Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Karr based her book on the true turkey trots of the 19th century. Most were less than 50 miles but some were much more ambitious. She cites one in 1863 that walked 500 turkeys from Missouri to Denver, the route Simon takes with his fictional flock. She mentions another that went from California to Carson City, Nevada.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
That's me on the left, holding the 'Shark' sign
We walked among the parade visitors, and what should I see but a man with a chicken setting calmly on his arm! It was a Showgirl, an unusual Silkie-Naked Neck cross. They aren't yet recognized by the APA or ABA, but fanciers enjoy their flashy appearance, as shown in this photo from backyardchickens forum.
I approached him with a compliment on his lovely chicken. He was surprised that I knew what he, the rooster was, and I explained about writing about chickens and gave him my card. He was delighted.
When we marched past later, he waved to us and I pointed him and his chicken out to my fellow marchers. "Is it a parrot?" one asked. No, it's a chicken. "Is it a puppet?" someone else asked. No, it's real.
They were appropriately impressed. I didn't get his name, but he said he was from San Jose. Thanks for bringing your chicken to add to our festivities!
Friday, September 3, 2010
farm policy research group based in Cornucopia, Wisconsin.
What isn't being discussed in Congress, during the ongoing debate on the broken federal food safety system, is the root cause of the most serious pathogenic outbreaks in our food-the elephant (poop) in the room.
The relatively new phenomena of nationwide pathogenic outbreaks, be they from salmonella or E. coli variants, are intimately tied to the fecal contamination of our food supply and the intermingling of millions of unhealthy animals. It's one of the best kept secrets in the modern livestock industry.
Mountains of manure are piling up at our nation's mammoth industrial-scale "factory farms." Thousands of dairy cows and tens of thousands of beef cattle are concentrated on feedlots; hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of chickens are confined in henhouses at one location for the production of eggs and meat.
Livestock producing manure is nothing new. But the epic scale of animal numbers at single locations and the incredible volumes of animal waste is a recipe for disaster. It eclipses anything that was happening on old McDonald's farm.
Feces carrying infectious bacteria transfer to the environment and into our food supply. Feeding heavily subsidized corn and soybeans to cattle, instead of grazing the ruminants on grass, as they were genetically designed to do, changes the pH in their digestive tracts, creating a hospitable environment for pathogenic E. coli to breed. The new phenomenon of feeding "distillers grains" (a byproduct of the ethanol refining industry) is making this risk even more grave.
The current near-nationwide contamination in the egg supply can be directly linked to industrial producers that confine millions of birds, a product of massive, centralized breeding, in manure-rich henhouses, and feeding the birds a ration spiked with antibiotics. These are chickens that the McDonald family would likely have slaughtered on the farm because they were "sickly."
Thirteen corporations each have more than 5 million laying hens, and 192 companies have flocks of more than 75,000 birds. According to the industry lobby group, United Egg Producers (UEP), this represents 95% of all the laying hens in the United States. UEP also says that "eggs on commercial egg-laying farms are never touched until they are handled by the food service operator or consumer." Obviously, their approach been ineffective and their smokescreen is not the straight poop.
In addition to our national dependence on factory farms, the meatpacking industry, like egg production, has consolidated as well to more easily service the vast numbers of animals sent to slaughter from fewer locations. Just four companies now control over 80% of the country's beef slaughter. Production line speed-ups have made it even harder to keep intestinal contents from landing in hamburger and meat on cutting tables.
All of these problems are further amplified by the scope of the industrial-scale food system. Now, a single contamination problem at a single national processing facility, be it meat, eggs, spinach or peanut butter, can virtually infect the entire country through their national distribution model.
As an antidote, consumers are voting with their pocketbooks by purchasing food they can trust. They are encouraging a shift back towards a more decentralized, local and organic livestock production model. Witnessing the exponential growth of farmers markets, community supported farms, direct marketing and supermarket organics, a percentage of our population is not waiting for government regulation to protect their families.
The irony of the current debate on improving our federal food safety regulatory infrastructure, now centered in the Senate, is that at the same time the erosion of FDA/USDA oversight justifies aggressive legislation, the safest farmers in this country, local and organic, might be snared in the dragnet-the proposed rules could disproportionally escalate their costs and drive some out of business.
While many in the good food movement have voiced strong concerns about the pending legislation-it's sorely needed-corporate agribusiness, in pursuit of profit, is poisoning our children!
When Congress returns to Washington, we have no doubt that food safety legislation, which has languished for months, will get fast-tracked. In an election-year our politicians don't want to be left with egg on their face.
We only hope that Senators will seriously consider not just passing comprehensive reform but incorporating an amendment sponsored by John Tester (D-MT), a certified organic farmer himself, that will exempt the safest farms in our country-small, local direct marketers. We need to allocate our scarce, limited resources based on greatest risk.
Farmers and ranchers milking 60 cows, raising a few hundred head of beef, or free ranging laying hens (many times these animals have names not numbers), offer the only true competition to corporate agribusinesses that dominate our food production system.
The Cornucopia Institute
P.O. Box 126
Cornucopia, Wisconsin 54827
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Runner Ducks, such as these of Troy Griepentrog's, were developed in Southeast Asia, where they were – are – herded from the home pen to rice paddies, where they consume the snails and insects in the water. They are part of an agricultural system that incorporates all factors into production.
Rather than the typical duck’s waddle, they run along quickly, head high atop a tall, slim body.
In Italy, Liz organizes a Thanksgiving dinner, a traditional American feast transplanted to a culture that takes food seriously. But the person who was supposed to defrost the bird forgets to, so the assembled partiers have to improvise. They proceed with preparing the feast, eating turkey the next day for breakfast.
I’m not sure how commercially available in Italy now, but they have been popular there since the 16th century. Columbus brought turkeys back from his journeys and they the wealthy nobility embraced them, often keeping them in private zoos. Because turkeys bred so well, they became more generally available. Black turkeys such as this one of Mikes Walters', were popular.
Italy is Liz’ first stop on her year of self-discovery and healing after a bitter divorce. It’s the Eat destination, where she recovers her joy in indulging herself. She’s feeding herself literally as well as spiritually.
Turkey is the traditional centerpiece of our family-gathering American festival of gratitude. It’s fitting that Liz shares it with her European friends.
As she moves on to India to meditate and pray, chickens crow frequently in the background. She connects with a friendly elephant in a touching scene.
Back in Bali, where she falls in love, crowing continues, although no chickens take active roles.
Liz didn’t mention any poultry that I recall in the book version, so I found it interesting that they were added to the movie. The symbolic meaning of animals is powerful. Our connection with them is primal and profound. Their beauty and spiritual meaning adds so much to our lives and celebrations.