A modern heritage foodstead
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:
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 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.
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!