NSAS promotes sustainable food systems in Nebraska. We support farmers, consumers, restaurants, grocers, and others to develop local marketing strategies like Community Supported Agriculture, Farmers' Markets, and other kinds of direct marketing. Some of our past project work in sustainable food systems includes community food security work in and around North Omaha and marketing education for Extension Educators and the Resource Conservation and Development Districts, as well as institutional food and farmer linkage and small, innovative farm group project support. Our consumer education efforts inform people about how they can create a better world through their food choices.
Looking for local food from a Nebraska farmer? Visit the Buy Fresh, Buy Local Nebraska site linked below as well as other sites under Consumer Resources.
- Visit www.NebraskaFood.org for Nebraska's online, year-round farmer's market!
- Consumer Resources/Web Links
- Seven Ways You Can Change the World...by Eating
- Youth In Action
- Visit www.buylocalnebraska.org for a directory of farmers, restaurants & grocers that purchase & purvey local goods.
Several sites listed below have directories to help you find sustainably grown food from your own county or neighborhood! Not all sites are exclusively consumer oriented. Not necessarily endorsed by NSAS.but you MIGHT find something helpful & wonderful! For additional resources search through NSAS's past newsletters or our ag resources page.
Acres USA - eco-agriculture & sustainable ag resources -- www.acresusa.com
ATTRA - national sustainable ag info service -- www.ATTRA.org
APPPA - American Pastured Poultry Producers Assn. - www.apppa.org
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association - biodynamic info & csa listings - www.biodynamics.com
Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska Campaign -- www.buylocalnebraska.org
Center for Food & Justice - www.departments.oxy.edu/uepi/cfj/
Center for Rural Affairs - www.cfra.org
Coop Green Pages -Co-op America & Green Pages - www.coopamerica.org & www.coopamerica.org/pubs/greenpages
Eat Wild - Jo Robinson's web site/directory of farms -- www.eatwild.com
Ecolabels - definitions of various food labels -- www.ecolabels.org
Edible Schoolyard - Alice Water's pilot program & links to many resources - www.edibleschoolyard.org
Farm to Family Connection - www.farmtofamily.net
Farm to School - info & resources for a range of school & farm relationships - www.farmtoschool.org
Food First - news & information related to hunger & sustainable ag globally - www.foodfirst.org
Food Routes - links to local resources/producers/farmers - www.foodroutes.org
Good, Fresh, Local - The Nebraska Sustainable Food Project - UNL's Dining local meals -- http://www.unl.edu/housing/dining/diningcenters.htm
GRACE Links & Sustainable Table - home of Eat Well Guide & more -- www.sustainabletable.org, www.gracelinks.org,
Growing for Market - newsletter for small & specialty growers - www.growingformarket.com
Harvest Eating - podcasts of seasonal cooking demos & more - http://www.harvesteating.com/public/department145.cfm
Healthy Food Action- www.healthyfoodaction.org
Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy - www.iatp.org
International Food Policy Research Institute - policy, research & info for hunger & food issues - www.ifpri.org
Land Stewardship Project - www.landstewardshipproject.org
The Land Institute - www.landinstitute.org
Local Harvest - listings of various products & farms nationally -- www.localharvest.org
Michael Fields Agriculture Institute - www.michaelfieldsaginst.org
Midwest Sustainable Ag Working Group - alliance of ecological & sustainable groups-- www.msawg.org
National Catholic Rural Life Conference - www.ncrlc.com
National Humane Society - plenty of info on farm animal treatment - www.hsus.org
Nebraska Food Cooperative -- www.nebraskafood.org
Nebraska Fresh Produce Guide - www.agr.state.ne.us/pub/apd/produce.htm
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society - www.nebsusag.org
Nebraska Wildlife Federation - www.nebraskawildlife.org
New Farm newsletter - www.newfarm.org
Northern Plains Agriculture Society - www.npsas.org
Organic Consumers Association - www.organicconsumers.org
Orion Society - online newsletter & network of grass-roots organizations -- www.orionsociety.org
Practical Farmers of
Project Food, Land & People - curriculum aids & lessons for k-12 -- www.foodlandpeople.org
Sierra Club - Nebraska Cottonwood Chapter - www.sierraclub.org
Slow Food - international movement - www.slowfood.com
USDA CSA Website - national csa listings & small farm information, plus more -- www.usda.gov
Weston A. Price Foundation -- range of nutritional & health information www.westonaprice.org
WWOOF - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - volunteer/exchange registry -- www.wwoof.org
Women, Food & Agriculture Network -
1. Shop at a farmers' market.
When you buy food from a farmers' market, you directly support a farm family AND the money you spend on that food is likely to stay in a Nebraska community. Produce from the farmers' market is fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than produce from California, Florida, or Mexico. Shopping at a farmers' market is good for you and Nebraska's economy.
2. Buy chicken, beef, pork, or eggs directly from a farmer.
When you know the farmer who grows your food, you can ask him or her what kinds of hormones or antibiotics are used and avoid eating additives that you don't want. Farm-fresh meat and eggs taste better than anything you can get at the grocery store, and the farmer is able to capture more of the food dollar by selling his or her product directly to you.
3. Grow a garden.
Even if you only have space for a tomato plant in a container or some herbs on your windowsill, growing some of your own food makes a statement about the kind of food system you want. Growing food helps your kids understand where their food comes from and appreciate the work it takes to put food on the table. Starting a community garden can give all people a chance to grow some of their own food and improve their health, nutrition, and standard of living.
4. Ask your grocer to carry locally-grown food.
Nebraska family farmers raise meat, produce, eggs, honey, dairy & grain products, yet most of what we buy at the grocery store comes from out of state. By creating consumer demand for healthy, local foods, you create new markets for Nebraska family farmers.
5. Eat more "slow" food.
Fast foods are usually highly processed and not very good for you. The mega-corporations and chains that process and prepare fast foods often do not pay their employees well, and a lot of energy is used to process and transport this food. The extra time spent preparing and eating fresh meat, fruit, grains, and vegetables can be valuable family time that would be lost if you grabbed a burger at a fast food chain.
6. Join a Community Supported Agriculture farm.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, builds partnerships between farmers and consumers. CSA members purchase shares in a farm at the beginning of the growing season to meet the farmer's operating expenses. In return, these members receive a share of the farm's produce throughout the growing season. CSA farms often hold festivals and educational events for their members.
7. Choose food grown in a way that's good for the environment, people, communities, & your health.
"Sustainably" raised foods are grown using agricultural management practices such as crop rotations and intensive grazing to control pests, build soil, and prevent disease in animals. When you buy organic or sustainably raised foods, you are doing your part to keep our water clean, encourage wildlife, and keep our soil healthy. You also know that farm workers were not exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals and that animals were treated humanely.
Think Globally! Eat Locally!
Laura Demmel's Winning Poultry Speeches
Laura is the daughter of long-time NSAS member and past president of the NSAS Board of Directors, Dennis Demmel. Her first speech, "New Chick" won her the silver medal at the Nebraska state FFA Convention in March 2003. The second speech, "Persuasive" captured 4th place at the state speech contest, also in March 2003. Laura was then a Junior at Grant High School, Grant, NE. She manages the Demmel Poultry Farm Division and raises 1600 pastured broilers per year.
Speech #1 - "New Chick"
"That tastes like chicken, Ma!" We've all heard the saying, "It tastes like chicken". Everything tastes like chicken. It sometimes makes you wonder, what does chicken taste like? Does all chicken taste the same, or can there be a major difference in the quality of two different chickens? Today, we will explore the amazing world of poultry. We will look at the different methods of raising chickens, namely, the "factory farming" method and the "pastured poultry" method. And I will share with you my experience in the chicken field.
Americans continue to eat more and more chicken. But with all this chicken being eaten, there have been problems. Salmonella, Ecoli, as well as the recent avian influenza virus affecting over 80 million chickens have made many people question the safety of chicken. Consumers have also been concerned about whether or not the birds are being raised in a humane manner. Are they? Let's take a closer look at the "factory farming" method of poultry production.
"Factory farms" are owned by large corporations. These companies own thousands upon thousands of birds which they keep caged up in a building. The first flaw in this method is that fecal dust is found everywhere. The contamination from this dust results in various health problems. When the birds breathe in the fecal dust, which contains a high level of ammonia, it causes lesions of the respiratory linings. The birds live in this dust their entire lives and it certainly has a negative effect on them.
In order to maintain productivity, the birds are fed antibiotics and hormones to enhance their appetite. However, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is now being found in brand name poultry products. This bacteria that humans then ingest is also resistant to important medicine given to humans.
In addition to these problems, consider the slaughtering process of factory farmed birds. Slaughter is a filthy process. In order for the machines to cut the vein which kills the chickens, processing plants use an electric current to stun the bird, making it still and unmoving. The mechanical evisceration breaks open the intestines and pours fecal material into the body cavity which then contaminates the chicken. Large chill tanks often have several inches of fecal material in the bottom which then soaks into the birds. In fact, up to fifteen percent of the weight of a store bought chicken is fecal soup. This not only adds to the carcass weight, costing the consumer more, but it also adds to the dangers in the consumers' health.
In an effort to make up for the filthy processing, the birds are given chlorine baths. Some chickens are given up to 40 chlorine baths and this number of baths can make you wonder, how much of that chlorine is sinking into the chicken?
Now, before you decide to give up chicken forever, let's look at this question some more. After all, what happened to the good old chicken Grandma used to make? What we need is a system for raising healthy chickens which are grown in a safe, humane manner.
I believe the answer can be found in the pastured poultry method. Through this process, chickens are raised outside on pasture land. Because these birds eat a high amount of forage, it has been clinically shown that these chickens are far lower in saturated fat than the conventionally raised birds. Pastured poultry can be raised without the negatives- antibiotics, steroids, fecal air, and artificial light. Such birds are raised only with the positives- fresh air, sunshine, wholesome feed, natural vitamins, and freedom to roam around. Because of these advantages, pastured birds will gain better, convert feed more efficiently, be healthier, and produce a better taste all around.
So how does the pastured poultry method work? This past summer, I raised 1,200 chickens through this method, rotating 400 birds at a time. I order my chicks from Central Hatchery in Madison, Nebraska. The chicks begin the pastured poultry process in a brooder house until they are able to survive in the world outside. The brooder must be free of drafts and predator proof, meaning safety from rats, cats, and dogs. Also the brooder house should allow as much sunshine as possible inside and the house must be dry; the birds will not tolerate dampness. Just before moving them outside, the feed ration should be switched from a starter feed to a finish ration, or in my case, to a ration of home grown feed milled on the farm. This year, we had excellent results from grinding our own feed. My records show improved feed efficiency as well as a lower death loss compared to previous years.
Once the chicks reach the fourth week, they are moved outside on to grass. I keep a maximum of 100 chickens in each pen. Since I raise my chickens through the hot summer months, I usually open a gate on the side of the pen to let them roam free and find shade under nearby trees. I also move pens every couple of days so that the chickens receive fresh grass. The chickens seem to run and hunt for bugs the most just before it's dark. Then, I pen them back up for the night.
After two months, it is time for the slaughter day, the most stressful day of all for. As I said earlier, slaughter is a filthy process, but it is possible to use a cleaner process than what the large automated plants use. There are five major steps to the slaughter process: the kill, the scalder, the plucker, the evisceration, and the inspection.
So you're ready for some home grown birds, or maybe you're interested in raising some birds of your own. These market-ready chickens can be sold by the pound, or as I sell them, $7.50 per bird. My birds averaged about 4 1/2 pounds dressed weight. The market has never been much of a problem as there is a huge demand for these birds.
In review today, we discussed the difference between the "factory farming" method and the "pastured poultry" method of raising market chickens. We then looked at some of my own experiences with the pastured poultry method and I briefly explained the process. "That tastes like chicken, Ma!" That statement may be true- everything may taste like chicken, but remember- not all chicken is the same.Speech #2 - "Persuasive"
In 1952, a 65 year-old man, surviving on a social security check of $105 per month, decided to venture out to restaurants around the country and offer them a superior product, fried chicken featuring a secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. What started out as a small business venture soon grew into what we know today as Kentucky Fried Chicken, a corporation that, according to kfc.com, earns over $900 million a year. Franchises such as Chick Fillet, Chipoltle, Fillmore's, as well as home-style chicken served in thousands of restaurants, point out that Americans have an appetite for chicken. But when was the last time any of us examined how our chicken meal arrived on our plates? Most of us assume chicken is good for our health. But in the case of factory produced chicken, this assumption is not correct. Make no mistake; the factory farming method of raising chickens is in fact inhumane to the birds and unhealthy to the consumer. Let's examine first that factory farming of poultry is an inhumane means of production, secondly that factory farmed chickens are unhealthy, and finally that an alternative to factory farming does exist.
Consider that factory farms are owned by large corporations. These companies own thousands upon thousands of birds, which they keep caged up in a building. The first flaw in this method is that fecal dust is found everywhere. The contamination from this dust results in various health problems for the birds. When the birds breathe in the fecal dust, which contains a high level of ammonia, it causes lesions of the respiratory linings. Sally Fallon reports in her book, Nourishing Traditions, that the birds are given antibiotics to combat the disease caused by this fecal matter. Let's look at a second inhumane practice. Chickens raised in factory farming not only live in a building their entire lives, but they are often deprived of even normal movement, some spending their days in cages. Even cattle fattened at a feed lot have the ability to move from place to place. Factory farmed chickens have so little room to move that their legs often don't have the strength to support their bodies in a standing position. Clearly, factory farming of poultry is an inhumane production practice.
But bad as it is for the chickens, the factory farming method of poultry production is regrettably worse for the consumer. Birds produced in such a manner are unhealthy. Remember that to combat the effects of fecal dust, chickens were fed antibiotics. These antibiotics are not flushed from the birds' digestive system. They remain in the muscular structure of the chicken. According to a study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, bacteria resistant to antibiotics is now being found in brand name poultry products. This bacteria that humans then ingest is also resistant to important medicine given to humans such as Cipro and tetracycline. More evidence about the health hazards posed by factory farmed chickens is now seen in the alarming situation of the Asian avian flu. As reported in the February 9, 2004 issue of TIME, this flu is spreading through Asian poultry farms and has resulted in the death of over 80 million chickens. The real hazard is that this flu is deadly to humans. The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that this virus could possibly swap genetic material with the common flu and create a new worldwide, devastating epidemic. The flu, believed to be found in the fecal matter of Asian factory farms, influenced America last month when it was reported in the February 16th issue of the Denver Post that 89,000 chickens in Delaware were destroyed because they had contracted a strain of the Asian virus.
In addition to these problems, consider another issue of negative treatment. If you have a cholesterol problem, your doctor will tell you to identify and then reduce stress in your life. He or she will also tell you that you will need to shift your diet to more salad and less meat and potatoes and exercise more often. Those are the key elements. Now, if a veterinarian were to judge the chickens crowded into a confinement house, he or she would note tremendous stress. It would be obvious that exercise is nonexistent and that his patients' fat percentage must be way above normal due to the extreme energy diet and the lack of green material in the processed feed. Taking the vet's opinion into consideration, is it any wonder that cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol follow through the food chain into humans? It is obvious enough that live chickens produced under the factory method are unhealthy, but let's look at how else the health of the American consumer is endangered by the slaughtering process of these birds. Slaughter is a filthy process. In order for the machines to cut the vein which kills the chickens, processing plants use an electric current to stun the birds, making them still and unmoving. The mechanical evisceration breaks open the intestines and pours fecal material into the body cavity, which then contaminates the chicken. Large chill tanks often have several inches of fecal material in the bottom, which then soaks into the birds. According to an article from the EarthSave Foundation titled "Realities for the Millenium", up to fifteen percent of the weight of a store bought chicken is fecal soup. This not only adds to the carcass weight, costing the consumer more, but it also adds to the dangers in the consumers' health. Former USDA microbiologist Gerald Kuester reports that the product that ends up on supermarket shelves is, "no different than if you stick it in the toilet and eat it."
Do you still feel like going out to KFC after today's speech contest? Are you willing to say goodbye to fried chicken forever? You don't have to. There is an alternative to poultry production that is humane to the birds and healthy to the consumer. That method is the pastured poultry method. During this process, chickens are raised outside on pasture land. According to Jo Robinson's book published in 2004, Pasture Perfect, grass-fed birds are far lower in saturated fat than the conventionally raised birds. Pastured poultry can be raised without the negatives- antibiotics, steroids, fecal air, and artificial light. Such birds are raised only with the positives- fresh air, sunshine, wholesome feed, natural vitamins, and freedom to roam around. Because of these advantages, pastured birds will gain better, convert feed more efficiently, be healthier, and produce a better taste all around. The issue, however, for the consumer is one of cost. One pound of Tyson chicken is $1.19, whereas home grown chickens are approximately $1.67 per pound. Consumers must weigh the cost on a personal level. But for me, the choice is an obvious one. My health and the health of my family are clearly worth the extra forty-eight cents per pound. So where can consumers purchase pastured poultry? Fortunately for those of us in Nebraska, pastured poultry is available throughout the state. Oftentimes, producers of these birds are local farmers, 4-H, or FFA youth.
It's true- Americans delight in the taste of chicken. For many families, Sunday dinner is not special unless fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy are the main course. Let's hope that if your family chooses this meal, the chicken they're eating has been raised under humane conditions, grown outdoors under a healthy method, and slaughtered in a safe and clean environment. All of these standards can be met through the pastured poultry method. So whether you prefer white meat or dark meat, know that the pastured poultry chicken you are eating is, indeed, healthy for you. Bon apetite!