Saturday, October 18, 2008

My letter to Oprah

When I was sifting through my Tivo list tonight, I came across an Oprah show from this week that literally made me squeal. She finally did a show on factory farmed meat. "It's about time," I thought. Halleluyer, as Oprah would say. It was a good show -- very fair and balanced. Unfortunately, it focused so much on the quality of life of the animals, there was no time to consider the health benefits of consuming what we here at Our Little Family call "happy meat." For us, one of the most motivating factors in eating happy meat is how much better happy meat is for us than factory farmed meat. For people who don't give a crumb about the treatment of farm animals, they might still care about what they put into their bodies.

And so, at Scott's request, I wrote this letter to Oprah. Actually, I wrote a different letter to Oprah. But then to get it into the web form it had to be under 2000 characters. Including spaces. Arrgh. I'm a wordy girl. So I deleted. And counted. And deleted. And counted. And copied, pasted, and tried to submit. And got rejected. So I deleted some more, resubmitted, got get the idea. Somewhere in the middle of that, I pasted a version here for you to read. Enjoy.

Dear Oprah,

Thank you for taking the time to get educated on the topic of farm animals. Recently, my family and I have been on a journey to eat only what we call "happy meat." We get made fun of for it, but we believe whole-heartedly in the power of the consumer in our capitalist system. Because of that, we only support farmers who are raising meat, eggs, and dairy the way we would if we could raise it ourselves!

We now have a freezer stocked with happy meat. Our half hog came from a local family who raises Berkshire pork. Not only was this a happy pig, it is a tasty pig. The flavor is unbeatable! Our quarter beef came from a small local family ranch that raises beef on grass only -- no corn or soy. The beef in our freezer, since it is grass fed, actually has more omega 3s per serving than farm raised salmon. Can you believe that? Happy beef is actually healthy, too! We also ordered a half a lamb, some chickens, turkeys, and a duck and goose from our local CSA, the same farm that delivers our weekly box of organic produce. Not only does my food taste better than what I used to get at the grocery store, I'm actually saving money! I only go to the grocery store twice a month, just to stock up on things like cheese, crackers, cereal, and other basics. We rarely eat out because our fridge and freezer are always stocked.

The best news? The food we're eating now is not only cheaper, it’s actually healthier for us. The pastured eggs we get from our CSA have far less cholesterol than conventional eggs. Our beef is low in fat and high in omega 3s. Our poultry has been eating organic greens. And wouldn't you know it, the important vitamins in those veggies get passed on to me.

Can you do a segment on the nutritional value of non-factory farmed meat? This is something Dr. Oz needs to sink his teeth into!

One resource that I am finding invaluable during this journey is Michael Pollan, author of two important books on this subject. We read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" first and then we read his most recent book, "In Defense of Food." Both books have helped us figure out how to make this unconventional diet work. Along the way, I've written about our journey on our family blog, My posts on this topic are tagged "food politics," so they’re easy to find on our blog.

Thanks for covering this topic. I look forward to hearing more about it in the future!

Hillary Dickman


susan allport said...

Thought you'd be interested in this short omega-3 video:

Anonymous said...

"Happy" meat/dairy/eggs is a myth. To learn more of the truth behind these labels, check out these short but informative slide shows:

Happy Cows: Behind the Myth

Cage-Free Eggs: Behind the Myth

Hillary Dickman said...

Well, Anonymous, it's unfortunate that you decided not to read more of my blog before telling me that "happy" farm animals are a myth. Apparently you haven't noticed that my definition of "happy" is not the same as any commercialized version of "happy." When I looked at the short but actually uninformative slide shows for which you posted links, I saw references to marketing directed at people who are getting their food from a grocery store, where one must rely on labels to tell one how happy the food is.

As you will find if you read my posts labeled "food politics," you'll see that I don't trust corporate marketing. Rather, I put my trust in families who run small ranches and farms. That is why all of the meat I've bought in the past nine and a half months has been either directly from farmers (I've even had a chance to visit some of the farms) or from a small food co-op who only buys meat from a very select group of small, local, respectable farmers.

I agree that the vast majority of commercially available meat, eggs, and dairy is not raised humanely. But, I've been to visit the farm where my dairy cows live. They're the happiest damned cows I've ever seen, and they'd better be since I'm paying ten dollars per gallon for their milk. I've seen the laying hens who provide my eggs. The only way they could be happier is if they were back in their original habitat in the Amazon. But then, they'd probably get eaten by a snake which is, I'd guess, a slower and more painful death than the one they'll eventually meet on their small family farm.

The truth of it is that if you believe that all animal farming is inhumane, you're advocating for the extinction of hundreds of species of animals. These animals could not survive on their own. Their sole purpose in life is to nourish us. Yes, they have personalities and quirks. Some of them are cute and fuzzy, some of them are whimsical, some of them make us giggle. They should live happy lives, but if we don't continue to breed them for the purpose of consuming them or their products, they will soon go extinct.

To say that there is no such thing as happy farm animals shows a shameful lack of education on the topic. Anonymous, if you really believe that, you must be walking through life wearing blinders. How very sad -- you don't even know what you're missing.

Hillary Dickman said...

Susan, I love that video on Omega 3's! Thanks for sharing. Your book looks like a good one. I'll have to check it out from the library.