I am not the traditional environmentalist by any means. I am in no way crunchy (well except for those years in highschool when I wore bell bottoms every day - and no this was not the 60's) and I am a big believer in making change from within instead of fighting it from the outside. I have worked for a chemical company (oh the horror) and loved the change I was able to make while there. Do I have a line? Yes ofcourse I do. I remember clearly when Joey came home last year and said he had a job offer from a local company. I asked what they did and he looked nervous to tell me. One of their sectors was veal. I lost.my.shit. This was over my line. I didn't want any money from a company in this industry even though he wouldn't be working with that sector at all. To me it didn't matter.
Several months ago they invited me to come to their veal farm to look at their practices. I know they were trying to win me over. Heck if you can win someone like me over then you have a fighting chance at increasing your market share with those not as focused on the environment as I am. Before I went I posted online and asked why people are against the veal industry. The results were not surprising. People felt the same as I did and we all pictured baby cows chained inside of small isolating pens where they are unable to walk or be outside. I went into this meeting open minded but also thinking I knew what I would see.
I was surprised. This wasn't anything like I had pictured or even imagined.
When we first arrived at the farm I saw the calves who had just arrived. My first thought? My son. I don't know why my mind went to him but it instantly did. Perhaps because when he was born I only had a brief amount of time with him before he was taken away and I didn't get to see him for several hours. I imagined the mother cows thinking similar thoughts. So why take the calves away from their moms right away? In Europe they remain with their moms for several weeks. I really don't know what is the better situation. To have that bond for weeks and then lose it or to not get that time together at all??? See this is why companies like this have a hard time winning me over. I frickin compare my thoughts as a human mom to a cows thoughts. (it's okay to laugh at me).
We continued on our tour to the large rooms where the cows are kept according to age. Several ran up to me to lick my hand. Yes they ran up to me. Obviously because I am delicious. They were not chained or confined in any way, infact the stalls were spacious. They eat ate a state of the art feeding system that regulates how much milk replacer they are eating and can adjust their food by reading their ear tag.
At this farm the cows do not go outside but the company is piloting a program at another farm where the cows do have access to the outdoors. While indoors they are not kept in the dark. They have access to 16 hours of daylight through windows and ceiling lights. The cows weren't being pumped full of antibiotics either. At this farm they approach it the same way most of us do with our kids. You treat them when they are sick.
These animals were treated humanly. I was impressed by that considering I have heard nothing but horrible things about the industry. I also don't think it was all show just because I was there.
Okay now the cool stuff...the stuff that gets my heart racing like I am 16 and going on my first date. They are turning the cows poop into energy. There is a huge biodigestor that will allow them to put electricty back into the grid to power 500+ houses and to sell pathogen free land nutrient to golf courses and local farms.
With movies like Food Inc. being the trend right now people more than ever are wanting to know where their food is coming from. I am no exception. Veal isn't for everyone, including me. Will I ever eat it? Probably not. I know this is not what they want to hear from me but anyone who knows me won't be surprised. Afterall I went vegetarian for several years after realizing my university residence put chopped up spare beef parts (I have no idea what it was) into the pasta sauce. However, if someone asked me about the industry and this farm in particular I would recommend it. If you are going to eat any type of food why not go for the best? Pick the option that is the most humane and that has the least impact on the environment. Know where your food is coming from and what has gone into producing it.
And now the fine print - I am writing this because visiting the farm had an impact on me. It changed the way I think about the veal industry and farming in general. There are good farms and ofcourse bad farms in every industry. You just have to do your research on where your food is coming from. The fact that Joe works for a company owned by this farms parent company has nothing to do with why I am writing this. Isn't it ridiculous that I have to even say this?
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