We are greatly concerned about the negative impact of single trait breeding on the health and vitality of our meat and dairy livestock.
The rise of industrial agriculture has created a drastic and frightening reduction of breed variety. Within the past 5 years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct. In the United States, a few main breeds have come to dominate the livestock industry:
- 83% of dairy cows are Holsteins and just 5 main breeds comprise almost all the dairy herds in the US
- 60% of beef cattle are of the Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds
- 75% of pigs in the US come from only 3 main breeds
- Almost 96% of the commercial vegetable varieties available in 1903 are now extinct
Equally scary, with the widespread use of Artificial Insemination, just a few males sire a great percentage of their breed even further reducing the genetic variety within each of the remaining breeds.
Industrial Agriculture has directed its focus to developing animals designed to satisfy a single market demand (for example, extremely large breasted chickens and turkeys that reach harvest weight in half the time of heritage breeds). The preference has become animals that grow large very quickly, tolerate confinement conditions and are uniform.
The result is modern livestock varieties that are no longer capable of reproducing on their own, grow too large for their legs and hearts to support them, suffer due to size related deformities and handicaps and have lost their natural survival and parenting skills.
The food requirement of such animals makes it nearly impossible for them to survive without help from people bringing them high calorie grains and supplements. Their quality of life is greatly reduced and if they were not intended for slaughter anyway, would be unlikely to live to maturity.
The old-fashioned “heritage breeds” once so common on small farms are scrappy, disease resistant, fertile and rarely need help calving. They are strong, independent and capable of fending for themselves. These heritage breeds are particularly well-adapted to their locality, and are able to withstand disease and harsh conditions.
Their hardiness and low maintenance requirements make them perfect for grass-fed dairy and meat production. They easily fatten on a grass diet all the while giving plenty of high quality milk and finely textured, nicely marbled meat.
We love their simplicity, their intelligence and their beauty. It’s such a joy to watch them grazing their pastures and we get a kick out of their peppy fun-loving personalities.
Preserving heritage breed animals isn’t just a precious hobby – these valuable genetics must be preserved to ensure that our food supply is equipped to adapt to whatever changes the future may hold.
What you can do: There are still small, local farms that specialize in producing heirloom and heritage foods. Check out www.localharvest.org and www.eatwild.com to help you find farms, markets and restaurants near you selling meat, eggs and dairy products from heritage breed animals. You’ll be well rewarded with the colors, flavors, nutrient density, textures and tastes that cannot be found in factory-farmed products. You can also be assured that you are supporting farming practices that are healing to the land and kinder to the animals.
We are committed to helping these valuable breeds survive…. we hope you see why it’s so important!