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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Processed Foods

I have been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, and really like it...contrary to what I expected after reading several scathing thoughts about it in Eating Animals.



I like to read books that push me to make necessary changes in my life or help me grow to be more socially and environmentally conscious. Eating Animals was the catalyst for this whole blog thing, but what has The Omnivore's Dilemma (TOD) done for me lately?

A lot. I think the most apparent change is that I am so much more conscious about processed foods and preservatives.

Before reading TOD, I thought fake meat was the answer for anyone who wanted to stop eating meat but wanted to taste meat. I offered substitutes for turkey, and I even wore it for Halloween as my very sassy answer to Lady Gaga's meat dress. I was singing fake-meat's praises at the top of my lungs at the Fake-Meat Karaoke bar.

But what is in these delicious processed goods that I have come to depend on? Usually corn (broken down to molecular levels to create Xanthum gum, etc...) or soy proteins.

"So what?" I asked angrily, defending my humane option. "Who cares?"

As it turns out, I should care a lot. Corn and soy have completely taken over our farms. These crops replace our strawberries with strawberry soda. They replace our egg protein from grazing chickens with livestock fattened on CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). And they replace anything that could be consumed alone with a processed alternative that requires fossil fuels for manufacturing and leaves us with empty calories, less energy and fewer nutrients.

So, big change for me. And I am still working it out. Instead of now getting my protein from soy protein or processed corn, I am looking at healthier options -- for myself and our farmland. I am eating more beans, legumes and whole grains.

Is it easier to pop a Boca burger in the microwave and get fast protein? Maybe. Is it healthier for me? No. Is it healthier for our precious farmland? No. Do I need it to get my protein? No.

So, I think the best approach with fake meat should be the same advice I would offer meat-eaters. Eat mostly vegetables, and only sometimes meat.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Oy, Oyamel!

Alex's parents are in town, so when in Rome... you go out to eat somewhere you normally wouldn't think to go. Roger suggested Oyamel, a Mexican restaurant owned by the famed chef Jose Andres.

I was skeptical, to say the least. Jose Andres owns a lot of the hot spots in town -- places I generally avoid like the plague because of their trendiness. Not that I don't like good food, which most "hot spots" claim to have. I just really dislike crowds and overpriced bad food, both of which are often found in hot spots.

But it turns out that Oyamel was fabulous, and Jose has a vision that goes beyond food.

As I always do before eating at a new restaur
ant, I did some research. What I discovered first was more about Jose than about the food:
  • Jose thinks that meat is overrated, but fruit and vegetables are sexy. (Talk about a vegetarian's wet dream.)

  • Jose uses his skills for good by volunteering, fund-raising, employing graduates of DC Central Kitchen and serving on the board there-

    Through job training, meal distribution, and supporting local food systems, DC Central Kitchen is building long-term solutions to the interconnected problems of poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

  • Jose works with the Solar for Hope project, a nonprofit that, "brings solar kitchens to Haiti... In a country that has been through a devastating earthquake and suffered severe deforestation, harnessing the power of sun for cooking is a simple way to help ensure that people have hot meals."
After combing through his achievements (and these are extraordinary achievements), I failed to find where he sources the food.
I couldn't find anything. There was no mention of local or sustainable.

As a note, I
always try to find out where the dairy is from before I get to the restaurant for two reasons. First, servers are very busy, and I don't want to ask them to go ask the chef (who is also busy) where the food comes from. Second, I don't want my food to get spit in.

So, I called the restaurant and asked where the dairy comes from. Unable to answer, the hostess said she would check and get back to me when we came in for dinner that evening.

Yeah right, I thought. So, I tweeted at Jose:


@ excited 2 eat at 2nite! I try 2 eat or . What can I eat? Do u get ur fr ?

Jose (or whoever tweets for him) never got back to me. I was sure I would be greeted with the same fate by the hostess.

As soon as we entered the restaurant and gave our name, the hostess explained that none of the dairy is local. But, they do get local pigs and goats from the farmers markets.

Bummer.

But as soon as we sat down, the manager came over to show me which dishes on the menu were vegan. She didn't just show us, but she actually circled all of the vegan dishes. There was not just one, there were seven (ish) vegan options.

And I'm not talking about the kind of vegan crap you get at a steakhouse... No, I am talking about vegan delicacies that would make your head spin: Plantain fritters stuffed with black beans and a chipotle chile and piloncillo sugar sauce; Crispy brussels sprouts in arbol chile sauce with pumpkin seeds, peanuts and lime; and Sautéed seasonal wild mushrooms with garlic and shallots, served with guacamole; just to name a few. A far cry from dry mashed potatoes and overdone asparagus at some overpriced meat factory.

The food was amazing. The chef was a walking mitzvah mobile. But the dairy and most of the meat was not local.

So the big question for this small blog is: Does Oyamel get a Thanks or a Spanks?

Thanks. No, they are not entirely sustainable, local or humane. But they have some options (pig and goat and some vegetables), which means that hopefully one day they will have more.

It seems as though Jose would be just the type of restaurant owner and chef who would take that next step to an entirely sustainable, local and humane menu. In the meantime, we can marvel at the other good work he is doing and eat his delicious vegan options.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No Impact Family

I am not sure why, but I just saw No Impact Man, the movie about the guy in NYC who went a year without making any environmental impact. This means he -- and his daughter and wife -- only ate locally sourced foods, did not use any fossil-fueled mode of transportation (subway, car, certainly not an airplane), went without electricity, and the perhaps the most reported on less-impact: did not use toilet paper.

My first takeaway was that I could not believe I had not seen the film yet--- or read his blog or book, or watched any of his dozens of interviews on Youtube. For those of you who have not yet seen it, please consider this a ringing endorsement, and watch it on Netflix.

My second takeaway was, "Wow... I am actually doing some of this stuff. Rock on!"

While I don't do nearly enough as No Impact Man, I already do some, and am now inspired to do more. So, what do I do alrea
dy that No Impact Man does?
  • Use Jars, not glasses. We drink out of jars instead of glasses

  • Buy local food. We try to buy locally sourced foods (a big part of this blog) and consider the farmers market the highlight of my week

  • Grow your own food. We are starting to garden and last summer harvested herbs

  • Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We try not to buy anything new--- in fact, we can usually outfit our home by finding stuff in free-boxes on the street

  • Carbon-friendly travel. We ride bikes around town or use DC's exceptional metros or buses. Seldom do we take taxis or drive a car.

  • Don't eat meat. Alex and I are both vegetarians. Meat is one of the greatest contributors to global warming, but I mainly oppose it for ethical reasons.

And what do I want to do?
  • Make our own cleaning supplies. Eco-friendly cleaners exist, and I use them (Mrs. Meyers, Method)... but what about the packaging, and shipping? No Impact Man makes his own household cleaning agents and stores them in his used cleaning bottles. As soon as mine run out, I will do the same!

  • Start to compost. I know I live in a city (and I know I live in a city with rats), but I want to at least explore the option of composting. No Impact Man composted in his apartment, and while he was okay living with flies, his wife was not. There has got to be a way for me to compost outside... Stay tuned!

  • Unsubscribing from catalogs. I try to do this, but not very hard. I call the consumer magazines, but not the non-profits I donate to. I need to of course continue to donate, but request that I be taken off their mailing lists.
There are more, of course, but I think this is a good start! I think the best takeaway from No Impact Man was that if he and his family can do everything to lessen their impact, can 't we all just do something?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wedding plans (and tastings!)

... And yet another excuse for my absence: I got engaged last month and have been busy trying to plan a wedding.



As many of you know, Alex and I try to live our lives with as little impact and waste as possible. I also try to live a humane lifestyle. And we are trying to model the wedding on that set of values.



We found those values in our caterer: Eat and Smile Foods. I said this to Chef Oliver and I will say it to you: I could not have dreamed-up a more perfect caterer for our wedding.



Photo credit: Alexandra Friendly Photography

Eat and Smile Foods, aptly described on their website, is "locally sourced, esquitely made." Unlike most caterers, local ingredients (including dairy and eggs) is the rule, not the exception.



Because Eat and Smile does not advertise, I did not know about them. But Alex sent a link to the Bitten Word, a popular food blog. The authors wrote about their wedding -- including their caterer: Eat and Smile -- and I was hooked.



We immediately set up a tasting with Oliver, and did not need to look further.



Eat and Smile easily creates amazing vegetarian menues with all local ingredients. At the tasting we dined on (everything hand-and-home made): falafels and tangy yogurt, grilled cheese with olive tapenade, mushrooms and bean paste, goat cheese pastries, butternut squash soup with balsamic vinegar and pecans, salad with local cheese from Clear Spring Creamery, fettucini with mozzarella from Blue Ridge Dairy and red pepper pesto, ratatouille with fall vegetables, and apple pie with Dolcezza ice cream.



Check out our tasting here!

Photo Credit: Alexandra Friendly Photography







Sunday, November 21, 2010

Time to talk turkey

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and many people are ordering their birds. Whether your bird is "real" or "fake" here are some good ideas on how to get the best bird possible:

If you are a vegetarian
I have tried several different kinds of "furkey", and the best one in my opinion is a Quorn Turk'y Roast. Quorn is a type of protein -- in this case, mycoprotein -- that is used in products to simulate a me
at substance. Mycoprotein, unlike soy-based proteins, is a fungus that is grown in vats of glucose syrup. It may sound less than desirable, but once you bake your Turk'y roast, you will understand why it is one of leading substitute meats out there.
If you are an omnivore
Don't be fooled by the same marketing ploys that bring you "happy cows from California" or "free-range chickens." Instead, check out these sites that actually certify farming practices as humane.

According to Humane Farm Animal Care,
"...only a few producers raise turkeys this way -- Ayrshire Farm in Virginia and Footsteps Farm in Connecticut.” Consumers can order directly from Ayrshire Farm at: www.ayrshirefarm.com and Footsteps Farm www.CTFFE.com."

And Animal Welfare Approved offers many options. Visit their search site to search for a humane turkey in your area here.

This year, I am thankful for many things... But mostly for organizations like Humane Farm Animal Care and Animal Welfare Approved that speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Animal welfare on the ballot this year

Now that the dust has settled after the 2010 midterm elections, we are beginning to see what we lost... and what we won.


It is not easy to see our victories, but these two are as clear as Sarah Palin's accent.


In Missouri, Prop B -- which will stop puppy mill abuses -- passed with flying colors. Puppy mills look, smell and sound exactly what they sound like: crowded, unhealthy, packed factories that pump out our best friends. Breeding dogs are kept inside cages and often never get to feel real ground. The puppies are ripped from their mothers and shipped off to pet stores in abhorrent conditions.


While their future owners will love them and no doubt treat them like a member of their own family, their brutal beginnings -- and mothers and siblings they left behind -- can never be erased or their treatment justified.


The Puppy Mill Creulty Prevention Act was a win among many losses.


And in Arizona, voters roundly rejected Proposition 109, a initiative that would have politicized wildlife management and taken control out of voters' hands. Not only would it make hunting and fishing the preferred method of managing wildlife, but it could have -- if not defeated -- also rolled-back important wildlife protection measures, like prohibiting steel traps.


Note: I typically support taking support out of voters' hands when it comes to important issues (ie: reproductive rights, civil rights, etc...). But when it comes to fuzzy animal issues, voters overwhelmingly vote for the animal... any animal that we use for meat is of course exempt from this.


So when we are down and out, and looking back at election day, we can always remember these rays of light piercing the darkness.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My answer to Lady Gaga's meat dress

On September 12th, Lady Gaga made headlines wearing a meat dress to the MTV's Video Music Awards. While it was only one of her many outfits of the evening (I mean, even though we are in a recession, VMAs will always be VMAs), the meat dress was certainly the one that got the most attention.



In response to the meat dress -- and how it might offend vegetarians, vegans, poor and hungry people -- Gaga said:
"Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian... If we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a piece of meat."
Huh? Well, we can't spend too much time dissecting celebrities thoughts and reasons for doing all the crap they do... What we can do, is answer it with something that does make sense.

So, for Halloween this year -- despite the fact that it was rated as one of the WORST Halloween costumes for 2010 -- I dressed up as Lady Gaga in her meat dress. It was Alex's idea, actually. I was trying to decide what to be for Halloween, and Alex (brilliant as always) suggested I dress up in fake meat. The thought of pinning Boca burgers, facon and soysauge to me was just a little less disgusting that what Lady Gaga actually did, so I pinned the boxes to a dress.


The costume was awesome. Lady Gaga's bow-wig and 80's glasses complimented the dress and vegan boots fantastically, but getting the boxes was perhaps the best part.

I wandered around my office, asking my colleagues if they had any fake meat boxes. Of course, many of them did (as we work at a conservation organization) and the next day I had enough meat boxes to cover my 5'2" body.

Ellen could not have said it better on her show when she suggested that next time Gaga wear a veggie bikini.

Friday, October 22, 2010

How Em Cs it: a more humane way to kill chickens?

Today the New York Times published a piece: New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side.

It talks about two companies, Bell & Evans in Pennsylvania and Mary’s Chickens in California, that are going to start gassing their chickens before they hang them upside down and slit their throats.

The article is great, and I encourage EVERYONE to read it. There were definitely some elements that stood out for me. So, to channel the gal we love to hate, here's how Em Cs it:






Excerpt: The owner of Bell & Evans says that marketing a humane death is going to be difficult because people don't want to think about how their food is killed.

How Em Cs it: It is about time people start thinking about and recogizing where our food comes from. Not only would we start eating less meat, but we would also start buying from places that go the extra mile to treat their animals better.


Excerpt: Temple Grandin said, “Birds don’t like being hung upside down...They get really stressed out by that.”

How Em Cs it: Ya think?


Excerpt: A National Chicken Council spokesperson said that the chickens "...are shackled and they typically stay there quietly.”

How Em Cs it: I find that very hard to believe. Besides the fact that we have read and seen countless documentation of suffering chickens during and before slaughter, how does the National Chiken Council explain broken wings and bruisng?


You can read the entire article here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Humane Tzatziki

Last Friday night, I made delicious tzatziki as part of Shabbat dinner.

Tzatziki is one of my favorite dips, and it is the only item I cannot get at Amsterdam Falafel (although it is very hard to resist...).

Here is how I make it... humanely:

- I buy Greek yogurt from Blue Ridge Dairy
- Mix it with seeded, peeled, chopped, salted and drained cucumber
- Chop up a bunch of fresh dill to taste
- Salt, pepper and garlic to taste
- Dash of lemon juice

Mix it all together and serve with any kind of bread or veggies!





Monday, October 11, 2010

I'm BAAAACK!

So, it has been a while.... Almost a month. Wow.

But now I'm back... from outer space. Just kidding. Just back from being really busy at work, and not making time for my blog.

So much has happened, so here is a recap:
- I went to Nashville for work, and ate delicious food from a local farm.
- I started exploring all kinds of new fake meat --- recommendations coming soon!
- Traveled a lot, and ate at some amazing vegetarian/vegan restaurants

So, I guess you could call this a fall break--- stay tuned for fun and humane memories from this month!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It worked!

Less than three days after Mercy for Animals asked people to urge Costco to stop selling veal, Costco made an announcement: They would ban "treatment of veal calves that industry calls typical."

In a statement, CEO Jim Sinegal said:


"We are extremely disappointed, not only with the performance of our supplier in this instance, but with our own performance as well... "We hold ourselves to a high standard, and in this case, we plainly did not perform to that standard."

Jeff Lyons, Costco's vice president of fresh foods said,

"We're telling them flat-out that it's not acceptable to us, and we will not accept any veal from those farms, period...They're going to have to go by our guidelines and policy, regardless of whether that's considered normal practice. It's not for us, and that might sound arrogant, but we just don't think that's the way to treat an animal."

While I don't condone the raising and selling of veal, I recognize that this is a step. A small step but an important one. People are now more aware of the treatment of baby cows who are raised for veal. And one of the nation's largest vendors of veal is using its power to make the lives of these animals better. It made me happy again to be a Costco customer and shareholder.




Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Urge Costco to stop buying veal

Every time I receive an email from Mercy for Animals, PETA, or the Humane Society, I know it will be a rough day. It will be a day that all I want to do is go home and hug Winston.

Today was such a day. I arrived at work to find, "New MFA Veal Investigation." And as I watched the video, I was horrified, as most people are when they see confined baby cows. Nobody wants to see that. It is why the industries that support factory farming spend millions and millions of dollars to hide it from us.

After I watched the fate of these baby cows, Mercy for Animals (MFA) gave its call-to-action: Urge Costco to stop buying veal. Urge them to stop supporting this industry.

But why would a company choose to do this? Why would they deny a product to their customers?

Because they are pressured to do so. Did McDonald's want to stop selling Big Macs in Styrofoam packaging? Did Burger King want to stop buying pigs who are confined in gestation crates? Did Whole Foods want to stop selling lobsters?

No. They were all pressured to change their behavior by their consumers. And they are all industry leaders. If the demand diminishes, so does the supply.

Now, I am a fan of Costco. I like their business choices: they pay their employees well, and provide health care benefits. They stock vegetarian staples, like veggie burgers, quinoa and organic soups. I shop there. And I own their stock. And part of the reason they are an industry leader is because they earn the loyalty from customers like me who care about these things.

But, I am also a fan of reality. I know that Costco will probably not stop selling veal. But maybe if they feel enough pressure, they will start buying veal from states that don't tether baby cows for their short lives, and allow them have a somewhat-playful existence.

So, let's urge them. Send a letter to Costco's CEOs, and tell them to stop selling veal. I did. I told them that I was a customer and a stockholder. And if they didn't change, they would lose me as a customer. And I would tell my friends to do the same.

Click here to send a letter: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/veal/take-action.aspx

Remember that famous quote that all us crazy activists use? "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Guerrilla Gardening


Last weekend, Alex and I started a garden in our front lawn.



I had previously went through a phase where I had been fantasizing about moving to the country, getting a front porch (where I could yell at the ungrateful neighbor kids), and a huge garden (where I could grow fruits, vegetables and herbs).



The whole country-living phase lasted about as long as my stint with veganism did... although I did still want a front porch to yell at the spoiled children, and a garden. But then I realized that I could just turn the front lawn into garden. All that currently exists there are two lots of under-kempt, often-littered overgrown grass.



After a quick email to my absent landlord, I got the go-ahead to do pretty much anything I wanted. Given that my brilliant garden idea was hatched rather late in the season (August), Alex advised me to start out small: some planters instead of huge garden boxes that would be costly in time and money.



So after a quick trip to our urban gardening store, a yard sale, and the farmers market, we had planters, potting soil, and herbs.



A week later, we have a little garden that yields: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, parsley and rosemary. And it seems like it is catching on with our neighbors too. We found some pots on the other side of our building growing what looks like jalapeno peppers.



So, it turns out that I didn't need to move into the country to grow a garden.



As for yelling at the ungrateful children who begrudgingly decided to stop playing their Wii for a minute to go outside? I can yell at them just fine from my front stoop.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Humane Tacos and sour cream fix

So, I have grumbled several times on this blog that one of the hardest situations I could see myself in (regarding this humane food project, not in life generally) is eating at a Mexican restaurant, and not being able to enjoy the gooey melted cheese and cool sour cream.

Hence, I have stayed away from Mexican restaurants like I will stay away from deep dish pizza joints when I go home to Chicago next month... to best of my ability, that is. Stay tuned for the inevitable failure on that one.

But I was c-r-a-v-i-n-g Mexican food -- cheesy-goodness with guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, shredded lettuce and beans -- all dumped into a taco shell.

So, I bit the bullet and did it.

Not at a restaurant, but at home. Last night (Friday), Alex and I had our first taco night!

I went to Safeway and bought all of the vegetables: tomatoes, avocados, a red onion, black and refried beans, and shredded lettuce.

I then went to Whole Foods (which I, along with other foodies, half-lovingly/half- bitterly call Whole Paycheck) and bought humane cheddar cheese and humane sour cream.

On Friday, I rushed home from work to prepare the tacos. It was easy. We stuffed our tacos full of beans, tomatoes, guacamole, lettuce, humane cheddar cheese, and sour cream.

It was delightful, and I ate way too many, of course.

But the best part is knowing that I can go to a Mexican restaurant and get a crunchy taco salad without the cheese and sour cream. Because, I can always make it myself!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Humane Tacos

You don't have to give up tacos just because you are being humane. Sure, you might not be able to eat tacos out (unless you bring your own sour cream and cheese -- Don't say I won't...), but you can sure make them at home. Here's how:

INGREDIENTS
- Taco shells

- Shredded lettuce (you can just buy it in the bag at the supermarket)
- Diced tomatoes (I recommend fresh, not in the can)
- Guacamole
- Beans (refried or black)
- Organic Valley sour cream (here in DC you can get it at Harris Teeter and Whole Foods)

- Humane cheese -- shredded

INSTRUCTIONS
- I don't really think anyone needs this... But if so, stuff your tacos silly and have a blast!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Win for animals in Ohio

Today, the New York Times reported on an "agreement" between animal welfare groups (like The Humane Society) and farms in Ohio that allows more room in cages for hens, baby cows (or veal) and hogs (including pregnant sows).

While this is a win for the animals, we have to ask: how much of a win?

It will be better for a pregnant sow to be able to turn around (now she is confined to a 7 X 2 foot long gestation crate). And it will be better for chickens (who won't be packed 6 or 7 hens to a cage the size of a newspaper). And it will be better for baby cows who will be able to turn around.

But how much better?

Will the sow be able to roam? No.
Will the chickens be able to stretch their wings and peck (with beaks, nonetheless)? No.
Will baby cows be able to run and play? No.

But this is a step, and an important one. It is not as much of an "agreement" as it is forcing factory farms to take steps to reform through the power of our voices and our dollars. It is proof that people actually are about where their food comes from, and what is in it. And we are using our dollars to change an industry that is long overdue.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ode to Quinoa

One of the best parts of trying to eat humane is experimenting with new foods and recipes!

In fact, one of ones I have really grown to LOVE is Quinoa.

Dubbed a "superfood," it is is used like rice or couscous, except it has higher nutritional value. You can find it nowadays at almost every grocery store.

Here is how I made it last night:
Stirring in 2-parts vegetable broth, 1-part Quinoa, I simmered the Quinoa
(like you do rice), and added:
- sauteed spinach
- cherry tomatoes (from my Aunt Deb's garden!)
- almonds (fried in olive oil, that gives the almonds a roasted, burnt taste).
- Italian parsley

After the Quinoa was ready, I added the ingredients, mixed and served!

It was a delicious, nutritious and humane meal!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hello from Maine Part I - Flatbread Pizza

Yesterday, Alex, the pup and I arrived in Maine to visit my brother (Brian), sister-in-law (Katie) and baby neice (Zevon) for a week. The day before we all piled into Roger's car, my brother called me and said, "So, Katie and I want to try to eat vegetarian while you are here."

First, I was so excited, but also felt guilty. While I know I can be opinionated and pushy with my views on meat and animal treatment, I never want to push those I love into something they are not comfortable with. My brother assured me that this was something he wanted to do, and hell... it was only for a few days.


Upon our arrival, Katie said we were going to dinner at pizza joint that had vegan pizza and got all of their incredients locally. The name rang a bell: Flatbread Pizza. My friend has been reminding me to go American Flatbread in Virginia for a while now. They serve local ingredients and get their cheeses and meats from local, sustainable farms. And I have been searching for the perfect below-90-degree day to hop on our bikes and ride out to Virginia for a delicious pizza lunch.

When we got to Flatbread Pizza in Portland, ME we had 20 minutes to kill, so I wandered around looking for someone who could answer some questions about the animal products.


I quickly found one of the partners. It turns out that the meat and most of the cheeses come from small, local farms around Portland. However, the mozzarella is not. The mozz (as is in most restaurants that buy local) is bought from a distributor, because so much is used and it is not economically viable to buy it from a local farmer.


This needs to change. There are farmers who make mozz, but until there is constant demand for them to expand and sell wholesale, the "local" restaurants are still going to get their mozz from factory farms. So, I enjoyed my vegan pizza (yummy veggies, without cheese), while the rest of the crew enjoyed veggie pizzas with cheese.


I am curious if American Flatbread (not the same chain, but clearly related), also makes a local exception for mozzarella. If they do, they should think about changing. It is one of the most popular cheeses and restaurants can use their dollars to help change the inhumane way it is produced and sold.


I think Alex and I will be making our bike ride to Virginia sooner than later.




Thursday, July 29, 2010

We eat too much

Today, one of my co-workers put a link on Facebook to an article on Visual Economics: "What are we eating?" What I found did not surprise me at all:

In a year, the average American consumes 62.4 lbs of beef, 46.5 lbs of pork, 60.4 lbs of chicken, 32.7 lbs of eggs, 31.4 lbs of cheese, 600.5 lbs of dairy (not cheese).

So, this is no wonder that Americans have an obesity problem. This includes me. I am not fat... not compared to most Americans. But if I went to Japan, China, or even most countries, people would probably categorize me as another American who overeats.

But we are not overeating everything. We are not overeating cereals, fruits or vegetables. What we are overeating is animal products.

Our entire agricultural sector is centered -- not around feeding the people who work in the fields, or even the people who pay the people who work in the fields. Nope. It is centered around feeding the animals that feed the people who work in the fields and the people who pay them to work in the fields.

And what do we get? We get really cheap, caloric, high-cholesterol animal products that we clearly eat waaaaay too much of.

Which means that our food choices are directly related to the way we treat the animals we get our cholesterol from. Our dollars are paying for our fat. We are also condoning the way in which we treat animals which we depend on for our high cholesterol diets.

We are condoning and paying for factory farms and battery cages.

The best way to better ourselves and the animals is to (to completely plagiarize from Jonathan Safran-Foer's book, Eating Animals) simply eat fewer animal products. And try to get our meat, eggs and dairy from a humane farmer.

Many of you may think that this is just another one of my extreme anti-meat rants. But think about what we all ate today, and think about just how much of what we ate came from an animal. Me? I had dairy for lunch, and dinner. And that is not typical... I usually have it for all three meals.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thanks, Merdian Pint!

The other night I went to Meridian Pint, a new restaurant in Columbia Heights that has been open for less than a month. From the owner who brought you the rock-and-roll lounge, Asylum, opened a second restaurant featuring creative vegan dishes alongside great beers and fun atmosphere.

There are so many cool things about Meridian Pint that I just have NO idea where to begin:

1) Vegan fare. I got the bean and vegan cheese Quesadilla and veggie vegan chili. But there's lots more... Like the soy half smoke, and the roasted vegetable sandwich with vegan cheese.

2) Beer. Meridian Pint only tries to buy local beer to keep the beer money in the area and to also reduce the carbon emissions from shipping overseas. BUT the coolest thing is the "bombers for brewers" program where the restaurant gives local brewers their used beer bottles to make their home-brews.

3) Composting. The restaurant hired Envirelation to compost most of Meridian Pint's waste.

4) Reuse. Most of the furniture, equipment, design and construction materials are recycled.

5) Clean Energy. Meridian Pint's energy source comes from wind mill farms in the way of green energy credits.

Is Meridian Pint humane? Unfortunately not, but clearly not because of lack-of-will. The moral of this story is that humane dairy, cheese, eggs and meat is not accessible unless the restaurant owner/chef/buyer actually goes to a farmers' market/farm/distribution center and literally picks up the food.

Meridian Pint is still a-okay in my book though, and I will continue to enjoy my vegan Quesadillas
until they take the next step toward humane dairy, cheese, eggs and meat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hot Dog!

No, I am not referring to Winston (cuz I know that's what all ya'll were thinkin)...

One of my friend's recently cautioned me to make sure that the humane cheese I buy does not contain animal rennet. Animal rennet is essentially calf stomach (sometimes kid and lamb too), and it is used in most cheeses to separate the curds and whey. Which means that:
a) it is not vegetarian, and
b) it is most certainly not humane

For those of you who would suggest I only eat Kosher cheese (cough: Adam) think again. According to kashrut.com, Kosher cheese can and does still contain animal rennet as long as the processing of the animal is done so according to Kosher law.

So what am I to do? Become a vegan? I think we all can agree that my crash-test attempt for less than a day didn't work out very well.

So, I have come to this conclusion: I will continue to eat humane cheese based on a philosophy that I adhered to ever since I became a vegetarian: if I ever eat meat again, it will probably be a hot dog.


Why a hot dog, you ask? Well, a hot dog is a meat by-product or MSM. It contains all the meat that doesn't go to the supermarket. It is the stuff that would have been thrown away and wasted.

And since I am an animal rights proponent, and we use animals for human consumption, then we should use EVERY part, as wasting an animal is a terrible thing to do. (I use this same reasoning when giving my Hot Dog, Winston, raw hides.)

While I don't think I will be eating a meat hot dog anytime soon, I will continue to enjoy my humane cheese. Because, even if I hate the thought of slaughtered baby cows, lambs and goats, they are not being killed for their stomachs. But their stomachs are at least not going to waste.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It restores my faith in humanity

On Saturday I went to The Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market to check out the Pleasant Pops stand and get some fruity delicious breakfast. The market was packed with vendors selling fruits and vegetables, dairy and eggs and meat, bread and pastries, and of course Pleasant Pops. There was a bluegrass band playing on a stage they shared with Farmers' Market Information and a free bicycle repair clinic. As my friend and I licked cucumber-chili and ginger-peach Pleasant Pops, she commented that the market "restored her faith in humanity."

Shortly after tho
se inspirational words came out of my friend's mouth, she asked if the eggs sold at a stand close to us were humane, so I meandered over to to ask my questions.













Truck Patch
Farms is a family farm that sells vegetables and a variety of animal products including eggs. I asked Brian (the farmer) if his chickens had their beaks clipped. He began to tell me his story, and I so wish I had a camera to tape his story, because he told it so well:

Brian, like so many farmers, cares deeply about the treatment of his animals. While he only buys chicks with their beaks intact, he still has some from the days when you could only gets chicks with their beaks clipped. For the older ones, he used to only let them graze on the soft soil that had been dug up by his pigs, so they could peck without full beaks. Now that most of his chickens have beaks, they can roam on whatever ground suits them.

He told me the story about when he decided to get chickens: He recalled going into his neighbor's hen house to help collect the eggs, and saw rows and rows of heads sticking out of cages. When he returned home, he said, "Honey! We're raising chickens!" And he has been raising chickens his way ever since.

As for his meat (which he boasted about after his chickens, not knowing that I was a vegetarian), he demands a humane slaughter to end their humane life. This touched me because so many farmers unfortunately don't have the time to investigate the slaughter of the animals they cared for so well. "If they don't allow me to watch the slaughter, I won't go send my animals there," he said. He informed me that the best smoke-house is not the best slaughter house, so while he will smoke his meat there, he won't slaughter them there.
I reported that my friend should definitely buy her eggs from Brian.

I know that when my friend said that the market "restored her faith in humanity" she was probably joking (especially since the night before we had discussed the woes of humanity, mainly focusing on the toll e-waste takes on humans and the environment); but as I looked around at the fresh veggies, Pleasant Pops and humane animal products, I didn't think she was so off the mark.

Photo: Courtesy of Pleasant Pops.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wonderland Ballroom is... well, Wonderful!

Wonderland Ballroom came onto the DC scene about 5 years ago. A hipster hang-out, it survived a notorious robbery, drawing crowds for its up-and-coming locale, good beer selection, fun DJs and Trivia Night (a favorite DC past time).

I had never gone until this past year when our friends moved into Columbia Heights. Since my first visit, I have looked forward to coming back:

The menu is full of vegan options, including friend pickles and eggplant, veggie chili, salads, veggie burgers, and the best entree (drum roll please....): Faux-Italian sausage.

Now, had I known I was going there tonight, I would not have had 2 smart breakfast sausage links this afternoon. But I am cannot see into the future like Winston, so tonight at dinner I got the veggie burger instead, so I wouldn't over-do it on the faux-sausage front.

We were actually supposed to go to Meridian Pint (another blog post for another day), but ended up at Wonderland.

It was delicious, but it made me start wondering if their cheese items were humane. On a Friday night, most restaurants in Columbia Heights are pretty packed (due to the hipsters that flock there, but also due in-part to the lack of restaurants -- there are only a few in the area).

I would like to find out, so I will be sure to call back at a time when busboys are running into servers. In the meantime, I am loving my veggie burgers and Faux-Italian Sausage!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

DC = Most Veg-Friendly City!

I guess we all can guess why DC is the land where meat-eaters come to die, and reincarnate as vegetarians:

DC was just rated (by the ever-so-rigorous PETA) as the most veg-friendly city!


And it is not hard to see why! Check out my previous post, Good Veggie Eats in DC, to see all of the delicious vegetarian restaurants we got goin' on here.

DCist, a DC-based blog, reported on PETA's ratings and mentions some favorites, such as Amsterdam Falafel, Java Green and Sticky Fingers Bakery.

While I am already now craving falafel tonight, I really want to try the vegetarian biscuits and gravy at Sticky Fingers Bakery! That is definitely something I have missed as a vegetarian.

It is rather comforting to know that a town that is run by Big tobacco, beef, oil, and other not-so-veggie-friendly-cats, we -- the people -- either are or support vegetarians.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Humane Homemade Pizza

When I first tried to go humane, there was one tiny (well, not tiny) thing that kept on getting in the way: Pizza! (It should be noted that the one thing I say on my profile is that I may succumb to a piece of late-night pizza).

I tried the vegan pizza at Duccinis (just around the corner from my house), and while it was very tasty, it did not really taste like cheese. And I tried going to Coppi's, but their pizza is fancy and not really something you want to eat on your couch, watching re-runs of Law & Order SVU.

So, I was determined to make my own humane pizzas. After all, I have a pizza stone and peel, a pizza cutter and an oven. So, I went to the supermarket one day after work (which I spent the entire day thinking about pizza...) to buy crust. I already had homemade pasta/pizza sauce (that I keep around for one of those SVU nights), mozzarella cheese from the Farmer's Market and mushrooms for a topping.

But, lo and behold, I learned that all of the crusts at Safeway have cheese in them! Weird, and gross considering they are not refrigerated.

After all of the ins and outs and what-have-yous I have finally mastered a way to make fast, homemade humane pizza!

First, on a rainy day I make a lot of dough. I like this recipe because I can make it in my food processor (thanks, Grandma Audrey!), and it is really fast! I usually make 2 servings, and then have 4 doughs, which last a while, considering that there is only so much SVU a gal can watch.

I store my dough and sauce in the freezer, until the night before Pizza Night.

The night of, I preheat the oven to 475, and dust the stone with flour. I make my pizza on the stone (as thin or thick as I want). I add my homemade sauce, sliced humane mozz, and whatever topping I have.

After roughly 15 minutes in 475 degrees, I take out the stone, transfer the pizza to my peel, and Voila! Homemade Humane Pizza!

It should be noted that I just ate a delicious pizza. As I am writing this post, I realize that I should have taken a picture of my beautiful pie, but I ate it too soon... Next time!





Monday, July 5, 2010

I scream, you scream...

We all scream for humane ice cream!

Today I had the fortunate experience to tag along with Roger, who is one of the co-founders of Pleasant Pops, a local DC paletas/Popsicle vendor. The paletas are sold at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market, and only contain local (and humane!) ingredients.

***If you haven't ever had a pleasant pop, I suggest you haul your cookies to the corner of 17th and Lamont, NW the next Saturday, and try one... or three... or five. It is local, humane and so delicious!***

Anyways, so Roger was on his way to buy local milk for his creamy paletas. When we got to the store, Timor Bodega, I learned that, not only did they have local milk, but they also had ice cream
from the humane Trickling Springs Creamery.

The variety of humane ice cream was amazing: they had vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, coffee, chocolate chip cookie dough, grapenut, butter brittle, peppermint and coconut chip almond. (I left with coffee and chocolate chip cookie dough... this time. Roger left with lots of milk for his pleasant pops!)

It is no wonder why Prince of Petworth calls Timor Bodega the "greatest bodega in the city."

As temperatures soar to 100 degrees this week in DC, it is nice to know that I won't have any problems getting some humane cold treats between Pleasant Pops and Timor Bodega.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Good Veggie Eats in DC

A big reason I started this blog was to find good places to eat out... humanely.

I already have a great base of vegetarian restaurants, but I would like to find more places that serve humane dairy and eggs. And those that don't, I would like to encourage them to try -- There are a lot of farms (for example, Keswick) who sell their humane dairy to stores and restaurants who clearly have the capacity (and the need!) to sell more.

Before I begin investigating, I wanted to share a list of veggie restaurants that I have been to, or want to go to. Stay tuned to see which of these have humane dairy and eggs, and what we can do to help them serve humane:

Amsterdam Falafel - All veggie, and in my opinion, the best falafel in town!
Humane? The only dairy on the menu is their taziki. I need to see if they buy it wholesale or make their own...


Asylum - They offer a bad-ass vegan brunch. Best tofu scramble... ever.
Humane? Easy to eat humane, for sure. But for all those egg-and-cheese lovers out there, I need to check.

Duccini's Pizza - Fake cheese!!!!
Humane? I wouldn't push my luck. Getting vegan jumbo slice is already amazing.

Nirvana - All vegetarian Indian food in the heart of downtown DC.
Humane? Although Indian food typically doesn't use a lot of dairy, they do serve amazing dishes with cheese. Need to check.

Banana Leaves - Great asian-fusian restaurant. It is the only place I have ever been able to find vegetarian hot-and-sour soup! Plus, they have a great veggie-tempura roll.
Humane? By default, yes.

Luna Grill and Diner - I love this place for their great veggie chili, veggie taco salad, and more!
Humane? Definitely need to see... Stay tuned!

Cafe Green - Officially my favorite vegan restaurant in DC. Great vegan mac-and-cheese. Oh, and they allow pups outside.
Humane? You betcha!

Pizzeria Paradiso - One of the best pizza places in DC (or so everyone raves).
Humane? They do have vegan cheese, but as for their regular cheese? Nope. Not at all. But they certainly could and should be!

Straits of Malaya - Okay. Definitely my favorite restaurant in DC.
Humane? By default, yes.

Coppi's Organic - Delicious local Italian food!
Humane? I am told, yes. But I need to check to see which farms their cheese comes from.

Full Kee - Best vegetarian pan-fried noodles in DC. And eggplant in garlic sauce rocks!
Humane? No dairy there. Love the restaurant, but have to face away from the door so I don't see the dead ducks hanging in the window.

Dolcezza - I hear this place is awesome, and I can't wait to try it.
Humane? It may be the only humane ice cream shop in DC...

Pasha Bistro - A great Mediterranean restaurant. They serve a great falafel platter, delicious salads, and good veggie burgers.
Humane? Sadly, no. But I hope to be able to convince them. I know some farmers who sell great feta!

Taylors Gourmet Deli - Their fried risotto balls are delicious, but they are expensive as they ship their bread daily from Phili.
Humane? Nope... but they do charge an enormous amount for a sandwich. With these prices, I think they could afford to be humane!

Bens Chili Bowl - Hands down, the best vegetarian chili in DC.
Humane? Don't think so, but need to check. Their cheese fries are delicious, and it would be even better if it was humane!

Dupont Italian Kitchen or DIK - Great Italian restaurant in the heart of boys town. Offers late-night karaoke.
Humane? Need to check this one out!

The Greek Spot - For our friend Andrew's birthday, they ordered in from The Greek Spot, and got veggie gyros! Delicious!!!
Humane: Would like to check to see if the taziki is...

Floriana - This place has peaked my interest, as it looks like it has delicious pasta.
Humane? I called and asked where they got their cheese, and was informed all local farms. We need to dig further though, and find out which farms!

I plan on developing a running list of restaurants of where you can a humane vegetarian meal, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Paul Konerko and Hot Dogs

My lovely (and missed!) friend Courtney sent me an email a few weeks ago, with PETA's top-ten vegetarian-friendly ballparks. Courtney's email exemplifies 2 goals I have for the Humane Food Finder:
1) To start a dialogue about our food -- to get people talking about humane food, and
2) To find something that I love more in a ballpark than the Chicago White Sox!
So, without further ado, here are PETA's top-ten vegetarian-friendly ballparks:
  1. Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies) - Never been there, but they offer:
    ficken (fake-chicken) sandwich and vegan rice krispy treats, along with old faves such as veggie burgers, Southwestern black-bean burgers, veggie dogs, feak sandwiches (fake steak), ficken feaks, frab cakes (fake crab), hummus and pita chips, and fresh fruit.

    Cross our fingers for an inter-league series in the City of Animal love!

  2. AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants) - Also never been, but they offer:
    veggie dogs, Gardenburgers along with a brand-new mixed vegetable sandwich, a portobello mushroom sandwich, a vegetable roll, vegetable burritos and tamales, a broccoli tofu platter, and vegetable chow fun.

  3. Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros) - PETA says that Carlos Lee might be coming up empty at the plate (former White Sox, I might add), but fans are loading their plates with:
    veggie burritos, quinoa tabbouleh, sun-dried tomato rigatoni, veggie dogs, Thai noodle salad, hummus and vegetable wraps, vegetarian sushi, fruit smoothies, rice and beans, and organic baby-vegetable ratatouille.

  4. Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers) - While I hate the Detroit Tigers (sorry, Chaz), I may have to go to a winning White Sox game there. They serve up:
    black-bean burgers, vegetable fried rice, and a hummus plate as well as veteran favorites such as veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and vegetarian taco salads, stir-fries, and veggie sushi.

  5. Coors Field (Colorado Rockies) - Ubaldo Jimenez provides the hot sauce to put on your: veggie burgers, dogs, wraps, burritos, kabobs, and paninis as well as fresh salads and fruit, roasted portobello sandwiches, and made-to-order potato skins.

  6. Turner Field (Atlanta Braves) - The White Sox beat them last night (who's number 1 now???), but surely not because of their:
    veggie dogs, meatless tacos, burritos, baked beans, Asian noodles, and organic zucchini dip.

  7. PETCO Park (San Diego Padres) - My friend Sara work(s/ed) there---we need to catch up --so I hope she's enjoying the:
    veggie burgers and veggie dogs, vegetarian sushi rolls, roasted corn, vegetarian burritos, and hummus and vegetables.

  8. Angel Stadium (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) - Next time I go visit my Aunt Amy and Uncle Charlie, we can go enjoy some:
    veggie dogs, edamame, Gardenburgers, California cucumber rolls, veggie paninis, bean burritos, and roasted vegetable sandwiches.

  9. Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers) - While everbody around you is doing a continuous Sarah Palin impression, it is also fun to eat:
    veggie dogs, veggie wraps, baked potatoes, made-to-order pasta, build-your-own burritos, and portobello mushroom focaccia sandwiches.

  10. (tie) Target Field (Minnesota Twins) A rival of my beloved White Sox, the Twins offer:
    veggie dogs, veggie burgers, veggie burritos and tacos, and fruit kabobs.
    (tie) Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians)- Perhaps one of the MOST insulting mascots (a laughing Native American), so I'm not eager to go there. Period. But if you're at a game, they serve:
    veggie dogs, veggie subs, wild grain and tofu curry, veggie pasta, veggie wraps, fruit cups, and roasted vegetables.
Sadly, the White Sox didn't make PETA's top-ten list... this year. They came in with an honorable mention with:
v
eggie dogs, veggie burgers, made-to-order vegetarian burritos, vegetable wraps, char-roasted vegetables, and crispy chickpeas.
To see the full list, please visit: http://blog.peta.org/archives/2010/06/major_league.php.

Thanks again, Courtney, for alerting me to this, and hats off to
ARAMARK (where Courtney works) as providing food for 5 of the top 10 winners!!!

Now, take me out a humane ball game!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What if you DON'T have a farmers market near you?

My grandfather who reads my blog -- he also has a blackberry, a laptop with which he skypes and looks at the latest pictures of my niece (his great-grand daughter) on Snapfish -- asked me after reading The Chicken and the Egg Part I and II where he could get humane eggs if he doesn't go to a farmers' market.

Well, it just so happens that certain brands are certified humane. This is an amazing resource if you want to see where you can get humane animal products. They don't just rate dairy and eggs, but also meat.

The organization that certifies humane is called Humane Farm Animal Care. They are a non-profit that was
"created to improve the lives of farm animals by setting rigorous standards, conducting annual inspections, and certifying their humane treatment."
I have met farmers who have gone through or are going through the process to become certified humane. They define certified humane as food that:
*Meets the Humane Farm Animal Care program standards, which includes nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors.
In my first blog, I wrote about deciding to go humane. Certifying an animal product as humane means much more than what the USDA defines as "free-range" or "cage-free." It is a standard, that in my opinion, you could apply to how you treat your best friend: ^..^

So the BEST part about this is that you can search for products at stores that are certified humane!!! So, in response to my grandfather's question as to where he can buy certified humane eggs in Chicago (near his home), here is the answer, Papa:

The Whole Foods on 30 W. Huron St. sells Phils Cage-Free Eggs, Born Free Eggs.

Happy humane hunting, everybody!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today's Dupont Farmers Market

Dupont Circle is by far my favorite Farmers Market in Washington, DC. The wide variety of dairy, eggs, fruits and vegetables is amazing, and the market's standards for humane treatment are extremely high (I will delve into the standards of DC Farmers Markets in another post).

I found this out when I first began asking questions about humane treatment after I had read Eating Animals. The first farmer I spoke to at Keswick Creamery informed me that they:
1) do not dock their cows' tails
2) anesthetize their cows before they remove their horns
3) have their cows graze outdoors and not eat in a barn on cement

This is all critical information to know when finding out if a dairy cow is treated humanely.

So, today I bought some Quark -- very similar to cream cheese -- and Wallabee -- a smooth, light, hard cheese from Keswick.

I then headed over to Blue Ridge Dairy (run by a farmer whom I also interogated previously) and bought some Mozzarella (with which I made pizza tonight) and Honey YoLight (light honey yogurt).

There are many other dairy and egg farmers there, so stay tuned for next week!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's like clipping toe-nails

After I investigated hatcheries that did not clip beaks or claws, I emailed Randy from Star Hollow Farms. (As you may recall from The Chicken and Egg Part II, I spoke to Randy at the Adams Morgan farmers market, and he said that he could not get chicks with their beaks intact.)

This is the email I sent to Randy:

Hi Randy:

My name is Emily, and I met you last weekend at the Adams Morgan Farmers Market --- We discussed your chickens, and you told me that you got your chicks with their beaks already clipped, because you couldn't get them intact. As you may remember, I told you that I could not buy eggs from someone who got their chicks with their beaks clipped, and also could not partake in your CSA for that same reason.

As you may know, there are a lot of folks like me who want to get their eggs from farmers who raise their hens with their beaks intact. I believe that people will be more inclined to get eggs from you if you started buying chicks who were not debeaked. From our conversation, and from what I gathered from your website, this is the one element of humane treatment that is lacking in the rearing of your chickens.

I spoke to another farmer (also from Pennsylvania), who told me that he was able to get his chicks with their beaks and claws intact. I got the names of the hatcheries, and thought you might be interested in looking into that option. I have included their contact information below:
- Reich Poultry Farm, Inc.
(717-426-3411),
http://reichspoultryfarm.com/index.html
- Moyer's Chicks (215-536-3155), http://www.moyerschicks.com/MC-Web/DesktopDefault.aspx

I write a blog called (www.humanefoodfinder.blogspot.com), and wrote about my experience last weekend. I would love to let readers know that you switched to chicks who were not debeaked, and who are able to carry out natural instincts like pecking.

Please let me know if I can help in calling the hatcheries, and I look forward to hearing from you and updating my blog, and specifically coming to buy eggs from you!

Many thanks!
Emily
Randy responded a few days later after looking into the hatcheries.

First, I would like to state that Randy owns the type of farm you want to buy food from. When some crazy person with a bullhorn and a bone to pick (a-hem... me) emails him and asks about debeaking chickens, he did not dismiss me as the bullhorn, bone picker that I am. He instead looked into my concerns, and addressed them. Here are some highlights from his response:
He looked into both of the hatcheries I referred him to. He explained that Reich's Hatchery is out of the question because they only sell chicks (not debeaked), and in order for him to raise baby chicks, he would need all kinds of expensive chick-raising equipment, and that does not interest him.

Therefore, he needs to get ready-to-lay hens. He spent 15 minutes on the phone with Moyer's Chicks, and learned that they do clip the beaks (contrary to what Pecan Meadows Farms told me) and they told him that
"clipping the beaks at a very young age is about the equivalent of clipping toe-nails on us." They went on to tell Randy "if enough people requested unclipped beaks, they might try it. I added my name to a list of interested persons," he emailed me.

He also told me the producers' reasoning for clipping the beaks, primarily that hens end up hurting each other when they are trying to establish their pecking order, sometimes killing other hens. And he asked me, "
I guess one of my main thoughts is, if I got such a flock, how willing am I going to be to have birds killing each other mercilessly, as is their nature, even with complete freedom, just so I can say they have unclipped beaks. Not an obvious benefit for them, or us, if you ask me. Just so you know, I consider myself a strong proponent of animal rights, and we treat our birds very well. So why change when it will mean dead birds vs. clipped beaks?"
So, like I said, Randy is a farmer you want to buy from. He is thoughtful. He is a strong proponent of animal rights. And he is doing the best he can. (Go read his bio on his website, if you don't believe me).

But what I need to find out (and not from PETA or a hatchery) is if debeaking is really like clipping toe-nails. Some consider neutering or spaying a dog inhumane, but, as a strong proponent of animal rights, I think I treat my dog very well, and decided it was best to neuter Winston.

And if we do find out that debeaking chicks is like clipping toe-nails, then that is great. (I love clipping my toe-nails. I clip them too short, even.) But if we find out that it is not, I hope more farmers will contact their chicken suppliers, especially Moyer's Chicks, and ask them for chickens with their beaks intact.


My Dairy Daddy

I have a Dairy Daddy. A Dairy Daddy or DD is like a Sugar Daddy, except...

Sugar Daddy: A man who lavishes a woman with money,gifts,etc.

Dairy Daddy: A boyfriend who lavishes his girlfriend with inhumane cheese, eggs, icecream, etc..
(Sugar Daddy definition courtesy of Urban Dictionary)

So, Alex is my Dairy Daddy. Having a DD is essential for me in going humane. Today, my DD was uber clutch (not only at Cornhole/beanbags at this great BBQ where we were), but also when it came to the ice cream cake.

No... I did not get any delicious, chocolate, inhumane ice cream cake of my own... But Alex did. And I had a bite... or two... or four. But I did not get my own plate.

And that is what makes him my Dairy Daddy.

I will be sure to always let folks know when I ask my DD to share some of his inhumane dairy. It won't be often, but just as there are few times when a White Sox baseball player is clutch, there will be few times when my Dairy Daddy will come in handy (Chicago deep dish pizza, Dairy Queen and White Russians come to mind...) Nevertheless, I recommend that anyone who is trying to go humane get a Dairy Daddy. Priceless.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chicken and the Egg Part II

So, last Saturday I was craving an egg-and-cheese on a bagel, something that I have mastered in the kitchen, now that I no longer eat eggs out. (Sidenote: to all my friends who have been thinking about visiting me, there is no bigger enticement than a homemade egg-and-cheese on a bagel...or croissant).

Alex had mentioned the Adams Morgan Farmers' Market, one that we had never been to. When we got there, it was small and dismal compared to the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market. I was not on the hunt for produce, so I started asking if folks had eggs. One farmer said he did. So, I went into my usual questions (for those who have asked what questions I ask --- cough: mom--- here they are!):

Me: Are your hens roaming freely outside?
Farmer: Well, they are not kept in cages.
Me: That's good. But are they kept outside?
Farmer: Well, they are my neighbor's chickens. And I don't think they are outside because the foxes will get them.
Me: Okay, well... do you know if they clip their beaks?
Farmer: No, they don't.
Hmmm... That did not sound convincing to me. It looked like it was soy milk and cereal for me. I saw another vendor, one that Alex had looked into for a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), Star Hollow Farms. So, I went over and asked him the same questions:
Me: Are your hens roaming freely outside?
Farmer: Yes.. They have a quarter-acre pasture.
Me: Oh, that is great! Do you clip their beaks or claws?
Farmer: Well, we get them as chicks, and their beaks are already clipped.
Whoa. In the Chicken and the Egg Part I, I wrote that many farmers cannot escape the grasp of the factory farming industry, and this was one such farmer. He was doing the best he could, much better than most, but he didn't hatch his own chicks. From what I have read, hatching chicks is not an easy thing just to pick up, even for a farmer who has hens. It is comparable to asking a guitarist not just to learn how to play the instrument, but also how to make it.

So I told him that I valued what he did, but that humane treatment of animals was not something I could compromise on, and thanked him. He was understanding.

Well, Alex took Winston home because he seemed tired and hot, and I bustled over to the U Street Farmers' Market to get eggs from a trusted source, Pecan Meadow Farm. When I got there, I asked them how they got their chicks with their beaks on, since I had learned during prior interrogations that they did not have a hatchery. (As you may know, farmers are not subject to Miranda warnings: 7-2 decision in 1997, Thomas and Scalia dissenting because the constitution does not mention Miranda by name, but if everybody else has the right to Miranda warnings, farmers should be too.)

The farmer at U Street informed me that he called the hatchery and specifically asked that the chicks come with their beaks and claws on. He gets his chicks from Reich's Hatchery and Moyer's Chicks. He has never had a problem getting chicks with their beaks and claws on.

So, it is possible to get chicks with their beaks and claws on. Maybe Star Hollow doesn't know about Reich's Hatchery or Moyer's Chicks. (Note to female Phillies fans: there is a rumor that the first 5000 females in attendance at any Jamie Moyer start get to keep their beaks. Robert Reich fans: there is no equivalent promotion at this time.) But I will be sure to email Star Hollow and let them know that it is possible to get chicks that haven't had their beaks and claws removed and there is a demand for eggs from those hens.

If you have ever seen a photo of a little chick getting its beak clipped, I suspect you demand it too.