I have been doing a lot of cooking lately sans animal products. Aside from the fact that I enjoy divergence from the mainstream, I am also slowly moving towards becoming a vegan. People close to me know that I talk about this issue all the time, and I believe it is totally relevant to the farming and lifestyle practices that I like to share in this blog. I was a vegetarian for eight years and I was a vegan for part of that period. I now raise animals and I feel like I have a better understanding of them and my relationship with them as food. Which is to say that I find eating animal flesh and dairy to be more difficult than ever. Along with that comes the fact that I raised chickens and turkeys for consumption this year and I have egg layers in my care, which I can’t simply ignore. So I am at an impasse, one of many in my life right now.
Though I have not quite made the major lifestyle change I am moving towards, I feel like I can still come down hard on the use of fresh animal products in the winter. Like I said, I have egg laying chickens. I have about 70 birds in my care and they are not laying eggs. Why? Because chickens lay eggs according to the length of the day and there are only 9 hours of daylight right now. The peak laying period for chickens is when the days are about 14 hours long. Some people use lights for their birds during the winter so that the birds lay lots of eggs all year long. I did this last year and I feel like it was a mistake, so these birds are just going to lay what they lay and that’s that. Grass-fed cows produce less milk in the winter because hay has less nutrition than fresh grass and it takes a lot of energy for the cows to stay warm and nurture the calves that they will birth in the spring. After all, in order to produce milk all year long dairy cows get pregnant and birth every year.
Someone told me the other day that a friend of theirs who owns egg layers purchased eggs from the store because their birds weren’t laying many eggs. This made me wonder, why are people willing to accept produce as seasonal but not milk and eggs? Okay, so maybe most people buy produce from the store in the wintertime, but I do not, and a lot of people in “local food” world do not either; at least I know a lot of people who won’t buy tomatoes or cucumbers at the store. I say, buy produce from the store ten million times before you buy eggs or milk or meat from the store. Organic, free-range, cage-free and terms such as these really have nothing to do with animal welfare. As I recently found out you can’t even trust the word “local” when it come to the treatment of animals. The animals raised for “local” eggs, milk and meat could be raised just like they are any where else, in confinement, fed conventional grain, never let out to see the light of day.
Of course I will keep writing about this issue and I have some great recipes to share this week that are hearty and winter friendly and contain no dairy or eggs for any one else who wants to eat seasonally.