Nearly all the meat I eat at home comes from Skagit River Ranch, so I went to their Meet Your Meat event today at their farm out in Sedro Woolley, about 2 hours north of Seattle on the Skagit River. Driving down their dirt driveway, I had to be carefull not to run over any of their beautiful free-running chickens and I parked next to some young heritage turkeys. Farmer George gave a tour explaining their intense commitment to sustainability and health (his definition of sustainability is that when he writes a check, there's money in the bank to cover it). They do liver biopsies on their chickens frequently to determine what nutrients they are lacking because our environment alone does not provide everything to make a healthy robust chicken. He usually has to end up supplementing minerals such as iodine, selenium, and copper; all of which are important for an immune system. They get these supplements into their chickens by adding it to the soil that grows their feed grain (usually wheat) - the grains need these minerals to grow strong, then when they are fed to the chickens they get the minerals, and when we eat their eggs or chicken meat the beneficial minerals are passed along to us. This is the methodology used for all their animals (cattle, goats, pigs, mules, horses) and even in their own family garden. Healthy dynamic soil produces nutrient rich vegetables that greatly benefit the animals that eat them and ultimately eliminate, or at least drastically reduce the need for medicine. George said they use absolutely no pharmaceuticals or chemicals on any of their animals or vegetables. And I must say, their animals and their family are absolutely gorgeous and vibrant.
A quick panel discussion between George, Maria Hines of Tilth, Craig Hetherington of TASTE, and author Greg Atkinson addressed some of the issues of sustainability in our industry and the world. In a world where food is empty calories and chemicals, we are warriors in a revolution to create a world of nutrient rich food that is created through sustainable practices that can be maintained indefinately. Our bodies are our greatest asset and we are what we eat. But we've heard this all before, so what's it gonna take to bring down the seven corporations that control 75% of food in this country? Studies in Europe and China showed that rats are not viable after 5 generations of eating genetically modified foods (why Europe has banned US GMO's). George's theory on the bee crisis is that we've been feeding our nations bees genetically modied pollen for decades and it's no wonder they've finally started dying off - may be a forshadowing of the future for the human race. The slow food movement is slowly growing, and as George put it, "any crowd that gets large enough, a politican will jump in front and say 'Follow Me!'"
George also gave us a tour of his new Biodiesel operation that he uses to fuel the tractors and what not on the farm. I love these people.
At the Skagit River Ranch store, I picked up some Camelina oil and seeds to play with. They're from Lentz Spelt Farms in Marlin, WA. Camelina is an ancient grain that was first cultivated by the Celtics and its still used throughout Europe. The Camelina oil is very flavorful, rich in Vitamin E, and probably contains the highest concentration of Omega-3's out of any other food (cold pressed Camelina oil tests at 30.5% Omega-3). So why have I never heard of it before? -it can't be hydrogenated, so mainstream oil producers have little incentive to grow it. Yet another example of how our current food infrastructure does not produce the food we need to be healthy.
George fondling some fine compost made largely from the unusable parts of their cattle (there's some live cows grazing near the trees in the background). You wouldn't believe how good that dirt smelled.