Saturday, March 28, 2009

Yay for happy local food! And, um, local other things...

Just recently I've found out about some new options for happy, local food here in the Springs and I'd like to share them with you. A year and four months ago, when I started my journey looking for happy food, there were no local sources of happy chicken -- at least, none that I could find. And I worked my behind off looking for them. But I couldn't find any. So my family didn't eat chicken. We've had a few from our CSA, but the chickens were raised way up in Northern Colorado and I've been hoping to find a source that is closer to home. And in the past month I've found out about two new operations that are right here in the Springs. Well...east of the Springs. Because you can't really raise chickens in the city.

So, here they are. Bare Bottom Ranch and Chad's Chicken Ranch. Bare Bottom offers raw goat's milk shares, grass fed lamb, grass fed goat, pastured pork, and happy goose, duck, chicken, turkey, and rabbit. In emailing with the owner, Patricia, she told me that the philosophy they believe in is that "good and natural can also mean humane." I agree and would take it a step further -- that you can't have good and natural meat without being humane. They go hand in hand. I'm so thankful that ranches with this philosophy are popping up around here.

The second ranch I found out about recently, from my friend Susi, is Chad's Chicken Ranch. They offer happy chicken, happy eggs, and happy turkey as well as a new veggie CSA (woohoo!). Just in case you're new around here, my definition of a "happy" animal is one who lives the way the animal is meant to live. That does not mean penned up with a thousand other animals wallowing in their own feces, which is how 99% of American meat is raised (okay, that statistic is a guess, but it's probably dead on -- 99.9% might be closer). For most animals, to be happy means they live out on pasture eating what their bodies were designed to eat. Cows eat grass (not corn and soybeans unless they're dairy cows who need occasional extra calories), chickens eat bugs and veggies and grain and sometimes their own eggs (because chickens are strange, strange creatures), goats eat grass, and pigs eat grass and grain and bugs and they root around in the dirt to see what other goodies they can find. When animals are happy, they eat what they're designed to eat and we get extra nutritional benefit. When my chickens eat bruised kale leftover from my CSA, you can bet that I get some of the benefit of that kale when I eat that chicken's eggs or that chicken itself. Which is good...because I really DON'T like kale. But I eat kale anyway. Because it's good for me and I'm an adult. With self-discipline. Sometimes.

Back to Chad's Chicken Ranch, I was thrilled to see that he actually uses the term "happy chicken" on his website. Not that I think I coined the term, but I think it's great to know that people of the same mindset would use that term to describe ideal animals.

Unfortunately, with the way agriculture in this country works, these small ranches need a lot of community support to keep running, so I hope that I can do my part to get the word out. I really believe that in an economic downturn like this one, it is important to support small businesses, to support individuals. When I need to buy birthday presents for my kids' friends, shopping at Target is not going to do much for my local economy. Shopping at my local school supply and toy store will help my local economy. When I need to buy avocados (and we buy them -- weekly -- even though they're clearly not local), buying them from Costco or Whole Foods won't do a lot for for my local economy (although that's debatable about Whole Foods because they give so much back to local charities). But buying avocados from my local natural food co-op will help my local economy. Yeah, sometimes I get avocados and a few other things from Costco and sometimes Whole Foods is the only place where I can find what I am looking for (like Anna's favorite cat food and my favorite 365 products), but when I have a choice, I've been buying from individuals directly or from my local small businesses.

I recently heard Dave Ramsey say that the majority of Americans work for a small business, not for a giant corporation. He said that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. I'd never thought about that before, but now that I heard him say it, it makes sense. By buying my meat directly from small ranches like the ones I discussed above, by buying my veggies directly from the farm in the form of a CSA, by buying gifts from an individual artist on Etsy, I'm supporting the individuals who keep this country running. And I'm feeling pretty patriotic. I might end up having to buy a little less because shopping outside of Wal-Mart sometimes costs a little more, but it's better for my health and better for my community.

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