Sunday, June 7, 2009

Blue Farming-The Blue Slate Turkey and Heritage Breeds

Yesterday we went to the Farmers Market in Otsiningo Park (this is the same park where our community garden plots are) and visited two meat vendors. One was McRey Farm of Glen Aubrey. We wanted some brisket, but they were out. So we splurged on a pound of cruelty free veal cutlet. Cooked it last night. It was thin and was cut the way it should be, and of high quality.

The other vendor we visited was Twin Oaks Farm in Port Crane, where we bought a small, whole Blue Slate turkey. This is a heritage breed of turkey. We are cooking it now, and will report on the results.

I realize some readers of this blog are vegetarian, so ask their patience while I continue with this entry.

What are "heritage breeds"? These are breeds of farm animal that have been "left behind" in our transition to agribusiness to feed our ever growing population. The fact remains that some of the older breeds of animals are better suited to the small farm setting, or may have characteristics that should be preserved. Some of these characteristics include tolerance to heat and cold, leanness of meat, ability to forage. Have you heard the story of turkeys bred so that they don't have enough sense to get out of the rain-and drown? This lack of survival sense is not a trait you will find in heritage breeds.

For birds, this may also include broodiness (the tendency to "get in the mood", so to speak, to sit on and hatch eggs, and rear the resulting young.)

Years ago, before I even knew what "heritage breeds" were, my spouse and I lived out in rural Arkansas and raised various old fashioned breeds of chickens. I won't bore you (in this post, anyway) with the list of chickens we raised at one time or another, but we also raised several other breeds of chickens, ducks and geese that are on a watch list (or even considered critical now) during our 4 year stay in the countryside.

So why should I ask that you care about heritage breeds, and the small producers who are keeping them alive?

Simple. At your local farmers market you will find small farmers who care about their animals, and care about the people who will be eating their animals-because they meet them weekly and talk to them. If you talk to these farmers they welcome your questions They will answer all of your questions patiently and knowledgeably. They know the slaughterhouse their animals go to and can speak knowledgeably about its practices. As a result of these practices, I firmly believe that your chances of getting E. Coli or worse from these animals is greatly reduced. You can also be sure these animals are not being fed anything that would ever result in Mad Cow Disease.

If you must eat meat (and I have been a vegetarian at times of my life, so I am sympathetic to those who do not eat meat) locally grown is ideally the way to go. To put it even more bluntly, if there is no financial incentive to keep these breeds alive, they will become extinct.

I do admit that not all the meat in our house is locally grown. There are reasons-convenience, cost - so I am not always "walking the walk". We will be working on walking this walk more as this year progresses.

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