I have long since believed that one day the “corporate producers” of livestock and other foods will need to change if we as humans want to maintain our location in the food chain. The fact is that filling our foods with antibiotics and steroids will ultimately lead to many repercussions that may or may not be able to be overcome. Disease has already started taking its toll on the poultry and cattle industry. The pork industry will be no different. The future is not certain.
So one consumer at a time we are slowly making a change. More and more people are buying locally grown produce and meat. NON gmo and organic produce is the trend in local markets. Meat that is pasture raised, and isn’t shot up with medication is more and more popular. Yes it cost more, but the tradeoff is invaluable.
Now my attempt to join this movement has been interesting to say the least. As a small farm producer I have to consider everything. With that said, about 3 years ago I decided that my poultry would be free range. I do not feed organic feed because I personally feel the label “organic” doesn’t mean much anymore. I do not feed my livestock anything with animal by product in it. My poultry get a limited about of feed and then get unlimited bugs and grasses all day long. Yes I do incur losses from predators, but my poultry are disease free, happy, and healthy. I can make a reasonable profit by charging $4/lb from May – September, and around $4.50/lb over winter. The majority of the 1000 chickens I sell per year are sold from late spring thru summer.
The biggest change I made was in my small dairy operation. I have a small herd of dairy goats. I am not a USDA Certified dairy, but I do sell milk for animal use and soap making. My state is considering letting us sell raw milk and raw milk products to consumers with some additional labeling. If this happened my milk and cheese sales would soar. I get requests for specialty cheeses all the time that I am not allowed to fulfill currently. Hopefully the state will get off their butts and let the people decide what they want to eat and drink. I have provided my family with milk for years now, and the benefits are amazing (future post I think).
Traditionally goats are free fed grain while being milked. I already learned that I could raise chickens without feed if need be, but I was afraid to go “pasture raised” on my goats. Finally, last April, I started the transition. I slowly weened my milkers off of grain over a 3 month period. By July 1st they were only getting hay and alfalfa pellets on the stand. I did notice a small reduction in volume, but other than that I have been thrilled with the results. When they are not being milked they have all the pasture they can eat. The goats are healthier for sure. Their bodies are not meant to eat grain. My bank account is really happy. My feed bill has been reduced by over 33%.
The takeaway is simple. Buy Local!!! Yes it cost more, but in the long run your body, mind, and community will thank you. I really do believe that the days of the large producers are numbered.
Have a great day..and Thank You for reading!!!