Free is Never Free

It has finally warmed up and i moved my laying hens out of their winter abode in the garden into their new safe haven of a fenced lot in the pasture.  I then move them about once a week, depending on forage availability during the growing season.  Now, warm weather, sunshine, lengthening daylight, and out on pasture make happy hens lay oodles of eggs.

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To keep these Welsummers safe, i must use an electrified netting or every critter in the country will kill them.  Even the hawks and eagles circle above, but chickens can be smart and they’ll spot an aerial predator immediately and take cover in their eggmobile.  
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Winter abode

When i posted these photos on Facebook, one fellow suggested, ‘ Eggs are hard to come by at some of the big city grocery stores these days… you might wanna put those up on Amazon (:’

Given the expense and logistics of shipping a very breakable commodity, it’s just not worth the cost, so i end up giving away extras to people who help me throughout the year and will never accept a payment.  Plus, nobody is going to pay what it actually costs to produce them.  Springtime provides a lot of eggs, but the supply will dwindle as the daylight hours are shortened and as hens get older.  Prime laying is only through their third year of life (max!)

Please know, however, that i don’t just give them away willy nilly (i do like to give them to people who do things for me but will never take payment) because it harms those who are trying to make a living at it. In a similar fashion, when US Aid sends tons of grain as a ‘help’ to other countries, it drives down the market price for the local farmers scratching out a living. Much the same happens here when our markets are opened to meat that is produced overseas for far less than what we can produce it here. Free stuff is never free.

Gene Editing Animals – Problem!

This discussion and wrangling continues, yet money is the deciding factor over any other considerations.  As a community, we all will continue being guinea pigs in the new ‘agriculture’ experiment.  We will be caught unawares if we don’t research the food provided to our families.

Leviticus 19:19 You shall keep my statutes; you shall not cause your livestock to breed with different kinds; you shall not sow two kinds in your field; and you shall not allow a garment mixed of mixed fabric to come upon you.

Brave New World: What You Need to Know About Gene-Edited Farm Animals

For decades, the biotech industry has spun a narrative around genetically engineered crops that could be summed up very simply as “jam tomorrow, instead of bread and butter today.”

Sustained—and financed—largely on the promise of spectacular success at some unidentified point in the future, the research and development of new types of GMO foods, made with a whole host of new genetic engineering technologies, has gathered pace in recent years.

These days, without most people being aware of it, genetic engineering is spreading from the crops in the field to the animals in the barn.

Using new genome editing (sometimes referred to as “gene editing”) techniques like CRISPR, biotech breeders are proposing to breed a brave new world of farm animals that don’t get sick, don’t feel pain and produce more meat, milk and eggs at a lower cost than ever before.

Not many NGOs are currently working on this issue and it can be hard to find good information to help make sense of it all. But two recent reports provide in-depth information on the mechanics as well as the ethical issues around gene-edited farm animals.

One, from Friends of the Earth, entitled “Genetically Engineered Animals: From Lab to Factory Farm,” is an extensively referenced report that provides key background information and highlights the urgent need for safety assessments of genome-edited animals.

The other, “Gene-edited Animals in Agriculture,” is a report from a day-long round table in June 2019, co-hosted by my organization, Beyond GM, and Compassion in World Farming in the UK. The round table involved individuals representing a wide range of perspectives. What emerged was a fascinating glimpse into not only the technology, but also the ethics and values systems that underpin that technology.

If you are new to the subject of genetically engineering farm animals for food, if it concerns you or if you just want to know more in order to be an informed consumer, these two reports provide an important starting point.

What are gene-edited animals?

Gene editing is a type of genetic engineering. It is used as an umbrella term for a suite of new technologies, of which CRISPR is the most well-known.

With gene editing, as with older genetic engineering techniques, the organism’s genetic material is changed directly and artificially, by humans using laboratory techniques. This means that gene editing, like other forms of genetic engineering, produces GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Currently, research priorities for gene-edited animals focus largely on a few high-value animals. Pigs are the priority farm animal, followed by cattle and poultry. Genome-edited fish—particularly salmon and tilapia—are also being developed.

How is gene editing being used on farm animals?

Much of the current research and development is focused on health problems in farm animals raised in intensive, industrial systems. Genome editing has been proposed as a way to protect animals from disease by altering their immune response to diseases like PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) and ASFv (African Swine Fever) in pigs and ISA (Infectious Salmon Anemia, or “salmon flu”) in farmed salmon.

Researchers are also looking at creating animals with desirable commercial attributes, such as the ability to produce more muscle mass (meat) while consuming less feed.

They are also looking for ways to adapt animals to their environments, such as cattle with “slick” coats that protect them from extreme heat.

These problems targeted by the biotech industry are real. But most of them are also man-made—a consequence of the crowded factory farm conditions in which the animals are raised, and the spread of industrial livestock operations into geographical areas (e.g. tropical climates) not well suited to this kind of farming.

Poor health in animals often arises as a result of the systems in which they are kept. Gene editing should not be used to address diseases that primarily arise from keeping animals in stressful, crowded conditions. Such diseases can, and should be tackled by improving things like housing and hygiene, and lowering stocking densities, before turning to selective breeding – of any kind.

What advantages are claimed for gene-edited farm animals?

Genome editing has been proposed as a solution for sustainably feeding a growing world population. Producing animals that grow faster and eat less, argues the biotech industry, reduces input costs for the farmer and, on a global scale, helps reduce the amount of crops diverted to livestock as feed, and may also help to reduce the impact of industrial meat production on global warming.

Gene-editing could be used to control reproduction, for instance to produce more female dairy cows (thus more milk) or more female chickens (more eggs). “Gender skewing” in this way, say biotechnologists, has the added bonus of lowering the number of male cows and chickens culled shortly after birth.

There are also claims that genome editing could be used to “edit out” animals’ ability to feel pain and stress. This, it is argued, would reduce the animals’ suffering in factory farm conditions. Opponents argue, however that this is unethical, reduces the animals to little more than a machine and furthers the interests of those who support factory farming.

Another major argument for gene editing is that it can speed up the breeding process—producing in 2 years an animal that might take 10-15 years via traditional breeding.

This notion of speed, however, may be misleading. Although genome editing is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, no gene-edited animals have yet made it into farms or the food chain.

Most of the “innovations” you read about in the media are based on studies performed to show what might be theoretically, technically possible. These PR stories are often released by research institutions as a way of attracting the interest of funders that might be interested in financing further work.

But if gene editing can help relieve animals’ suffering, isn’t that a good thing?

Most researchers involved in this work (as opposed to the large biotech companies that eventually market the finished product) are concerned for animal welfare and believe that what they are doing will help animals.

It is worth remembering that those involved in conventional selective breeding believe that they, too, are doing “good.”

However, decades of evidence show that selective breeding for specific traits can have a negative impact on animal health, including skeletal and metabolic diseases, lameness, reproductive issues and mastitis.

The fact is, the more we breed animals to be little more than “production units” in industrial farms, the less likely it is to benefit the animal—whatever the method.

How successful have attempts at gene editing been so far?

Results in animals thus far are not as predictable or reliable as researchers had hoped.

For example, a recent Wall Street Journal investigation reported unintended effects including enlarged tongues and extra vertebrae.

Brazil’s plans to breed hornless dairy cattle, gene-edited with TALENs were recently abandoned when a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that one of the experimental animals contained a sequence of bacterial DNA that included a gene-conferring antibiotic resistance. In theory, this antibiotic-resistance gene could be taken up by any of the billions of bacteria present in a cow’s gut or body—and from there be spread beyond the farm.

Other recent research has shown that edited mouse genomes can acquire bovine or goat DNA. This was traced to the standard culture medium for mouse cells, which contains DNA from whichever animal species it may have been extracted from. This mix-and-match DNA is potentially a problem for other genome-edited animals, too. And it raises some urgent questions about authenticity and traceability.

Studies like these, which are appearing with ever-greater frequency, suggest that the science of genome editing in animals is a long way from providing watertight solutions to the problems associated with factory-farmed animals.

Are there any gene-edited animals on the market now?

Although it is promoted as a fast technology with limitless possibilities, genome-edited animals have yet to appear on farms or in the food chain.

The only genetically engineered animals currently on the market is the GMO salmon on sale in Canada and the U.S. This was produced using older style genetic engineering.

Can we achieve the same improvements in farm animals with traditional breeding?

Conventional breeding can also produce robust animals that are suited to their geographical locations. Both farmers and consumers are showing increasing interest in these kinds of “heritage breeds.” And supporting them also helps to protect the diversity of the animal gene pool.

Conventional breeding also has the advantage of not requiring complex regulation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently trying to “simplify” things by proposing that it, rather than the FDA, should have oversight on genome-edited animals and that these animals should be exempt from regulation.

Given the scientific uncertainty around genetically engineered animals, this kind of blinkered rubber-stamping should alarm consumers.

Surely, gene editing is just another tool in the toolbox. Is it right to discount it entirely if one day it might be a useful tool?

Most people agree that our food system is no longer functioning optimally, that it needs to change and is, in fact, changing. Genetic engineers believe that they have something that can help agriculture change. They often refer to gene editing as a “tool in the toolbox.”

This suggests that rather than being a universal panacea, genome editing may be a technology with useful but limited applications and several caveats—i.e. you don’t use a wrench when you need a hammer.

Arguably, more important than the “tool” is the “toolbox” itself, which is what we use to frame our questions, the points of reference we use and how we organize our thoughts.

All over the world, the “toolbox” is the intensive, industrial farming model—these days referred to as “sustainable intensification.” This model drives much of the thinking and decision-making around agriculture and agricultural policy.

In a world where agroecology and regenerative farming are the dominant systems, decisions around genome editing, about when—or indeed if—it is needed might look very different.

There is now a large body of opinion suggesting that, whichever yardstick is used—welfare, sustainability, environment, nutrition—the industrial farming system is damaging and outdated.

If we envisage the future of farming where the industrial model will continue to dominate, then genome editing may take on a more prominent role.

However, if we envisage a future for farming as largely agroecological, and invest in and work conscientiously towards that kind of system change, then it is possible that gene editing won’t have a role to play.

In that future, instead of creating genetically engineered animals to fit into factory farms, we will develop sustainable and ecological animal agriculture systems that support animal welfare, preserve and restore biodiversity and protect public health.

Pat Thomas is a journalist, author and campaigner specializing in food, environment and health. See more on her website. To keep up with Organic Consumers Association (OCA) news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.

Pre-order Ronnie's New Book, Coming February 11

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Pig Science

Shabbat Shalom!

Check out this short, but informative video on eating pork.

test everything, hold onto what is good – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Before science we had a Creator who told us what to eat and what not to. Today science is backing up His wisdom, such as when it comes to eating swine. This is a bit of pig science.

Source: Pig Science

https://www.119ministries.com/teachings/video-teachings/detail/pig-science/

Unclean pig image

 

Meatloaf Redux

When i went back to follow the recipe for the meatloaf recipe i had posted from Wall Street Journal, i realised it was totally messed up!  Oh, if you have cooked before you could figure it out, but, honestly, it is ridiculous.  So i did update it, but today, i’ve basically rewritten the recipe to make it easier and use ingredients I’m more likely to have on hand.  I’m just puttin’ it out there – this is the best meatloaf i’ve ever made!

Whisky Meatloaf 

Tannachton Farm

Preheat over to 400°F.

  • 1 cup chopped onion or 3 tablespoons flaked dried onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic or 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic

Over low to medium heat in a skillet melt butter and soften the onion and garlic, then lower heat and add:

  • 1 cup fresh spinach snipped into small pieces or (1/4 cup chopped cauliflower leaves, celery, etc)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms or small can of mushrooms

Sauté until just softened.

In a separate bowl mix together

  • 1 lb grass finished ground beef
  • 1/2 cup finely ground bread crumbs (use leftovers from a failed baking experiment)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brandy (brandy and whisky work fine)

Add the vegetables to beef mixture, then mix very well.  Form into a log 2 1/2 inch diameter.  Place in the center of a preheated oven for 6 minutes.

While this is cooking, prepare the glaze.

Whisk together in a small bowl:

After meatloaf has baked about 6 minutes, remove it from the oven and brush glaze over top.

Return pan to oven and bake until meat is just cooked through, about 25 more minutes.   Remove  from over and let cool slightly.

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Meatloaf
Brush the glaze over the top and sides

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Five Minute Nacho Cheese Sauce

5 MINUTE NACHO CHEESE SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 2 ⅔ cup whole milk
  • 16 oz medium cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon chili powder (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add the butter and flour to a small sauce pot.  Heat and whisk the butter and flour together until they become bubbly and foamy.  Continue to cook and whisk the bubbly mixture for about 60 seconds.

Whisk the milk into the flour and butter mixture.  Turn the heat up slightly and allow the milk to come to a simmer whilst whisking.  When it reaches a simmer, the mixture will thicken.  Once it’s thick enough to coat a spoon, turn off the heat.

Stir in the shredded cheddar, one handful at a time, until melted into the sauce.  If needed, lace the pan over a low flame to help the cheese melt.  Do not overheat the cheese sauce.

Once all the cheese is melted into the sauce, stir in the salt and chili powder.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.  If the sauce becomes too thick, simply whisk in an additional splash of milk.

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Enjoy this nacho cheese plain…..
nachos
or add a bit of red pepper, garlic, or whatever your fancy!

Happy New Year!

A new year begins at the first new moon after the vernal equinox.  This year (2020), that date is March 25th.  Interestingly, the Julian calendar always started the year on March 25th, which, to me, indicates the very important influence of the Bible and Hebraic understanding of time to this calendar, though that static date eventually led to some misalignments with the sun, moon, and stars, .  Though there are a very few regions which still hold to the Julian calendar, by and large, the rest of the world had begun using the 1582 Gregorian decreed calendar and by 1752, it was adopted by decree by the British and her colonies, including America, though the Quakers held to the Julian for some time.  Two major shifts were to change the head of the year from March 25th to January 1 and by 1752, eliminate 10 days; those selected were September 3-13.

For further study:

The Julian Calendar and why we need to know about it

Holy-Days-for-2020.001

Calendar Confusion by Steve Moutria

The Calendar – Updated and Expanded

 

“THE 1752 CALENDAR CHANGE in North America,” by William Dollarhide

The Calendar in 1752 looks very strange!

 

Tradition vs Innovation Paradox

Another great blog from Ranch Management Consultants (Ranching for Profit).  If what you are doing regularly is only a tradition – start questioning why you continue and if the practice is still effective for today’s economy, whether for your home or business.

sunset cowboyAgriculture is steeped in tradition. These traditions serve as a source of pride and continuity which help make us who we are in agriculture. However, these same traditions create a paradox of sorts when it comes to managing the business of ranching. Balancing respect for traditions and fostering innovation can be tricky to navigate. Another complicating factor in ranching is that business leadership is often slower to transition than most. Generally this is because the decision making is in the hands of a generation that would have retired 10-20 years ago in any other industry. This generation is often making decisions from a place of risk minimization … rightly so from their perspective. However, when Junior is wanting to expand the business to support a growing family this can pit two very different business strategies against each other which often creates conflict on the family ranch.

I think there are some traditions on a ranch that need to be challenged to position the ranch to be successful in the coming decades. Each operation will need to find its own balance between tradition and innovation. Having clear goals will help determine the appropriate balance of risk management and growth strategy for the business.

Below is a short list of common ranch traditions that I suggest you look at and examine why you are doing what you are doing, then put some numbers to what it might look like if you did things differently. I’m certainly not suggesting everyone must change these traditions but have a discussion with your team about the pros and cons of staying the same or changing.

  • Grazing management
    I see far too many ranches where tradition determines the grazing plan rather than good planning. Effective grazing management is one of the most powerful economic levers you can pull. Does each pasture get adequate rest for plant recovery after every grazing? Are your animals in a pasture long enough to allow a second bite? I have never visited a ranch that couldn’t improve their grazing which would allow the ranch to increase carrying capacity, often as much as doubling historic stocking rates, while still improving the condition of the land. Often the driving force for not improving grazing practices involve hanging on to old traditions. Many equate better grazing with more fences or more work. Neither of these must be true.
  • Needing lots of stuff to ranch
    Here is an interesting thought experiment. Make a list of every piece of equipment on the ranch and what it would be worth if sold today. Total up the dollars and now pretend you have that money as cash in your hand and you have no equipment. Paint a picture in your mind of the type of business you want to build. Now, ask the question, “How would we best deploy the capital we now have to create the business we want?” Would you spend it all or save some for a cushion? When times are good on the ranch, we often fall into the trap of upgrading tools that make our lives easier. It is very difficult to go backwards in creature comforts once we step forward. However, from the numbers I’ve seen it is the rare piece of equipment that creates more cash flow than it costs in depreciation and repairs. Tradition might lead us to believe that we need all this stuff to ranch, but economics might be telling us that all this stuff is part of what makes ranching so financially difficult.
  • We should be running cows
    But we have always run cows! What is the purpose of your ranch? Is it to create opportunities for owners to do the things they enjoy or is it to create cash flow and profit to support the owners and provide opportunities for others? Might these two things be in contrast? I’m not saying you can’t run cows and be profitable, but often I observe ranchers who see no other alternative to the current enterprise structure on the ranch. I also don’t believe it is a problem if ownership sees the ranch as a place to allow them to do the things they enjoy – such as running cows. I do see a conflict when the ranch isn’t creating the outcomes required and people are unwilling to look beyond traditional enterprises. Might it be that the ranch could be an even more enjoyable place if it were highly profitable?

Following that line of thought, what other traditions should be challenged on your ranch? Which traditions must be held on to? There are some traditions that are core to who we are, let’s be sure we don’t jeopardize those in pursuit of profit. Balancing the paradox of tradition and innovation is part of what makes this business so interesting.

Faith, Family, Farm

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