There is an important movement popping up all over the United States. It is just as much political, as it is personal. It is a sort of rebellion and revolution; a push-back to the man, and a rage against the machine. Urban and Suburban citizens are jumping on the bandwagon of Locally Grown Food. Some people, out of response to the unethical practices of gigantic food industries, others from the sole perspective of Health & Wellness, and perhaps even some out of a desire to get off “the grid” are looking towards growing and raising their own food sources, including farm-fresh eggs.
It is easy to rely on grocery stores and the industries that back them to provide you and your family with your sustenance, but is this the best option for you? I am going to speak from personal perspective on reasons to eat home-grown and locally grown foods, focusing primarily on backyard chickens.
I raise Free-Range Chickens in my backyard
When I tell people that I keep chickens, their first thought goes to the large industrial chicken houses with hundreds of thousands of birds in them. They think of the smell, and the trucks they see on the highways with a flurry of white feathers trailing behind them. This is not the type of chicken keeping I do. I first got started in poultry when a friend gifted my wife and I with two laying hens as a wedding gift. Just two pretty, sweet birds that happen to lay farm-fresh eggs that we could eat. Here is a picture of one of our first hens, Ethel. As you can see, she is not your standard mental-image of a chicken. Isn’t she beautiful?
I found that chickens are gentle in nature and have a calming effect on whoever plays with them. They are truly mesmerizing to watch. Yet, I digress quickly as my intention is to discuss food.
As I began this hobby and allowed my interest in them to grow into a passion, I began to do research and learn more about my food sources. I once offered a dozen farm-fresh, free-range eggs to my Mother, to get the response of refusal. “Uh, do you know where those came from?” She asked. “Yes” I responded, “Do YOU know where your eggs come from? I can tell you when they were laid, show you exactly where they were laid, and exactly what the chickens were fed.” She may have been referring specifically to the hens’ cloaca (https://en.wikipedia.org/
Here are some my thoughts as to why you should start asking these questions, and why you should seek to eat locally grown/raised foods. I think there are some compelling reasons for every single person.
Think About The Animals
Industry farm animals are kept in tight spaces, some never moving their entire lives. Industry chicken houses tend to be filthy, stinky places, where hens can die and go unnoticed for days or weeks at a time. They are fed for efficiency and to save pennies, which means they are often not getting the basic nutrition they actually need. Most meat birds are genetic hybrids that are raised to grow to full size in 8 weeks- and could not live much longer than that anyway.
These birds have large breasts and thighs, but undeveloped legs. Some never learn to walk. These animals are not cared for; not in the sense that they are not fed or given water, but care, that human touch of affection and respect. Do not get me wrong here. I do not want to be misconstrued as hippie or a tree-hugger, or a bio-centric environmentalist (I believe in Theocentric Environmentalism- stewardship). As a Christian, I believe it is our responsibility to be stewards of the earth and its other inhabitants. Proverbs 12:10 says, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast” (ESV). I believe that God teaches us to respect our animals, even, or rather, especially those that we eat.
I do not choose to be a vegetarian like Leslie, but I think understanding that another life provided for my own is important. The whole idea behind an atoning sacrifice is that in taking the life of an animal, my life is restored. This is spiritual and physical. We are meant to understand the connection between the animal we are eating and ourselves, and not take it for granted. For those of you wondering now, I do not eat my chickens. My Free-Range Chickens are happy animals. They receive proper attention, nutrition, and care and in turn they provide me with healthy foods.
Think About Your Health
Think about the health of your family too. Have you ever considered how the treatment of an animal or the procedures used to grow your food can affect your health as you eat it? Let’s take eggs for instance. A chicken passes its nutrition (or lack thereof) into its eggs and meat. Any chemicals, hormones, dietary substance affects the nutrition of the egg. It is true that happy, healthy birds lay healthier eggs. The same is true of cows’ milk, beef, pork, etc… Even veggies can be tampered with by pesticides and chemicals.
It is also true that farm-fresh eggs are better than standard store bought eggs. An egg from the grocery store can be up to 3 weeks old by the time it makes it home to your refrigerator. These eggs can be of little nutritional value, and of poor flavor. I can eat eggs that were laid the same day, and that have full nutritional value, from being generally more nutritious based on what the chickens eat, and not having lost any quality by being old. As far as taste goes, there is no proven scientific way to measure what type of egg tastes better! People will argue on both sides. I fall on the side of farm fresh eggs. You will just have to taste and decide for yourself. For your health’s sake know where your food comes from.
Think About The Government
Small, local farmers are left out in the cold by new farming regulations and tax policies. Agencies like the FDA and USDA make choices every day that affect your life and wellness. They decide what is good for you to eat, and help line the pockets of the industry that does not have your health or ethics at heart. Did you know that in my state, Georgia, it is illegal to possess raw (unpasteurized) milk? At a local farmer’s market I watched as a man’s raw milk was confiscated and he was fined. It is not just illegal to sell it, but to own it, to give it to your children. Now, raw milk from an industry dairy cow is definitely a scary thing, but a pet cow name Bessie that lives on a small farm and is well cared for and loved… not so much. If I want to drink milk from my cow or goat, or my neighbors dairy animal I should be allowed to.
Do not be led astray by terminology like Cage-Free, Free-Range or even Organic. To have these certifications does not mean the food is necessarily ethically raised or good for you. For instance, USDA regulations do not actually specify the size of an outside ranging area or the duration of time spent ranging.
So You Think Free-Range
But The Reality Is A Caged Chicken
Think about the future
Have you ever seen the movie Wall-E? It’s that Disney/Pixar film with the liberal environmentalist agenda. I’m not scared of a future exactly like that, but I am scared of a completely unhealthy, obese generation who has lost our connection to life itself. Raise some Free-Range chickens, grow some tomatoes. It’s good for you to get outside with nature.
Now, here’s the tricky part. What if you cannot grow your own garden or raise your own food? In many places you have to be zoned for approval of such “rural” activity, and most neighborhoods with an HOA forbid such practices. Shame on them. I love it when my roosters crow! Noise Violation my @$$! If you cannot raise Free-Range Chickens in your backyard or grow your own fresh veggies you should consider looking out for a local farmer’s market. Reap the benefits of locally grown food without the hard work of raising it yourself. In the very least start paying attention to food labels. Can you pronounce the ingredients? Is it even natural?
Locally Grown Food Is Definitely The Best Way To Eat
There are a lot of small and hobby farmers out there who would love to be supported by you and even help you get started in your own little venture. Think about it.
To get connected with local farmers and farm-fresh eggs in your area visit localhens.com
Connect with Robert Coletti and his Free-Range Chickens on Twitter, Instagram and http://localhens.com/farms/profile/spratlin-house-poultry/