Factory farming – 50 billion animals a year

Notice the fields are empty? Drive down the motorway, where have they all gone. It is essential to understand that this is not about questioning farmer Giles or complaining about Old Macdonald farm. Around two in every three farm animals are factory farmed (over 50 billion every year!). Regardless of the debate around the ethics of eating meat, eating factory farmed meat is unethical, unhealthy and unsustainable. Read more at https://www.ciwf.org.uk/factory-farming

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You are still buying caged eggs

Who is still buying them? Well it turns out all of us are. Whether you pick up boxes of free range eggs or not the chances are you are still buying caged eggs in some form. 51%* of eggs produced in the UK in 2015 come from hens kept in cages. That is around 5 billion eggs per year or 13.5 million eggs per day, this is still a huge issue!

I thought I was hen friendly in my shopping I wasn’t! Doh it now seems so obvious – it is eggs in products, biscuits, pasta, cakes, mayonnaise, pastry, croissants, you name it. Whilst whole egg box labelling says ‘From caged hens’, produce doesn’t.

Have a look through you cupboards, read the labels – if it doesn’t say Free range egg or free range yolk on the label it has come from some poor little hen sat in a metal cage for the whole of their life to roll out just 1 egg per day. We are better than this?

Eating out and fast food is also a problem, they mainly serve caged hen eggs, even when they are charging you an arm and a leg! Some do mark free range on the menu, but most don’t because they aren’t. Ask them and if it is not free range don’t buy it, don’t eat it.

Decades of campaigning and most of us believe that hens are no longer kept in cages. Yes some minute progress has been made, barren cages have been replaced by ‘enriched’ cages (never has such a misuse of the english language been experienced) according to CIWF this offers no meaningful benefits to the hen. Hey decide for yourself – hmm yes it is still shit! Vegetarian or omnivore this is one of the biggest areas of animal welfare we must address.

What you can do? Buy free range eggs. Ideally Organic. Check labels of all products you buy, ask in restaurants, let people know you expect to eat free range eggs. There are companies already making a stand and they deserve our support see:

http://www.compassioninfoodbusiness.com/award-winnersoverall-shot-4

Hens spend their wholes lives in these cages. Once their egg laying rate drops off around 72 weeks they go for slaughter.

* https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/543489/eggs-statsnotice-04aug2016.pdf

 

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Rediscover mutton

Version 2

http://www.muttonrenaissance.org.uk

Mutton is sheep that is over 2 years old. Well-grown mutton to be one of the finest meats produced on the British isles. While mutton may be difficult to find in your local butcher, it is widely available on the internet. Whatever you choose, shoulder of mutton requires long, slow cooking to bring out the best results. Don’t be put off by the age, 2, 4, 5 yrs it is all good and in my view one of the most ethical meats you can source, based on the age and outdoor lifestyle a sheep lives. The older the best in our house, the flavour and the texture of the meat is amazing, just ask Charles (HRH)!

Ethical plus side, you are eating an animal that has had a longer life, sheep are still kept as grazing animals in a flock so it one of the most naturally farmed animal remaining. Mutton meat might come from a ewe that has been used for breeding or it might be a purpose meat bred slow growing sheep. The latter is the best but we should embrace both.

Serves 4–6
250g/9oz/1¼ cups salted butter, softened and diced
1 large bunch of oregano or rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped

large pinch of salt
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon or generous squeeze of juice
1 x approx 2.5kg / 5½lb shoulder of mutton on the bone

8 banana shallots, peeled and halved lengthways
2 whole bulbs of garlic, peeled and halved
1 x 750ml bottle of red wine
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 140C / 275F / gas mark 1. Put the butter in a food processor. Add the herbs, reserving a little for later, and then the salt, lemon and black pepper. Whizz to a coarse paste – about 20 seconds will do it.

Slather the paste all over the top of the mutton to a thickness of about 5mm / ¼ inch. Put the shallots and garlic in a deep roasting tray and add any remaining herbs. Lay the mutton on top and pour in the wine; the liquid should just be touching the bottom of the meat – if not, top up with water.

Seal the top of the roasting tray with a layer of baking parchment followed by foil. Place the tray in the oven for at least 6 hours (overnight at 100C / 200F / gas mark 1⁄8 works too), or until the mutton is cooked.

Remove the foil and baking parchment and turn the heat up to 200ºC/400ºF/
gas mark 6 to crisp up the crust for 20 minutes. Strain the juices, discarding
the garlic and shallots, reduce a little in a saucepan, uncovered, over a medium heat, season and set aside to use as a gravy.

This is lovely served with braised red cabbage and mustard mashed potatoes.

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Organic Dairy

I read this years ago, ‘if there is one organic product you should buy it is dairy’.

The health benefits of organic milk include having higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids and CLA, more antioxidants, and more vitamins than regular milk. Plus not containing pesticides and herbicides ingested by cattle eating a non organic diets.

That fact still remains true. If you consume dairy (milk, butter, cheese, yogurt) choose Organic. This has become more relevant in the last decade where the mega industrial systems have been adopted, known as Mega dairies or zero grazing dairies. The cows never go out to pasture and are literally milked dry. Demands for higher and higher yields and painfully low costs of milk have set the industry into a potential tail spin.

Milk is cheap, in most cases too cheap due to super market wars, organic milk is also cheap and much better value given the quality of the product. Organic milk is around £0.97 per litre (£0.81 4 ltrs) v £0.70 per litre (based on buying 2 ltrs), whilst Coca-cola for example is £1.00 per litre (supermarket prices).

Labelling – Some producers will label their milk and dairy, grass promise, free range, pasture raised etc.. Look out for this. Same as the eggs if it doesn’t state it is most likely from a zero grazing dairy. Sadly for the farmers of grazing dairies that sell their milk into the general market we as the consumer have no way to know which is which.

Also remember dairy is in a lot of products so read the labels. As per the free range eggs some producers only use free range milk, e.g. Waitrose has a grass promise for all dairy and in their products.

It is also worth bearing in mind dairy products from other countries. for example Czech republic, Denmark, Italy, Greece and Spain have exceedingly high % of non grazing dairies (+80%) and Germany, Portugal (+50%). In fact is it easier to list the countries that have positive grazing dairy. The issue is global, EU and growing in the UK.

CIWF have a very good page about buying dairy – https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/dairy

But that is not the end of the story…. As I researched further I questioned why we drink and consume dairy in the first place, how the industry work, health issues and dairy alternatives. All will be revealed in another post!

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Diet beating illness

Ironically my initial research into diet relating to health was in isolation from my research into ethical eating, I hadn’t joined the dots but I quickly found the two go hand in hand. All of the same topics kept coming up. The prominent fact was that a plant based diet is at the route of all stories relating to diet preventing and combating health issues (diabetes, cancers, blood pressure, heart disease the list goes on). That fact has heavily influenced this blog. I love this story from Ella, she transformed her diet and in doing so transformed her health and journey. Her cook books and ideas are amazing and easy to follow.

Shared for Ella’s website – this whole journey started as a reaction to an illness that I was diagnosed with in 2011, called Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. The illness had a pretty devastating effect on my life, both mentally and physically. Physically, my autonomic nervous system struggled to function properly which meant that I couldn’t control my heart rate and blood pressure properly (my heart rate would go from about 60 when I was sitting to 180 or so as soon as I stood up!), I also had a whole host of other issues form terrible stomach problems to constant headaches, lots of allergic reactions and chronic fatigue – so I spent almost all my time on my own in bed. I had just turned twenty at this point, and I felt so alienated from my friends, I really struggled to get my head around what was happening and I cut myself off from everyone and allowed myself to sink into an incredibly unhappy place. I was taking a lot of medication, but sadly it didn’t do much for me.

After a while I realised that I needed to try and help myself as much as I could. I started reading and learning about diet and lifestyle, and the way that these factors can help manage illnesses. I was incredibly inspired by what I was finding and decided to change the way I was living to see if it would help. I cut out processed foods from my diet and took up a whole-foods, plant based diet.

Changing the way that I ate was so hard. It was a massive change for me, as my student diet had revolved around ice cream, chocolate, cereal, pasta and a whole host of other processed foods. I was a real sugar monster and I couldn’t really cook! I had never eaten quinoa, kale or almond milk before and I certainly didn’t think about reading ingredients lists on foods. Over time (about two years) I was able to manage the symptoms of the illness and eventually come off all the medication. I’d simultaneously started seeing a nutritionist and undertook an exercise program from my doctor, both of which really supported this process.

 

 

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