On Eating Meat
On Eating Meat
(This post is approximately a 7 to 9 minute read.)
"Happy meat" comes from animals raised in ecosystems, not cages, and never crowded or rushed.
We eat only happy meat – meat from our own animals that lived happy lives as part of a complete ecosystem, not in pens or cages, and without stress and tension caused by crowding, rushing, or inappropriate feeds or medications.
Could you produce some of your own animal foods even if you don't live on acreage?
What if you can't, or don't want, to raise your own animals? Can you still eat happy meat?
What if you've chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle to care for animals and protect them from exploitation?
Could you raise productive animals even if you don't live on acreage?
Living on acreage is one of the reasons why we can raise our own meat, eggs, and milk.
It’s one of the reasons we can make sure our meat, eggs and milk come from animals that are relaxed and contented, from the day they’re born or hatched to the day they die, in the midst of their own herd or flock, with their mouth full of grass or grasshoppers, and no stressful transportation, crowding or hustling anywhere in between.
But living on 150 acres, while it is a very great advantage, is only one of the reasons we’re able to eat our own happy meat. The others could be described as determination, inventiveness and desire.
Could you produce some of your own animal foods in much smaller spaces?
On a quarter acre urban block?
In an apartment?
Consider some of the suggestions I've listed below, and decide for yourself.
6 Small space animal possibilities, from medium down to very small
With dedication and inventiveness, you can have healthy animals and the satisfaction of reducing your dependence on less savory protein sources.
Along with whatever output they directly contribute to your table, animals also contribute in many indirect ways to food production.
Here are some of the benefits animals can bring when you fit them appropriately into a food producing ecosystem:
- conversion of weeds, insects, kitchen scraps, and garden excesses into meat, milk, or eggs,
- manure production, compost creation and soil building, including sequestering carbon in the soil,
- and, of course, entertainment and companionship.
All of the suggestions below will require you to do your own research, and apply liberal and ongoing doses of dedication and inventiveness.
The payoff can be healthy, happy animals, an enriched and more balanced ecosystem in which to grow your food, and the satisfaction and empowerment that comes with substantially reducing your dependence on less savory food sources.
I'd never go back to not having warm, frothy, straight-from-the-udder milk for our own use.
Goats are smaller than cows, and more efficient producers of milk.
Dwarf goats are smaller and more efficient again. They won’t suit apartment living, but with the right commitment on your part, they could be healthy, happy and productive in a large backyard.
There is a dwarf dairy breed – the Nigerian Dwarf Goat, and a potential meat or dual-purpose breed, the Pygmy Goat. Another dual purpose small breed for Australia is the Nuwby. (I am not sure if the Nuwby exists as a breed outside of Australia).
Goats (regular sized ones) were our first dairy animals. I would never go back to not having our own warm, frothy, straight-from-the-udder milk to take to the kitchen and bottle for our own use. If you’re keen on dairying for yourself, but short on space, I hope this will give you hope, and a starting point.
Ducks fit different production and entertainment niches, and are compatible with gardens in different ways, than chickens are.
Ducks come in egg laying, meat producing, and dual purpose varieties.
Our favorite so far has been the dual purpose Muscovy, which needs less water, makes less noise, and produces a fair balance between eggs and meat. But do your research, because there are lots of options to suit smaller and larger spaces, different behaviour niches, and different production niches.
Ducks, depending on the breed and the number of them, can handle relatively small spaces, so long as they have access to clean water to take a bath in.
Giving them that clean water provides you with an opportunity in the form of high nutrient duck-dirtied water for your gardens.
Ducks are compatible with gardens in different ways than chickens are – they excel as snail and slug eaters, they don’t scratch, and depending on how you manage their garden access and their overall diet, they may eat less of your greens than chickens would.
But do feed them some greens before you let them into the vegie patch, and don’t leave them unattended among the lettuces – they will probably eat them, along with the snails.
If I could keep only one of the types of animals we currently have, it would be the chickens.
Reams of information have been written on this most popular of backyard choices.
We started with five hens (our first food producing livestock ever).
We converted a dog pen into a coop about 1 meter by 2 meters, which opened onto a medium sized backyard for them to forage in during the day. We have never been chookless since.
Our chickens are our highest returning type of livestock, providing eggs, meat, compost building, soil building and pest reduction services, and entertainment.
As few as two chooks (“chickens” if you are not Australian) can live in quite a small space, so long as you provide for their basic needs. With a dose of creativity on your part, they can move about your garden in various ways (think netted tunnels, mobile pens, moveable chicken mesh), eating spent plants and weeds, manuring and de-bugging, and all the while chooking up (ops, cooking up) your next breakfast.
Guinea pigs (or rabbits)
Lots of articles on the topic of meat production for small spaces mention rabbits. Unfortunately, rabbits are illegal in Queensland where we live, so I have no experience with them.
Guinea pigs, however, make a great substitute. So long as you can get past the cuteness factor when it’s time to make dinner.
If you can’t, they still make great manure producers and grass trimmers.
We have about 12 female Guinea pigs free ranging in our pumpkin patch near the house. We originally got them to keep the grass down in our narrow garden paths between raised beds where we lived previously, which they excelled at.
With our new set up they aren’t needed in garden paths, but they make great pumpkin vine fertilizers.
They also eat a few pumpkins.
Luckily, there are plenty, due to all the manure.
Fish ’n’ vegies
If I had space restraints, aquaponics would be the first thing I'd consider.
Aquaponics. I think that if I had space constraints this would be the very first thing I’d consider.
Here are some links to get you started on some research, to see if fish ’n’ vegies is a good idea for your backyard or even your porch:
- Family Friendly Urban Aquaponics, an inspirational example from inner-suburban Sydney
- Introducing Aquaponics, about the basics, from Sanctuary Magazine
- Bathtub Aquaponics in Alice Springs fresh fish and vegies in the dry heart of Australia
- Happy Fish: Happy Harvest, an interview with an Aquaponics enthusiast who brings to mind the many reasons this is a good idea besides homegrown fish and vegies
- Five Great fish options for your Aquaponics system, for when you’re ready to stock up with fish
Never let it be said that you cannot ethically and humanely farm your very own protein in a small apartment.
When I first heard of this a few years ago, it was in an article about a company that was making “insect farms”–basically towers made of trays—in which the average apartment dweller could grow their own crickets, meal worms, etc.
Ok, so maybe it wouldn’t be the “average” apartment dweller. But if you’re reading this, I don’t think you’re average.
I haven’t been able to find that article again, sadly, but here is what I did find.
- WA’s First edible cricket farm features a business enterprise aiming to sell crickets powdered into protein shakes, not cricket farms to sustainable living enthusiasts, but its still worth a read. It mentions space requirements, using recycled food wastes, and producing fertilizer as a side product to the crickets themselves.
- Edible insect farming without the hype
- Farming edible insects – zero footprint protein
- Farming insects for food
- Open source bug farms
- Bug farm forum
I know. They’re not pettable.
They don’t cluck, grunt, or moo, and you can't even tell if they want to be scratched or not. It just doesn’t have the romance of farming “real animals.”
But for me, if I had no space, insects farmed on my kitchen counter (with due consideration to the insects’ comfort and to appropriate food sources for them) would pass as real food.
In contrast, factory farmed chicken, or farmed salmon, or fish from depleted and dwindling wild stocks, or beef from a feedlot, or pork from a concrete pen beside a stinking effluent tank, do not pass as real food.
And then there's cost. You could have your own insect protein at a fraction of the cost of any of those options. Perhaps free, once it’s up and running.
What if you don't want to raise animals yourself?
Support someone who raises happy meat.
What if you do eat meat or dairy products, but you can't, or don't want, to raise your own animals? That’s ok – support someone (preferably someone local, and best of all someone you get to know personally) who does.
By buying directly from a local producer, you can:
- help that producer stay out of the supermarket supply chain – so they can charge less than you’d pay at the deli counter, earn more than they’d be paid by the volume buyer, and sleep more soundly at night because they have more control over how their animals live and how they die.
- help that producer stay in business, which helps keep the animals they raise out of the supermarket supply chain – so they are better cared for and more appreciated than they otherwise would be.
- hold that producer accountable, by making it clear that you only want happy meat.
4 reasons why going vegan is not the answer
I respect all efforts to care for animals, and to tread lightly on our earth.
Have you chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, to care for animals and protect them from exploitation?
Do you assume that eating meat is worse for our soils and climate than not eating meat?
I respect these efforts to care for animals and to tread lightly on the earth we all love.
For me personally, though, going vegetarian or vegan is not the answer, for four main reasons. I list them in no particular order of importance:
- I believe that at least a small amount of animal foods in our diets make it a lot easier for us to stay healthy.
- If people who care about animals refuse to involve themselves in the animals’ journey from paddock (or jail cell) to plate, then we are leaving them in the hands of those who don’t care. 1
- Real food, in my opinion, comes from healthy, thriving, diverse ecosystems. That means ecosystems that occupy as much as possible of the entire range from micro-biota and insects, to large herbivores and predators, and everything in between. In such a system, humans may be the apex predator. The crucial role of apex predators in keeping ecosystems healthy is well documented.
- All domestic animals can help in various ways to rebuild degraded soil. They can also, particularly well managed herbivores, help to sequester carbon in the soil. Considering the state of our soils worldwide and our urgent need to draw carbon from the atmosphere and return it to the soil, overlooking the roles animals can play in helping us to produce food in more balanced and regenerative ways would be foolish.
Thanks for reading! This post about happy meat is referred to within my eGuide, "Ditching the Supermarket: Reduce your footprint. Save money. Live better." If you've enjoyed it, you may also enjoy the post, Ditching the Supermarket, which is an excerpt from the eGuide.
If you are looking for more similar reading, you could visit the Sustainable Living page, which lists my posts about providing for ourselves in ways that regenerate, rather than deplete, the web of life we depend upon.
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