octopus for his efforts. Or I thought of the likelihood that it came from a farm, with waste and disease and cross contamination with wild stocks. I cut back on my fish consumption.
If I had beef that day, I would imagine the vast feedlots of the midwest where it most likely came from – I’d been to those places, seen the air quality, smelled the air quality, imagined the hundreds of miles the’d travelled to get there, jammed into a cattleliner. I’d worked at a small feedlot, branding, giving shots, dehorning, and one of my tasks was to drag the dead ones out to a pile, to be buried later. Those shots didn’t work for those ones. I imagined the feed, trucked from distant fields, sprayed and fertilized, with excess draining into the Gulf of Mexico, suffocating marine organisms all the way. I thought of the brushy areas near my home, being bulldozed to provide more room for monoculture crops, much of which go to feed for cattle. I thought of the birds and insects and small mammals that called those brushy areas home. I cut back on my beef consumption.
If I had pork that day, I thought of the pig barns I knew of, how they were going broke even though they had the best technology available, with the bank loans to prove it. Id seen inside, and it didn’t seem too great, with earmuffs required to drown out the squealing. I’d seen the piles of dead stock outside – technology hadn’t served them well…
As it happens, those little naps before I ate cut down on my meat consumption. To make up for it, I started drinking lots of those little chocolate soy milk containers – lots of protein. The visit to my doctor 3 months later to investigate the sore lumps in my breasts (I am male) got me off of that habit pretty quick.
I started dating a vegetarian at the time as well – omnivorous if she knew where the meat came from, and it met her approval. Asking the waitstaff at restaurants, and witnessing their deer-in-the-headlights response made me not want to eat out anymore. It didn’t take long to figure out where their food came from – not much different than that I was eating in Iraq – minus a roadside bomb or 2.
It’s been refreshing to find restaurants that are starting to get on board, and community of like-minded people. I don’t take a moment before eating the meat I eat anymore – as a farmer, I spend much of my day thinking about it now – ways to make their life better with more diverse food sources that also help improve our planet.
It’s easy to eat now. 🙂
Earth Works Farm
My journey from mindless eating to pushing hard for ethical, sustainable, cruelty free, etc. has been a long, slow, extremely gradual process. I have farther to go.
I can’t even remember for sure when I started trying to change. I do remember saying (years ago) saying things like “I’m a happy hypocrite.” when it came to eating meat. I grew up hunting and fishing for our meat, and growing many of our own vegetables. When we moved to “the city” is when our eating habits changed. Mom worked outside the home, and processed food started to become more prevelant. It was a downhill slide from there. When I grew up and had kids, the food I cooked was extremely typical, lots of pasta and processed sauces, stuff from a box because I was working full time, pizza, fast food, whatever was quick and easy and convenient. At some point, I became aware of how animals were being treated in the factory farming industry. The words “factory farming” weren’t even used then. It obviously struck a chord, because I convinced myself to not think about it, and to (essentially) think of that meat as having been grown in that styrofoam container. The great disconnect.
That went on for a long, long time. I was overweight, and so were my husband and kids. Then my mom passed away. One of the things she left behind was a treadmill. I decided that if she could use that stupid thing to walk and lose weight, so could I. This was my first memorable attempt to actually eat right instead of just starving the weight off. I lost 90 pounds. I don’t really remember much of that year, but at the end of it, I knew I needed a change. I got a divorce, I moved out of the state, and I started a new life. Or so I thought. I ended up reverting back to all my old eating habits for another 7 years or so. Mindless eating, not thinking about where my food came from, trying to ignore factory farms. About 5 years ago, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I started trying to learn more about eating better meat. It wasn’t easy, but I talked to people I worked with, people who had started raising their own cows for beef, people who were very into organic gardening, people who were making a change in their lives. My son and I decided to eliminate a good deal of processed junk from our lives. We both lost a great deal of weight, but it wasn’t enough, and we got stuck. Then I watched a film called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. It literally changed everything for me. My two kids and I went on a juice fast for 45 days, and came out the other side looking and feeling amazing. I started making a committment to eating healthier, and that meant ditching the factory farmed meat, and looking for grass fed, organic meats. That sat well with my heart, too, as I am a huge animal welfare advocate, and it finally felt like I was getting back to my roots. Doing the *right* thing. Death came knocking, and we lost my ex husband, my brother, my father, my cousin, and my only other sibling, my other brother, all in the space of about 5 years. It knocked us down, and we – again – stopped thinking about what we were eating.
A couple years ago, we moved out to a little farm we’re leasing, and I started really pushing for eathing ethically farmed meats again. Even if we weren’t eating totally healthy, I started realizing that I simply couldn’t handle supporting the factory farms. I discovered there are several farms that supply my local grocery store with humane, sustainable, and organic meats. It was more expensive, but the decision was made. I may have to eat less meat to buy higher quality meat, but that was the way it was going to be. When I discovered The Ethical Omnivore, I realized I wasn’t the only one who had walked this path. It made me even stronger in my convictions.
The Naked Hoof
I am not that good with words, especially about myself. I like to think I am better in actions 😉 But what I do know is how it all started : with a diving trip to Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Cocos island, also named the island of the sharks, is on the bucket list of many divers, especially on the shark geek ones like all of my family. Our son read shark books while other 10 year olds read comic strips, he knew (and still knows) more about sharks than I do (I guess that says it all 😉 ), he was the one that said we just needed to go to Cocos. So in July 2008 off we were to Costa Rica, and as if the long plane journey wasn’t enough (I am EU citizen) we embarked the ship for what would be a rough and long (30 + hours) crossing. But from the first dive on we knew it had been all worth it : white tip sharks everywhere, schoolings of hundreds of hammerheads, silvertip, blacktip, galapagos, whale sharks, we had it all, tooped with dolphins, manta rays etc. : we had found paradise on earth ! But then came the rude awakening : a trip to the ranger station on the island (Cocos Island is a National park, so Rangers are on the island all year round) : hooks, buoys, fishing lines, … all over, there just wasn’t even room to store them, Rangers even made a bridge with these materials. Sharks are known to be around Cocos so what better place for poachers to go to, drop a longline in the water and fill the boat with these high priced shark fins ! I just realized that if we were to enjoy shark encounters on our dives, if we were to e able to visit this paradise again, we needed to act!
Back home I started searching the internet, signed on for a Facebook account, met like-minded people, was asked to admin a shark conservation page, and a second, a third, … one. One moment I was maintaining 12 shark conservation pages at the same time. But as noble and important awareness is, I felt there was more than reaching out to the same people over and over again, so I started writing letters, polite, science based argumented letters to restaurants, politicians, news stations etc. asking them to stop serving shark fin soup, do more to protect the oceans, stop portraying sharks like Jaws like creatures but emphasize the beauty and importance of sharks. It worked, I got replies back, even from the Costa Rican and Taiwanese presidential office. So I realized that personal letters were read, they did catch attention, so what if I was to write my letters and had others to back them up ??? I started writing letters, reached out to organizations and individuals worldwide asking them to co-sign the letter and again it worked, I had letters with over 50 other organizations and countless of concerned citizens to co-sign. Mexico, Canary islands and many other projects worldwide have been on the list. Yesterday I started on a project to give a negative advice to listing long line fishery companies for blue sharks as sustainable (really long line fishing for sharks can that ever be sustainable ???).
But apart from writing letters, signing petitions, raising awareness, we of course all need to change our way of thinking about sea food, we just cannot eat whatever we like ! believe me I love seafood, shrimps used to be on my menu at least once a week and so was tuna, but that has changed, our family stopped eating all of that due to the bycatch. We simply cannot consume shrimps, tuna or whatever without thinking of the consequences. No matter how much we like it, the price the oceans pay for it is just too high. So in case you are still eat sea food, make sure it is a sustainable and ethical choice. There are plenty of sites, you can find information on what to eat or what to avoid. Check before you go shopping, just don’t buy whatever you feel like, because together with that bag of shrimps a whole lot of turtles or other sea life died, would you want that on your plate ????
So yes, after all these years I am still going, not adminning that many FB pages any more, I had my ups and downs. Yes there are a lot of downs in the conservation world : there is a lot of “competition”, many organizations doing what they think is important and hoping for the credit and the even more important donations that might come with it. But I am still standing : individually, no donations, no own organization, just me, myself and I and all of you behind me. I’m trying to help out wherever I can, for whatever organization worldwide that is worth the support because oceans and sharks, we just cannot do without them!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story and hopefully after this and more investigation you too will have some of the deep concern and passion I and many like me have for these beautiful, highly essential, ancient, apex predators!
As a home cook and personal chef, I feel eating – and serving – meat that is ethically raised and humanely slaughtered is vital to our health and well being. Expense be damned! You are what you eat eats! Who do you want to pay? The farmer or the doctor? So, wherever I go, I look for local farmers that are in tune with their land and animals, who value what I value and are trying to make a difference. This step can be a HUGE inconvenience, but it’s worth it, and it makes each meal that much more special and enjoyable!
To say I grew up around farms is an understatement. My great-grandparents farmed a section in west Texas most of their lives. My grandparents had a 200 acre ranch outside of Snyder,Texas. My dad grew up farming and made a point of taking me out to help with my uncle’s property and letting me raise animals out there while we lived in the city and raising our own livestock and growing a garden when we finally moved out of town to a 1 acre plot. My whole childhood was spent in gardens, field, pastures and pens. I’ve seen how happy animals are when they are raised lovingly. I’ve also experienced the huge difference in taste. My great-grandparents and my grand parents never used store bought seeds. They had these great big jars of seeds they passed down to each other and kept. My great grandparents had a bunch of fruit trees, a big vegetable patch and a root cellar. I don’t remember them ever actually going into a grocery store to buy food. My great grandmother would sit us down in the living room with a colander and a bowl full of beans for us to shell. She taught us how to store them and how to cook without waste. My grandmother did the same and had a big green house built next to her home so she could grow herbs and berries all year. My grandparents hand raise cattle, pigs, goats, chickens and horses. I’ve seen my grandmother walk out and have cows lick her and press their faces up against her for scratches and pets. I raised ducks, quail, dove and chickens with my dad and its an amazing feeling when you walk out the door to your flock and the follow you everywhere wanting to be played with or loved on. Nothing beats sitting on the porch with a cat and chicken trying to push each other out of your lap while while the ducks plop down in the shade at your feet. I can’t describe the joy of taking my own sons out into a pasture and watching them get “cow kisses” and see them running with new calves or hugging a cow’s face. If you’ve ever experienced the joyful and somewhat terrifying experience of being spotted by your pigs so they stampede toward you wanting belly rubs and pats, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’ve been ambushed by horse who thought I should be brushing them, always entertaining to be picked up and dropped into a stable bay. I’ve had goats sleep in a hammock next to me and I’ve woken up to a duck wiggling under my blanket in my bed. I’ve been filled with pride and satisfaction after walking out into my garden and seeing all the vegetables and fruits ripening. The anticipation on my boys’ faces when they know its almost time to go pick the garden. The security of know knowing I filled my pantry myself with my own hard work and the big green jar refilled with seeds for next year. I know these joys and hardships intimately. I can’t imagine any other way of farming. I can’t imagine not hating myself everyday if I walked out and saw animals suffering in overcrowded pens or stuffed into small cages stacked on top of each other. There is no love or pride in those types of facilities. There is only shame and cruelty. There is pain and a feeling of being lost that you can not only feel yourself but see in each animals eyes. The mistrust they show and how eager they are to get away from a human is a blaring alarm to me and anyone else who’s seen a happy animal. They shouldn’t be terrified when they hear a person’s footsteps. They should be flocking toward you making noise and practically climbing into your arms in delight.
All of this is why I’m passionate about food. Great food should come with a respect for the ingredients and the cook should strive to waste as little as possible while elevating the ingredients to the best of their ability. It gives you more respect for food when you know the animal and realize that every meal cost a life. So you learn to waste as little as possible. Its heartbreaking at slaughter but you have to keep in mind they were raised specifically to be eaten and you made sure they had the best care and were happy. It gives you more respect for food when you know the animal and realize that every meal cost a life. So you learn to waste as little as possible. When you grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs you’re far less likely to let all your hard work go down the drain or into the trash bin so to speak. As EOMers its our job to educate people and blur those sterile lines factories have put up between the reality of farm and the crisp packaged food on the shelves.
I am a realist however. I don’t expect everyone to start raising their own animals or even be able to grow a garden. Neither of those is usually possible. In the end its little thing that people can do every day. Learning to cook, avoiding restaurants that do not buy humanely, growing what you can in your home be it a window box of herbs or a raised garden instead of a lawn, taking the time to research stores and brands so you can buy as ethically as possible, supporting your closest farmer’s market, and reaching out to your friends and neighbors to help spread the word. I don’t expect everyone to become a farmer or an activist, I do expect that if you’re willing to put it in your mouth then you should at least have enough respect for yourself to do some research and choose wisely. That is why I am an Ethical Omnivore.
I did not always have an interest in where my food came from or how it was produced. In fact, when I was a kid my Dad was a hunter, we raised some of our own animals for food and we had a huge garden. And…..I hated it! I always wished we could just shop for our food at the grocery store like all my friends families did. I wished I did not have to work in the garden for hours on end on the weekends. And I really wished I did not have to help kill chickens and eat gross stuff like deer heart and liver. None of my friends had to! But my parents lived this way out of necessity, otherwise, they could not afford to put food on the table. So I begrudgingly helped with weeding and harvesting the garden, held the hanging deer still for my Dad while he skinned it and plunged the freshly killed chickens into hot water to take the feathers off not appreciating one single moment of it.
When I was older and out on my own, I was so relieved to not have to live that way any more! I had the means to shop at grocery stores and did not have to concern myself with all that work. I did not understand why anyone would want to hunt and kill animals when they can just go to the store and buy meat that was raised for our food. I knew nothing of the industrial food system. In my early thirties I started to hear snippets about food animal cruelty and started to question whether or not I should be eating animals at all. And there my research began. First I tried vegetarianism and after a time, I felt I should go further and explored veganism. During that time I joined my coworkers on a blood drive and donated blood for the first time. The restrictive diet, along with giving blood when my iron was already borderline, caused my iron levels to plummet and my health started to decline. I was sooooooo misguided! In spite of all the research I was doing I was in such a sorry state and my grocery bills were through the roof buying all those vegan products that I now don’t even think of as real food! Fast forward to around the time that Food Inc came out. That documentary lit a fire under me like nothing else. I also felt horrified that I had been blindly supporting a horrible food system for as long as I had.
Food Inc led me to read Micheal Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma and the way I started to feed my family changed immediately. I always enjoyed cooking and now I was cooking with whole foods from scratch like my mom always used to and I was finding local ethical sources to buy meat. I went on to read Joel Salatin’s book Folks, This Aint Normal! Again, I had many light bulb moments and it was at that time that I really got my husband on board and he decided he was going to try his hand at hunting. That same year, I knew I had to start growing my own food as much as I could in my little city backyard. We removed all the grass, made raised beds out of some free wood we were given and started composting. It was like I had gone back in time to when I was a kid. I finally had such a deep appreciation for all the hard work my parents did to put good quality food on the table as I grew up. I feel embarrassed and terribly ashamed that it took me this long! My husband has grown to love hunting over the last three years. He has spent a lot of time educating himself to do it right and I am so very proud of him. This year he and his two hunting partners managed to harvest two elk. I can’t explain how much I value that food in our freezer! It’s like gold to me. I have had three successful gardens the last three years as well and have grown to love gardening in a way that is hard to put into words. Right now I live for those weeks in early spring when I plant all my heirloom tomato seeds and get my “grow op” going in the basement.
As I educated myself and made drastic changes to my lifestyle it became clear quite quickly that I had no friends interested in any of what I was doing. While it is very disappointing, I don’t judge them because I was in their shoes not so long ago. I try to gently influence where I can but I have come to know that talking about food is much like talking about religion and politics. Friends just don’t want to go there. That is when I discovered a facebook page called Ethical Omnivores Movement. Oh my gosh! A community of like minded people that I could learn from and be a part of! It is a wonderful group of very hard working people and I have learned so much from being a part of it. I am thankful to the founders and contributors every day.
Now my biggest challenge is getting my 15 year old son to understand why we live the way that we do and to appreciate it. I have to say that he is certainly more appreciative of it than I was at his age, but it is still a struggle. I know he has times when he is thinking “Why can’t I just drink soda and eat that yummy processed food from a box like all my friends do?” That is what I call Karma biting me in the ass! So I try my best to empathize with him while trying like hell to educate him and help him understand. I look forward to the day when he is older and he says “I get it Mom! And I so appreciate everything you and Dad did to put good quality, cruel free, food on our table as I grew up.”
“Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.”
– Ishmael, Daniel Quinn
For a second year Development Studies student who was increasing unsatisfied with the answers she was (not) receiving during her Arts Degree, this phrase was enough to have her buying a book she’d never heard of and diving into a world of inquiry that changed the way she saw her world and the steps she took.
Years later, living in Singapore – I was a practicing vegetarian. My vegetarianism was based on seeking to eat food that was local, came from healthy sources; food that did not deplete resources or harm the earth. Not an easy task when you live on a tiny island-state that imports almost everything, including their fresh water. Living in the tropics, vegetable and fruits abound year round and coconut oil is easy to find – and I was even able to find an organic farm that would even deliver right to my door. Eating ethically wasn’t too hard, at least at home.
Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma caught my attention during a weekend bookstore trip. While I even considered veganism – I wasn’t ‘fundamentalist’ in my belief that this was the best way for all and for all ecosystems. Pollan laid out many of the complexities of the food system through his own food experiences, and introduced me to the now infamous Joel Salatin.
While I didn’t change my eating habits in Singapore, it opened me up to new options, new farmers, for my future. Moving back to Canada and learning more about our ecosystem and the ways the prairie works, while also seeking foods that nourish our bodies through our seasons, I’ve met city-folk who are my food mentors and farmers who’ve become my environmental heroes.
Those two books, and others similar, set me out on a path to be an ethical omnivore. To explore the source of my foods (fruit, vegetable, grain, or meat), to focus on growing and raising whatever food I can, and to a partnership based on promoting ecosystems that nourish biodiversity and healthy life.
About 5 years ago we started to think more about where our food came from. It has always been a nagging in the back of my mind but felt the need to take this more seriously.
It is a process, not an overnight transition. We started paying more attention to GM foods, preservatives, colouring.
Then we started the transition to getting local eggs and meat. Free run, at least in nice weather, chickens for food and eggs, pastures beef and pork and added rabbit to our freezer.
We raise layers some years and love collecting and eating them. It is a feeling that is hard to describe…pride, happiness, fulfillment…
We also raise meat rabbits. I like to eat them but am working my way up to butchering them. For now a friend does that but I will get there.
We also now raise our own pork. Mid sized pigs. We will be learning to butcher those this year.
Is butchering/processing animals easy you may ask? No, it is not. It is about respect and knowing that the animal had a good life, fast death, and will help sustain others.
We started growing some of our own vegetables as well.
We grew up in the city and recognize that not everyone has the ability or wants to do these things. Having said that, even a step at a time is great.
Grow what you can, network and find people, like my friends and I, that ethically raise meat and buy that when possible.
Just getting started and making the first step is hard, but very worth it!
So here goes, a brief history of how I got on the the path to being an Ethical Omnivore. My story begins a long time ago, as a kid growing up in rural Somerset England. Just about 9 miles from the very place that J.R.R.Tolkien dreamed up Hobbits while on his honeymoon.
In those days kids could work full time during the school holidays picking fruits and veggies. I did that in when the weather permitted and in winter time I worked washing transport crates at the chicken processing plant. It horrified me to see so many birds hung on a moving line, alive and kicking and then to be freezing in a blast freezer a mere 20 minutes later. My brother worked in the cold rooms. It was all we could do if we wanted to make money at that time.
I can remember riding to the ranch to check cows with my grandparents. My little sisters and I would ride in the back of the truck and pour out range cubes for the cows. They would leap for joy and follow us wherever “Pappy” wanted to take them. He would rotate pastures so they always had fresh grass and water and he would plant crimson clover and vetch to keep them healthy through the winter months. People would tell him that his cows were overfed and my mother recollects many times when the cows would be fed before the kids. He was an ethical and admirable steward who took great pride in the land and the well-being of his cattle.
“Pappy” passed away when I was 15, long before I knew I wanted to be a rancher. But after spending 17 years in the pharmaceutical industry, his ranching legacy was resurrected. I met David and we shared a dream of raising cattle and being stewards of the land. I decided to kick off my heels and pull on my boots, trade in my company car for a 135 horse power tractor, give up the big house with a small patch of grass and find a small house with a big patch of grass. Ranching is hard work but David and I are honored to carry on the legacy of our grandfathers and great grandfathers.
Being “skip-a-generation” cattle ranchers, unlike many of our counterparts, we had to start from scratch, work hard, pinch pennies and save for everything we have. The cost of cattle, the cost of equipment, the cost of land and the cost of keeping cows fat and happy can be daunting. Despite that, we have been blessed to keep and grow our business through challenging market conditions and devastating drought. When many of our counterparts were selling their herds, we have grown our operation to over 120 cows and we are the proud stewards of 800 leased and owned acres. We are a two person operation and we have stayed true to our mission of providing a “clean” and lean source of beef to our customers. It’s not easy work but it is good work and we strive to get better and better every year.
Our mission at Angelina All Natural Beef is to provide antibiotic and steroid free, grass finished beef to consumers who are looking for a healthy alternative to the traditional feedlot finished beef that is readily available in grocery stores and supercenters. After working in the pharmaceutical industry promoting antibiotics, hormones and cholesterol lowering medications, I am acutely aware of the impact of antibiotic resistance, steroid residues and unhealthy fats in our food which is why a “clean” and lean source of protein without antibiotics and steroids is important to our overall health. At Angelina All Natural Beef, our customers can feel confident that their families will have a nutritious and delicious eating experience and they will have the benefit of knowing where their food comes from.
We take great pride in caring for our cattle and being stewards of the land. We are ethical producers and conscientious environmentalists who want to leave the condition of the soil better than we found it. One day when we are no longer on this green earth, our ashes fertilize the grass and our souls have been whisked off to heaven, I look forward to introducing David to “Pappy” and hearing him say “Good work you two. I’m proud of you. That’s exactly how I would have done it.” To learn more about Angelina All Natural Beef, please visit our Facebook page. Thanks.
Kim Yates (Ethical Rancher)
I was fortunate to grow up on a farm where we grew the majority of our own food, including grinding our own flour, making cheese, picking wild berries and mushrooms and hunting. I learned early the effort it takes to produce good food. I was also fortunate to have had urban grandparents who grew organically so I had a good frame of reference for productive urban gardening.
I took this framework and transferred them as much as possible to a small town setting and began to raise my kids that way. We thrived with a big garden, canning, preserving and grew a network of farmers I knew to supply what I couldn’t grow myself.
A move in 2005 to a larger urban setting cut me loose from this nirvana of real food and pierced the bubble that I realize, now, I lived in with respect to the food system. Living in a city as a single parent required working as many as 3 jobs and no time to worry about a garden or sourcing local farmers. Jump ahead a few years and although I cooked from scratch most of the time, I found myself 60 pounds heavier and my family not enjoying optimal health.
I began to recognize how broken our food system is with respect to the true quality of food available to the vast majority of people. I realized how broken it is with respect to animal welfare and the chemical shit storm of Big Ag. It was overwhelming. Luckily my upbringing gave me the knowledge that it didn’t have to be this way so rather than cave to my first thought of ‘its too big for me to fix’, I decided to undertake the journey to consciously effect change in our lives….one…step…at…a…time.
I started with pots on the deck of our rented condo as well as attending a seasonal weekly farmers market. I eventually was able to rent a community garden plot after several years on the waiting list. I started looking for better sources of meat next. The initial criteria was local then refined to grass-fed/pastured meats for optimal health for my family, the animals and the environment. One connection lead to another until I now have several sources for most things to ensure a reliable supply for me and to encourage a growing, diverse and vibrant local food system. I call this ‘sharing the love’ amongst my hard working network of farmers and ranchers who do it right.
I bought a mobile home so I could have a small yard and grow more of my own produce which I described as an ‘urban homestead” despite it being only about a 1000 sq. feet of yard space!! I had no lawn, no basement, 2 teen age mouths to feed and a total of1200sq ft of living space. Perhaps I should have coined a new phrase…”micro-homesteading”!?! Did I mention my eldest played a full set of acoustic drums?!?!
Over the years…a hoophouse, rainwater capture and composting systems…all mostly with repurposed materials…and a tiny food forest took up my 200 square foot front yard and included haskaps, blueberries, red currents, medicinal and culinary herbs, flowers for the pollinators and asparagus along with some annual veggies to fill in. I started researching growing mushrooms and still dream of doing a sideline business in local gourmet mushrooms.
The only thing missing from my homestead was…“livestock”!! So…I registered in my City’s Urban Hen Pilot Project and was the only participant living in a trailer park!!! Our 6 hens soon settled into the animal menagerie that included 3 cats and a dog. Another teenager had joined the household by then as well so the technique of “stacking functions” in permaculture speak became a critical element in packing all this into a small footprint. Micro homestead indeed!!
My pie in the sky scheme is some four season growing in direct defiance of my Zone 3 habitat. I’ve experimented with growing all our greens indoors in winter so now I need to be able to do that sustainably…stay tuned!! I resurrected my cheese, yogurt, fermentation and butchering skills to strengthen the connection of my family to real food.
This summer I made the leap to a “real” home with 840 sq.ft plus a full basement in an old neighborhood with a huge yard. The chicken “pasture” alone is half the size of my previous yard!! I’ve started a food forest in the front and I’m working on mapping out the design of the back yard over the coming winter. There’s also a double garage….mushrooms anyone?!?!?!
All this has not only led me to living a life of more ethically sourced food for my family but I’ve also become an active, passionate member of a growing group of local people to journey with and we are trying to build a vibrant and inclusive local food system. Professionally, I work in and around such issues as poverty, homelessness, mental illness, addictions and brain injury and feel compelled to include these folks within this vision of a local food system.
That’s the first 9+ years of my “conscious” EOM journey and it started with the realization that the way I lived for much of my life was not the norm. Most people have no idea where their food comes from and how the production of what they eat is so connected to health of themselves, the animals and the earth. I continue to refine, redefine and improve my EOMness as more understanding, information and resources come to me. There is so much more to do and there will never really be an end to it. There is no destination to which I can arrive and say…”I’m there!”
The reason for sharing my story is to demonstrate that regardless of where you are now and what skills you currently have, you to can begin to take baby steps towards a more EOM life. Take a traditional food cooking class, attend a permaculture “permablitz”, learn to butcher, cure, and smoke your own meat, plant a garden or a pot of herbs…whatever it takes to start the journey…seek out those who are locally crafting, growing and producing food and support their efforts.
There is no single destination!! Every time you make a better choice you are one step further along on the journey. Start where you are and learn, grow and seek…one…step…at…a… time. This journey of ethical omnivorism is like any true journey…there is no ‘there’.
Kathy Parsons (EOM co-founder, homesteader)
My name is Lizzie. I am in my mid-thirties and I currently live on a quarter acre in a semi-rural area in NSW, Australia.
A lot of factors brought me to where I live today and what I hope to achieve here, and also how I have been living as an ethical omnivore.
To start off, as a kid I was always interested in animal welfare and our environment and I even remember before I was 10 years old being a part of ‘The Wilderness Society’ and Animal Liberation. I didn’t have a lot of involvement but I remember loving to get their newsletters and saving up money to give these organisations. I still have copies of letters I sent to various members of parliament, and even my own school, to express my dissatisfaction on the way things were being handled in relation to animals and the environment.
A large period of time elapsed from childhood until about two years ago where I was in a bit of no man’s land with regards to my beliefs and the way I wanted to live out my life. However, no matter what craziness ensued in this time, I always wanted to do better for the environment and animals, and to do more but did not really know how.
I have always been super interested in nutrition and almost became a herbalist at one point (but dropped out a year before finishing sigh). So my partner and I started to listen to a lot of DVD’s and to read books from the likes of Joe Cross, Pete Evans, Emily Benfit, Jason Vale, Jon Gabriel and the gang at Hungry for Change and Food Matters. I also ‘liked’ every page imaginable on nutrition and health and to my surprise, a lot of the information they purport is actually really similar. The main tenants I took out of all of this was to eat organic fruit and vegetables (or at least spray free), make your own produce garden if you can, buy local, eat seasonal, cook from scratch, and only eat meat that is pasture raised, organic and also humanely raised and slaughtered. I had been unknowingly eating in many of these ways for years anyway but we have definitely taken it up a notch in the last two years or so.
I am not sure how I exactly stumbled over the Ethical Omnivore Movement page but I am so very glad I did. It was fantastic to put a name to what I am. I had considered vegetarianism and may have become one if it was not for finding EOM. The EOM and its amazing followers have given me so much food for thought on so many issues that I did not have a proper understanding of prior. For example the importance of animals in sustainable farming practices, and an understanding of how Big-Ag and Industrial Animal Farming are abhorrent for animal welfare and that they are contributing to a lot of environmental destruction.
I really worry for the future of this world in light of what is going on with many of our farms and with our oceans. I try to live the EOM principles almost all the time (there are times I fail) and this make me feel good to know I am doing my best not to add to the problem. We buy produce and meat at a local harvest market and when we can’t for some reason, we will buy from our green grocer. We have made our own veggie garden and whilst it has not gone as well as I had hoped, I have replanted again today to see how we go a second time this summer. I love that it is almost possible to not shop in a ‘supermarket’ at all if you really try and I also get a lot of pleasure out of giving my food dollars to people who deserve it and in turn sticking it up the big supermarkets.
So to finish, there are still many things we are working on with regards to becoming the best EOM’ers we can be. Our plans for the future are to expand our food garden and to continue spending time procuring exceptional local ingredients and cooking amazing food, and we will never stop learning and trying to spread the EOM word too.
-Potatoes, Beets,Carrots,Beans,Onions,Kale,Sunflowers,Raspberries and a lot of flowers for the bees , of course ! We think we have a bird population……bird feeders in the winter ( Deer and Jack rabbits and squirrels ) and in the summer bugs under control ! Love this country and wildlife…so special !
Really like to cook pasta’s , soups, rice table, slow cooker or mashed potato meals…..it doesn’t matter.
Not with fighting….maybe against other companies in never giving up.Good Farmers………they are out there believing in their work with heart and soul and that is why I want to be a part of this and help wherever I can !Thank you , Together we are strong like braided hair!
My name is Darcy Goodrich, and I am an Ethical Omnivore, though it was not always so. I was born into a ranching family, and from a young age all I wanted to do was raise cows and be a cowboy. As time went on that dream grew up with me, until one day I was running my parents’ ranch. I had never really been involved in financial decisions so I had a fairly naïve view of things, assuming that all one had to do was own 5000 acres and 500 cows and one would certainly live happily ever after. When my wife and I took over the ranch completely, and had to make ends meet for ourselves, our view on things began to change.
The conventional cattle industry is one of volatile cycles. The highs are high and the lows are a crash. Many international trade factors dictate what the price of live cattle or boxed beef will be from week to week, which invariably leaves cattlemen helpless to their own fate. After a few short years of taking the brunt of that market volatility square in the pocket book, we decided to try and find other avenues for our product. We began researching export markets to Asia and European Union(EU) countries with other rancher friends. We devised a plan, formed a company and found contacts in various export companies, brokerage firms and government trade groups. We eventually found markets eager for “Natural Alberta Beef” in Belgium and Germany. With things looking promising, we surged ahead confident that this value chain would pay dividends that conventional markets could not.
So with 3 families involved, and a local feedlot willing to feed our cattle a “natural” diet of oat/barley silage, rolled barley and alfalfa hay, free of hormones or antibiotics, we filled pens with 350 yearling cattle weighing approximately 700lbs. This was the first time in my life that I had placed my own animals in a feedlot or CAFO setting, and since I had worked in feedlots as a pen rider previously, I was somewhat apprehensive as to how they would be cared for. We planned to make monthly visits to the feedlot checking our animals to ensure the staff was caring for them properly. We were also going to visit the slaughter facility at Balzac, Alberta that had recently opened and been certified as the only slaughterhouse in Western Canada for EU export products. It was April of 2003, and we had no idea what was about to happen on the world beef stage.
May 20th, 2003 I was having breakfast when an announcement came over the radio that a case of BSE or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, which immediately closed all markets for Canadian cattle and beef products. We were stunned, and didn’t know what to do, or expect. Local government officials and our contacts with the federal trade groups ensured us that it was a temporary precautionary measure and that it would be resolved soon. We stuck to our plans of fattening the cattle and having them ready for September delivery to the slaughterhouse. When we made our visits to the feedlot at the end of May & June, we were relatively happy with the condition of the cattle. They were growing quickly, and appeared healthy. By July however, the summer thermostat was cranking up, and temperatures were reaching 35 degrees Celsius. When we arrived at the feedlot, we were shocked at what we saw. The cattle had been growing very rapidly, being at an age and stage in their growth where they were getting heavy on their feet, and the daily routine of walking for feed and water was becoming a chore. Combined with the heat and dry dusty pens, they were suffering. Some of them had mucus and blood coming from their noses, and we felt horrified. I had seen worse conditions in my life, but these were my cattle, that I had raised from babies, and the vision burned in my head will stay with me forever.
We spoke to the feedlot owner about watering the pens down to control the dust, which they agreed to do. It was little help as the animals were getting 3-4 pounds heavier every day, eating a high energy ration that generated intense heat, only to have to stand in dry heat all day. We were meanwhile frantically working on our export market, trying to find some loophole that would enable us to get special permission to still have the animals processed and ship the beef to eager clients overseas. It was to no avail, as we were told that the borders would remain closed indefinitely, and at the same time, we received news that the slaughterhouse, our only EU certified slaughter facility, was closing it’s doors and going into receivership. All our work for 2 years had been crumpled into a ball, set aflame, and the ashes blown away before our eyes. Although, we couldn’t crawl into a cave and lick our wounded pride, because there were 350 hungry mouths being fed, and that feed bill still had to be paid. They say from the fire of adversity ingenuity shall rise, and so it came to be that our natural Alberta exported beef, transformed into direct marketed beef to Alberta families. We called and emailed everyone we knew, trying desperately to sell as many halves and quarters of beef as we could. Within 45 days, the animals were at a size where they could simply not stay on feed at the feedlot or we would risk serious health issues, so it was with gritted teeth that we agreed to take the going market price for fat cattle from a slaughterhouse in southern Alberta, who now of course had a captive market for all the beef cattle in western Canada, and the luxury of offering us the lowest price anyone had seen in decades. When the dust settled from our adventure, 250 head were sold well below our cost of production to the conventional slaughterhouse, and approximately 100 head had been direct marketed by us and our partner families. My wife and I vowed that day, that we would never fatten another animal in a feedlot again, nor would we feed them a high grain ration. So that is our tale of how we became Ethical Omnivores. It is not a common one, being 4th generation ranchers, but it has been an interesting one full of hard lessons and rewarding relationships with amazing people. We have come to create a good market for Pure Country Stock Farm 100% grass finished beef, from our Galloway cattle. They are conceived, born, raised and fattened on hay and pasture their entire lives, and we feel it is the healthiest possible way to raise beef. And if it can be done in a western Canadian climate, it can be done almost anywhere. Managed properly, good grazing practices like those taught through Holistic Management International, will improve soils, waterways
and ecosystems, ensuring that the land is providing, and being provided for.
Being an EOMer was a no brainer for me, as it’s but one part of who I am and my my connection with the Earth and to the cycles of nature: birth, life, death and rebirth. Like many others in my generation,I was horrified by the waste, animal abuse, disease and pollution of factory farms. I wanted those 8 cups of grain to feed people, not cows. What I didn’t know, was that cows in their natural state don’t want that grain either!! Cows are obligate herbivores, and thrive on diverse pasture. They co-evolved with symbiotic bacteria who convert grasses consumed into rich milk and animal protein. Sunlight + water + grass = healthy livestock. Plus, cows had thrown their lot in with humans a long time ago and coevolved in collaboration with us.
The more we allow livestock to live lives which best mimic their natural life styles and cycles and which allow them to roam, graze, and eat a diet to which they evolved, AND the more we honour our farmers who toil long hours to allow these animals to thrive and grow in their care and gain an income from caring for and then humanely ending their lives, for the feeding of all, the better we all will be. The animals will be better, our small farmers will be better off, we will be better off with healthier meat from contented animals, and – on top of it all – the environment will be better, because land on which animals are pastured builds dark, rich soil which sequesters vast amounts of carbon. And that’s a win/win/win for the animals, us, and the Earth, our home!
Hi, my name is Abbie Lee, I’m 13 years old and I live in Sweet home Alabama! For as long as I can remember, I have loved animals to death. I remember the first time I got a close look at a sweet litter of newborn kittens; I was around 3 years old then. My sister was holding my hands steady, while a plump black ball of warmth lay peacefully in my tiny hands, I then realized what I wanted to do in life. Since that day, all I do is study animals; their behavior, the way they walk. The noises they make. They amaze me every day of my life, they are my life. I honestly couldn’t image life without them. All animals have formed me into what I am today and nothing could change that
The older I got, the more animals I got. It started with a dog, then another dog. Then a cat, another cat, and another..
December 23, 2012, I got my first flock of chickens. I had begged for over a year!! I don’t know why I wanted them; I just know I was so amazed by them. They became a part of my family. I truly loved each and every one of them with all my heart. I loved watching them grow from tiny little cotton balls into these big beautiful birds. I believe I see the world in a different way from other people. I can sit outside and watch my chickens for hours and hours without getting bored. I sit and study each part of them. I even ask myself questions, why do they have scales on their legs? Why do they have feathers? Why do they look for funny? Why are there so many different shapes and sizes in the chicken world? Some of these questions I can’t answer. Though I do know I can make an educated guess on what I believe and my opinions on it. Like I said earlier, I see the world differently to others, to me the world is black and white, and the only color there is each individual animal. It’s like walking in a field of dead grass and randomly finding a beautiful red rose.
The point of this story is to allow you to really know me, inside and out. As you probably know now, inside I’m an animal lover that couldn’t survive without the unconditional love from an animal, on the outside I’m just a girl with brown hair and greenish eyes. So may we continue with my story?
Let’s get to when I became an ethical omnivore, shall we? It was spring of 2013, I hated the way animals where treated in meat and egg factories!! I decided to start raising my own healthy meat from now on. I didn’t want to eat store bought meat ever again. I ended up getting a pet bunny late in 2013. His name was Pipin and he was a mini Rex. I did lots of research to find out rabbit meat is the healthiest meat on the planet. I wanted to raise my own to feed my family and me. In the summer of 2014 I got two more rabbits, this time meat breeds. They grew so fast it was crazy! As time passed I got another rabbit and another. The meat rabbit buck wasn’t breeding with the does; I thought he was sterile so he was my first butcher. I go by “three strikes, you’re out” that was the case with my meat buck. As a huge surprised, one month after my first butcher, my meat doe kindled 8 pure meat rabbits, that buck wasn’t sterile after all!! Rabbits are very fun to raise for meat, to show, and as pets. It’s like little grains of sand that turn into these amazing creatures! It’s a blessing just to get to watched them grow every day. Currently I have 10 rabbits with more due on January 13th.
Now that you have read my short story, and you understand me, you can start raising meat rabbits for your family, if you don’t want rabbits for meat, that’s okay! There are rabbit shows you could breed for or just breed them as pets and sell them, which is fun too! I hope you enjoyed my short story and decide to raise your own meat as well.
Thank you for reading and considering being a part of our wonderful and necessary community and movement. If a 13 year old can do it.. you sure can too!
Abbie Lee (Taste the Rainbow Rabbitry)
John and I moved to Seymour, MO from Branchburg, NJ September 8, 2009. John started on the infrastructure for the Berkshire hogs right away, but it took about year until we bought our first Berkshire Gilts and Barney the Boar. The infrastructure included out buildings, range huts, fencing and underground waterers.
There was never any discussion how we would raise our Berkshire pork. They would be pasture raised!! We breed, farrow and raise our hogs 100% on pasture. The Berkshire hogs are free to roam in large pastures as well as having the ability to go into wooded areas. Essentially they are raised in a natural environment the way nature intended it to be.
We have range huts with deep straw for them to sleep in when the weather is cold. In the heat of the summer they will sleep in the cool wooded areas or you will find them lounging under the shade of the big acorn tree. In the winter sun you will find the herd sleeping in the sun. The hogs thrive in the environment and they get plenty of clean water and space.
Confinement hogs are jammed into a building with a concrete floor and that is where they spend their time until it is time to go to the market. What is wrong with this picture? It would take a lot to convince me that this is the correct way to raise an animal. What is wrong with fresh air, grass and woods to wander in?
John and I have been raising Berkshire hogs for a little over a year. We can honestly say that having hogs that are free ranged is very important to the “real” taste of the meat. The meat will be full flavored and very different from what you are used to from the supermarket. The hogs have muscle from walking and running in the fields. They have muscle from climbing the hills that make up the landscape of our property.
John and I are very passionate about the food we eat, and by managing our hogs in a natural environment the end product is definitely superb. Pasture raised Berkshire pork is higher in healthy fat and very flavorful compared to supermarket grade meat that is lower in fat and less flavorful. Pasture raised Berkshire pork is more nutritious with higher levels of vitamin E, healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients than conventionally raised pork.
Pasture raised pork is humane not only because they can move around in the outdoors, but because they can act like pigs. Pigs are very social animals, and they love to play and run around. The sows that farrow outdoors (not in farrowing crates) will build nests for their piglets. It is really fascinating to watch a sow carry material back to their farrowing hut to build her nest.
The Berkshire hog is a hardy, self-sufficient animal. They are fun to watch grow, play and eat. There would be no other way that John and I would raise our Berkshire hogs.
Marina and John Backes