If health is only defined as a lack of illness, then a chicken in a cage producing a given number of eggs before it dies can be called “healthy,”and the entire system designed to medicate it, feed it, and remove its waste is, by definition, all it needs to remain “healthy.”
If we consider a holistic view of health, then we must provide our farm animals with a life that fulfills their natural desires for herding, grooming, and foraging as well as any other of their needs. For instance, cattle like to scratch their backs and chickens like to take dust baths. Doing these things make them happy.
Animals need space and a clean environment for their health and well-being. These reduce disease, of course, but also provide free movement, happiness, and a healthy ecosystem.
Fortunately, a small farm can provide animals with all these requirements … and small farms are what make a Healthy Food System. When you buy directly from the farmer, you are supporting good animal welfare. And the by-product of this is a vital community of farmers who conserve the natural resources they are charged with caring for. Their animals are living within an interconnected system: grazing what can’t be harvested, eating insects, fertilizing the soil, and bringing extra income to keep the farm profitable.
If the animals are free-range and grass-fed, the products derived from them are more nutritious than those from factory-fed animals. A small farm is dependent on its natural resources and cannot afford to degrade them – the top soil cannot wash away, and the animal population cannot be so high that it pollutes or overuses the land. Animals must graze and forage, rather than have every bite they take purchased from a feed store. Small farms just can’t absorb those costs.
And so, the circle closes; what is good for the animal, is good for the farm … and good for the consumer.
Read more about …
- Healthy livestock
- Healthy poultry
- Healthy seafood
- Case in Point: Eggs