My flock of Shetland Sheep has been providing me with many gifts since we bought them two years ago. They not only gift me with a variety of colored wool, they also give wonderful milk for homemade cheese as well as very lean, flavorful and tender lamb in the winter. Each spring, our lovely ladies surprise us with many sets of twins and once in a while – triplets!
As a conscientious omnivore, I value the life of all creatures around me but recognize that sometimes their gifts to my life come at the expense of theirs. Having chickens and sheep for consumption has really made me call into question my decision to eat meat. Living in America, I have access to every nutrient my body could need so why eat meat? My answer was simple – it is REAL food.
When my husband and I purchased our 9 acre farm in 1999, I went to work finding ways to produce enough food, most of the year, to feed my family. Our animals are raised with as much fresh air and sunshine as they want. We provide shelter, water and unlimited amounts of pasture. I supplement rarely with feed that has been mixed for me by the Oregon Feed Mill. This feed contains NO animal by-products and is primarily a soy/corn mix.
This brings me to my life lesson of farm life. I like meat. I love animals. I dislike killing. How do I satisfy this dilemma? By choosing to eat meat only from my farm as much as possible, I know that the animal who gave its life for me enjoyed its time on the planet free of fear and full of love. I thank each animal for the gift of quality nutrition for not only my family but also every person who buys from me. I do agree that in consuming meat, I am leaving a larger footprint on the planet than just sticking to plants but given my animals are eating out of my pasture, eating my hay, enjoying some supplementary grain produced in the surrounding fields I feel that footprint is much reduced.
All of this cements the lesson of the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it made it to your plate. Being a contentious omnivore is tough but well worth the effort. Check out a local farmer in your area and ask if they will be in the 2011 Evansville Farmer’s Market.