Giving up vegetarianism - Mothering Forums

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Old 11-23-2012, 12:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years and have recently had a lot of doubts.  I am wondering if other have had similar doubts and how they handled them. 

 

I have been a vegetarian for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest ones was out of concern for animals and the environment.  I am starting to wonder though it is better for the environment in a northern climate to eat local animals - perhaps even our own.  We have chickens for eggs but not meat.  I guess my concern is that in winter I am reliant on veggies/grains that travel long distances (ie from California).  They are organic yet I realize that here are huge environmental cost to transportation (in terms of animal lives lost to produce petroleum and transportation infrastructure).  If I eat local animals, I could ensure their wellbeing, whereas I have no idea about the true costs of long distance transportation in terms of cruelty and suffering.  Perhaps it would be ideal if I got enough local produce in the summer to can for the entire winter and then we would not be dependent on distant food.

 

How have others handled doubts about eating local organic meat resulting in fewer animal deaths/suffering than eating of distant produce/grains? 

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Old 11-23-2012, 12:36 PM
 
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I was a vegetarian for 20 years before I started eating meat again. I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. It really made me think about my diet in a new way. I would recommend it if you have not read it. She basically says that eating vegetarian does not eliminate cruelty to animals. Animals are harmed by agriculture that grows plants we eat too. She decided she would rather eat meat that she knew had come from a good place than not to eat it at all. That's a very loose summary. I decided I would eat meat that came from good farms. I'm lucky to live in California where we have lots of sustainable ranches for meat and poultry. I will eat vegetarian in certain restaurants or when I travel. I haven't regretted my choice.



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Old 11-23-2012, 02:19 PM
 
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Ask yourself, what are those animals eating in the winter? In Ottowa, I'd guess that it's livestock feed shipped in from warmer climates. And it takes a lot more of it to feed to an animal to make meat than it does to feed you.

 

Are you thinking that you would no longer eat vegetables, fruit, and grains if you weren't vegetarian? I'd guess that you would, and not in that much lower a quantity. You'd probably eat fewer legumes, but really, dry legumes are the LOWEST environmental impact food to ship - they can move in boats and trains, no need to keep them cold or prevent freezing, and there is no reason that you couldn't buy them in mass quantities in the summer and store them if you can find a local source.

 

Local beans are hard to get in California, not because they don't grow well, some variety of beans will grow almost anywhere that you can grow food at all, but because the land values are so high that you can't make a profit growing something that cheap. That's probably the case near you, as well. Local farms near urban areas grow more profitable foods that don't ship as well.

 

I don't buy out of season foods. I eat a lot of sweet potatoes, greens and winter squash in the winter, apples and citrus for fruit.

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Old 11-23-2012, 02:42 PM
 
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Hey, Splashingpuddle…you and I are neighbours….I am in Eastern Ontario as well.

 

To answer the OP:  I think it depends on what you prioritise: environment or animal rights.  I am going to ignore health - because I think both vegetarian and meat-in-moderation can be healthy diets.

 

I prioritise animal rights - so we do not eat meat (well, 3/5 of us).  If I prioritised environment, I would look hard at whether eating meat would be a more environmental choice.  I suspect I would decide "no."

 

I agree with catnip that the higher up on the food chain you go, the less environmental food is in general.

 

Transport is not the only environmental issue in meat eating.

 

Here is an article on environmental reasons to be veg:

http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/the-environmental-impact-of-a-meat-based-diet/


There is a battle of two wolves inside us.  One is good and the other is evil.  The wolf that wins is the one you feed.

 

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Old 11-23-2012, 04:43 PM
 
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I have moved this thread. Discussions about the merits of eating meat should be hosted in the general Nutrition and Good Eating forum.


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Old 11-23-2012, 06:11 PM
 
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There are many reasons why the number of vegans has doubled in the US in less than 3 years. Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org/.
 

Do you want to make history
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6ehL18rqlM?

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Old 11-23-2012, 06:28 PM
 
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Jim, the OP has chickens for eggs and is considering a shift from a vegetarian diet so posting about eating a vegan diet is off topic in this thread. You are new member but we generally ask members to post to the original topic. Not that things don't evolve but evolving topics should happen a bit more organically. I hope that makes sense. Welcome to MDC! 


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Old 11-23-2012, 06:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am actually really not interested in debating the merits of eating meat, although my post might have been a bit confusing around this.  I am interested in how other vegetarians deal with doubts that arise. I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years so I am aware of the reasons for vegetarianism, but I find that I am hitting a plato.  There are so many new books out these days that talk about responsible animal consumption (like the Kingsolver book mentioned by pokey).  And I've known long-time vegetarians who have been influenced into eating meat as a result. I guess I am wondering how others deal with doubts but continue with a vegetarians diet. Do others have doubts? and if so what has helped?

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Old 11-23-2012, 07:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SplashingPuddle View Post
 I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years so I am aware of the reasons for vegetarianism, but I find that I am hitting a plato.  There are so many new books out these days that talk about responsible animal consumption (like the Kingsolver book mentioned by pokey).  And I've known long-time vegetarians who have been influenced into eating meat as a result.
Honestly?  I avoid such books and stay off the traditional food boards.  The reasons for vegetarianism are so varied - i think if you went into it primary for health reason, then re-assessing it from a health perspective makes sense.  Is vegetarian best? Vegan?  Minimalist?  TF? SAD?  (joke).  As I am pretty convinced I can eat healthily on a vegetarian diet, I do not bother looking at other food ways.  
 
Maybe getting in touch with why you are vegetarian and taking it from there will help?
 
I guess I am wondering how others deal with doubts but continue with a vegetarians diet. Do others have doubts? and if so what has helped?
 
Well, I don't have doubt about eating vegetarianism,. but I do, once in a very blue moon, have a bite of meat.  I cave into my taste buds (usually bacon crumbles or a small bite of something I know has meat in it).  I forgive myself - in the end reducing cruelty to animal is my goal, so if I can reduce meat (to the point of almost vegetarian) I am pretty happy with myself.  I do appreciate the environmental benefits as well.   I also find meat makes me feel a little icky if consumed in anything more than a nibble.  Do you think your body wants meat - are you craving it?  

There is a battle of two wolves inside us.  One is good and the other is evil.  The wolf that wins is the one you feed.

 

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Old 11-23-2012, 07:30 PM
 
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I read this for a class last semester and it's sort of in line with this discussion:

http://www.amazon.com/Just-Food-Where-Locavores-Responsibly/dp/0316033758

 

It basically turns the idea that eating locally is sustainable on its head. I don't completely agree with all of the arguments of the book, as I buy local vegetables in part to help the local economy. But it was an interesting read and made me think!

 

I think OPs have covered this-- but the idea that it's better to eat local animals instead of far-away grains/legumes has merit, but I don't quite buy it for the reasons they outlined! I've noticed in general that it's popular to eat meat again. I feel like all of my formerly vegetarian/vegan friends are now eating meat. Most are eating local/humanely raised meat which is good. I'm one of those vegetarians who thinks that maybe some people need meat (or other animal proteins) so I have no judgement for making the switch. But if you've been happily veggie for 10+ yrs it doesn't seem like there's any evidence that an animal diet is better for the environment.


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Old 11-23-2012, 08:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree with the previous poster that lots of my formerly vegetarian friends are now eating meat for ethical reasons.  These are people I respect, so its a different situation then the usual people who object to vegetarianism. I had a vegetarian pregnancy/breastfeeding and it was great. I learned tons to reply to non-vegetarians who opposed vegetarian pregnancy.  I agree with the above poster that eating meat seems to be popular (even among the previously vegetarian crowd).  I think my doubts arise because it is people that I have respected that are changing their minds and not thoughtlessly but seemingly after a fair bit of reading and thought. Although I could stay away from reading similar materials that they are, I want to have considered the counter-arguments rather than avoid them. I ask myself if I could conclude that eating my own animals is the most sustainable/ best for the environment, but then decide to remain a vegetarian? 

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Old 11-23-2012, 08:36 PM
 
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OP, I think you're dealing with a very important question, one that I've been giving a lot of thought to.  Like pokeyAC, I read Animal, Vegetable Miraclel by Kingsolver, but I was very disappointed with the book.  As well as being outright anti-vegetarian  (at one point, Kingsolver portrays vegans as Hollywood starlet types tottering around in cow pastures in high heels, hugging cattle), her arguments for meat eating over vegetarianism were weak in my opinion.  She didn't fully deal with the impact of water use or winter feed on meat production, and it seemed like any ethical concerns she may have had about using animals for food were brushed away as being embarassingly overemotional.  She was proud of being able to kill. 

 

I think some important points to keep in mind when considering the environmental and ethical effects of a vegetarian over an omnivorous diet are as follows:

 

1.  Like catnip says, to feed animals over the winter, you must store food for them, either locally grown food from the summer months, or imported food.  It uses a great deal of energy to harvest food (and pump water) for livestock and then possibly import it from a distant location.  It would be better to use this energy to harvest food, like dried legumes and grains, for humans to eat. 

 

Some ranchers (probably not in Ottowa), allow cows to graze on grass year round.  This is a better use of energy, but most climates wouldn't permit this.  Also, in order to grow enough cows to feed our beef-hungry population, we would need a huge amount of temperate grassland to do this.  Much of this type of land has already been degraded by overgrazing.  Additionally, much of the land that cattle graze on is public land leased by ranchers.  Allowing cattle to graze on public lands which were wilderness at one point (like the BLM lands and National Forest) degrades the ecosystem and introduces competitors to the wild animals who already are struggling to find enough food.  In Washington state an entire pack of wolves was gunned down in 2012 to make room for cattle grazing on public land.  This is an outrage to me.     

 

2.  Cows produce a large amount of methane when they pass gas.  Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

 

3.  Ethical concerns about eating meat are often considered silly.  Maybe they would be silly if we lived in a society in which food was scarce and feeding our families meat from animals grazed on marginal land was our only means to survival.  But we have the ability to choose healthy food which doesn't contribute to mass slaughter of beings who are very similar to ourselves. 

 

Our society has come to regard animals as machines - we see them as bodies which are governed solely by instinct, bodies which we are free to use for our own purposes.  In medieval times, and even at the beginning of the last century people understood animals as having moral agency.  Animals were punished for wrongdoing, just as humans are now.  Animals could commit crimes like murder and destruction of property.  We no longer see animals as moral or thinking agents.  Somehow, our mechanized society has reduced animals to pieces of the machine that feeds us, not as our biological relatives.  

 

Non-human animals are not human in their logical capacities, but surely they feel fear, pain and sadness at being separated from their families.  It must be terrifying to be marched into a slaughterhouse or unbearably sad to have your children taken away from you and sold.  It is not silly to stand up for the rights of animals.  I believe it should be our responsibility. 

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

What if you grew a big garden over the summer and then stored and preserved food for the winter?  Are there any orchards nearby your house?  In cold climates, it's pretty energetically efficient to keep a big freezer in a garage or on a porch stocked with veggie and fruit for the winter.......  

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Old 11-23-2012, 09:24 PM
 
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I think if you raised/ate your own animals, then you might be able to make an argument for sustainability. I guess I was more thinking you were looking to purchase local meat. But if you keep a cow for dairy, you keep chickens for eggs (which you already do) and also periodically slaughter then, and maybe keep a few pigs or sheep for meat, you would be living a low footprint lifestyle. But wouldn't you still eat grains in some capacity that are shipped in?


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Old 11-23-2012, 10:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SplashingPuddle View Post
 I ask myself if I could conclude that eating my own animals is the most sustainable/ best for the environment, but then decide to remain a vegetarian? 

Another link on environment and meat consumption:

 

http://michaelbluejay.com/veg/environment.html

 

Do you live in Ottawa proper?  I think the only animals you will be able to keep and butcher *might* be chickens if you live on the outskirts…..

 

I think sustainable and environmental are not exactly the same thing.

 

Could eating your own animals be more sustainable because it is local?  I guess it is possible, but I am not really seeing why.  How often would you expect to eat meat?  Would meat replace grains (the things we truck in during winter, although some grains do grow around here….you might be able to find a local source.)  Would meat replace other sources of protein?

 

My sources of protein:

 

nuts - Ontario grows nuts  wild.gif

cheese and dairy - do we ever have cheese and dairy!

eggs - ditto

soy - well, soya beans are grown around here.  Sunrise soya products come from Ontario and are in a lot of grocers.   I think I have seen Tofu from quebec in stores in Ottawa as well...

 

I am not really seeing why meat (unless you literally farm it yourself) would be more sustainable than locally produced alternate sources of protein?

 

As per environmental - to me there is no contest.  It take more water, fossil fuels, land etc to grow animals than it does to grow produce.  Period.


There is a battle of two wolves inside us.  One is good and the other is evil.  The wolf that wins is the one you feed.

 

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Old 11-23-2012, 10:39 PM
 
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Also, just because you start eating meat, doesnt mean you have to everyday. We eat vegetarian 3-4 days a week. Its easier on the wallet, its easier on the planet, and its not my hill to die on. Phew!


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Old 11-24-2012, 07:17 AM
 
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i think the whole debate on food is soooo confusing. it is so hard to find what the right balance is. 

 

food is such a small part of life. it is one aspect of your life. so just focusing on food i think is limiting. like for me the definition of vegan is so different from the others. food is only one tiny aspect of being vegan. it is so much more about life style. 

 

you know i am shocked why we even eat soy, sugar, banana, etc if we see the effect that has had historically on people and continue to affect the cultures who grow it now. 

 

it is cows not cars that produce terrible emissions, so i cant imagine adding my contribution to that number. 

 

another thing i have discovered. i have gradually become a vegetarian and if i wanted to go back i cant. meat is disgusting to me. i cant do the texture anymore. 

 

in my circumstances i try to do the best that i can. i dont have the time to make a big issue over food. i did try a few years ago and really confused the heck out of me. 

 

right now - what matters to me is the cruelty to both animals and cultures that define food for me. the exploitation really affects me.

 

gosh just the defintion of food gets me. are fruit juices food? white bread? cake? we all talk about tv dinners, but what about the cookies we make at home. it all gets soooo complicated.  


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Old 11-25-2012, 11:41 AM
 
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I was a vegetarian for 13 years before deciding that I needed more nourishment. In order to psych myself up for the transition I read Jessica Prentice's Full Moon Feast.

 

She was an ex-vegetarian and had eating disorders and wanted control over her food. She realized there is a middle ground. A great read that I'd recommend to ANY vegetarian....or anyone at all interested in being connected with their food.


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Old 11-25-2012, 01:17 PM
 
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I am also considering adding meat to my diet- but it would have to be from a decent family type farm and grain fed no antibiotics etc... so I am contemplating buying a deep freeze and buying some local meat.

 

the thing is my first reason for stopping eating meat was that it grossed me out- I don't know how to get around that since it grossed me out since I was a very small child.

 

There are a few things I can eat- like deer jerky from time to time and salmon from time to time. 

 

Anyhow- you are not alone.


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Old 11-26-2012, 10:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I appreciate the various responses and suggestions.  I guess another one of my concerns that I am struggling with is feed during the winter and many people mentioned that.  What I am noticing is that it is animals used for vegetarian foods (eggs, milk) that need to fed grain over the winter. For example, I am currently buying more grain to feed our chickens (this is our first year so it is all still quite new). Yet, the people who are butchering animals (chicken/cows) are doing it now so that they do NOT need to feed animals grains over the winter. Then this meat is stored in the freezer for the winter. So it appears at first glance that vegetarian animals products use more grain than meat.  I am new to living outside the city (and I'm only an hour away) so I am still trying to figure all this out.  Most of the 10 years I've been a vegetarian have been in the city.  

 

I am wondering if part of the new doubts I am having are due to change in geography.  When others have had doubts, have they corresponded to other changes in your life (ie pregnancy, moving, etc)?   And I am also especially interested if anyone struggled with doubts and came out in the end as remaining vegetarian? My initial idea in posting was to see how people remain vegetarian despite possible doubts and what keeps us going.  I realize that is is hard for met to admit doubts to real-life meat eaters because I have been quite adamant about vegetarianism. I think though that in many areas of life, I would like to be less certain and adamant and be more open. 

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Old 11-26-2012, 10:33 AM
 
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I guess that it really depends where you live and what you eat as far as impact on environment.

For me the basis are - eating another being that has feelings, emotions, intelligence and it is not a plant.

I am not a vegetarian but ever day closer to being one as it is very hard to change habits and find

new and acceptable new forms of foods but every day closer to being vegetarian. I have eliminated

daily meats and now it is only on weekends and hopefully that will go to. It is much easier

to give up gradually to me personally then cold turkey because my body seem to highly rely

on animal based iron for some reason and that is bummer as I simply feel sick after long streaches

of not eating any meat at all. So that is a trade off for now.

 

But back to the idea of what is better for the Earth?..

If you live in the northern climate you can preserve many basic veggies in old fashion French and English way..

just simply dig deep hole in the ground, line it with straw, make a pile of carrots for instance like a pyramide

sticking out above the ground, then cover with straw, then cover with earth at about a feet thick.

you can open the pile and take what you need monthly and cover back the stockpile.

 

That is an ancient European refrigerator :) that I know village people in Northern Europe would use

to keep their potatoes, and root veggies over the winter safely without freezing them or without

keeping them at home and having them dry out.

 

So that is easy to store tons of beets, carrots, even cabage potatoes and alike right at hand.

 

I am not big fan of canning. For one you waste so much energy on cooking and for two

you are killing your food first. yes, you need live food to live not killed food.

 

grains - you can buy from local farmers...

cucumber you can put in salty brain in the barrel or jars and have all winter long

cabbage you can make sourcraut on a dime no energy loss no cooking required

basically you put cucumbers or cabage into salty water or salt them and there you have it

 

you can also buy many legums locally or plant them and harvest yourself...

so with potatoes, and carrots and beets.

 

you can survive winter on that and comes summer you can replenish your system

with more variety.

 

Yeah, it all comes to why you really are doing it because if it is not about animals and their

well being then what is left can be totally fixed and you can still be a savyy vegetarian

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Old 11-26-2012, 10:40 AM
 
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Here is a drawing of the mound for storing vegetables over the winter safely and energy-free:

scroll down to the second drawing on this page:

 

 

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/tog/storing.cfm

 

my note: it says in the article for mild temperatures - and my grand parents as all people

in France in their area were doing it - it is not for mild temperatures only. a heavy snow

and super cold winter can't and won't touch veggies kept that way. I remember

winters when only chimney were sticking out and yet veggies were just fine.

once you have thick layer of straw and soil, nothing can penetrate it.

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Old 11-26-2012, 04:16 PM
 
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I never tried to push my vegetarianism on others, but when I first became a vegetarian, I was very passionate about it. I lived in Ohio, and when I was 13, there weren't many other vegetarians around. I often had to defend my choice. I joined PETA, I was very against hunting and any kind of animal cruelty. As I grew older, my opinions evolved and my hard line softened. I got more into food and went to culinary school for baking & pastry. I started to feel like I was missing out on some delicious foods. It was a slow evolution for me. I thought about it for a long time, and I eased back into eating meat one food at a time. I was a vegetarian for 20 years. I feel like that made an impact. I eat healthier and more local and organic than I ever did in the past. These choices make an impact too. If I lived in an area where it was more difficult to find sustainably and humanely produced meats, I would eat vegetarian more often. I try to be flexible. I would love to be able to raise my own chickens, but it wouldn't work where I live. I would like to have goats too. I think if you raise the animal yourself, it would be ok to eat it. I can see your argument about the grain having a high environmental cost though. I think it also makes sense to only include certain meats in your diet based on their impact on the environment if that's a big concern. Basically, I believe it is up to each individual to decide how they want to eat. They shouldn't feel pressured into eating any certain way. You have shown your commitment by being a vegetarian for 10 years. It's obvious that you care about animals and the environment and are trying to be responsible.



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Old 11-26-2012, 10:16 PM
 
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I hear what you're saying about the grains to feed animals in the winter too.  We feed our chickens organic layer feed, and they go through a lot of it during the time when they are producing no eggs.  However, they also eat all of our household scraps, which I think is much better than composting them.  They produce the manure which goes into next year's garden. 

 

That being said, from what I've seen, eggs are definitely not an environmentally friendly food.  Especially in the months when there is no significant forage for the chickens.  But personally, I would never butcher our chickens just because they needed to eat over the winter.  Just like I would not butcher the dog because he needs to eat.  They are our friends as well giving us food.  I respect them for their sweet chickenyness.  Probably if we didn't have children, we wouldn't have chickens, but it is important to my daughter to raise chickens, and I've grown to appreciate them too. 

 

I think another interesting question to ask is this:  Should the top priority of animal agriculture be sustainability and efficiency?  Or are there more important ethical considerations when we are using animals for food?

dovey is offline  
 

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