A Week in the Life of a Sustainable Chicken Farmer

The Huffington Post has a really neat series called Food Informants, a week-in-the-life series that profiles people in the food world. This week features Terry and Jane Levan, who own and operate a 20 acre pastured poultry farm outside Lexington, Texas. This warmed my heart:

6:30am: The post office calls to let me know that we’ve received another shipment of baby chicks. Earl [an employee] will pick them up on his way to work.

8:30am: Earl is checking in chicks when I arrive. He dips their beaks in the waterers because they are thirsty after being shipped but don’t know how to drink yet. Once they discover water, the chicks tend to play in it the first day.

My mom

This kind of tenderness toward the animals that feed us is something that has been slowly disappearing over the last 50 or 60 years, and that bothers me very personally. Part of my extended family used to run dairy farms in Clark County, Wisconsin. But as factory farms took over, and it became more common for kids to go to college instead of working the farm, it became harder for the family farms to get by. They held on until the late 90′s but ultimately, they decided to retire. Now the land is being sold off in pieces, or rented to cattle auctioneers.

When family farms started to fail and factory farms and industrial farming practices began taking over, that seems to be the point when the average American diet began to fail us. In the time period when we became less invested in where our food came from, the occurrence of diet-related disorders like heart disease and type 2 diabetes went through the roof. And, evidence suggests that as a result of the antibiotics regimen in factory farms, bacterial infections in humans are becoming resistant to treatment:

The biggest controversy centers around taking antibiotics that are used to treat human illnesses and administering them to food animals. There is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting that the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals can pose a health risk to humans. If a group of animals is treated with a certain antibiotic over time, the bacteria living in those animals will become resistant to that drug. According to microbiologist Dr. Glenn Morris, the problem for humans is that if a person ingests the resistant bacteria via improperly cooked meat and becomes ill, he or she may not respond to antibiotic treatment.

It’s a relief that people like the Levans are seeing this worrying trend and doing something about it. The fact that the Levans have a business at all tells me that there are still people out there that care what happens to their food before it gets to their plate. That’s going to be hugely important in reversing the scary health trends we’re seeing in this country.

Eat Well. Be Well.

Carolyn Murphy

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