Sustainable Food Resources
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
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.
Resources & Sustainable Ag Web Sites & Links
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.
– eco-agriculture & sustainable ag
resources -- www.acresusa.com
- national sustainable ag info service -- www.ATTRA.org
– American Pastured Poultry Producers Assn. – www.apppa.org
Farming and Gardening Association – biodynamic info & csa listings – www.biodynamics.com
Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska Campaign -- www.buylocalnebraska.org
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
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
– alternative label/alliance of participating
farms -- www.foodalliance.org
First – news & information related to hunger & sustainable ag globally
Routes – links to local resources/producers/farmers – www.foodroutes.org
Good, Fresh, Local - The Nebraska Sustainable Food Project - UNL's
Dining local meals:
Links & Sustainable Table – home of Eat Well Guide & more -- www.sustainabletable.org,
for Market – newsletter for small & specialty growers – www.growingformarket.com
Eating - podcasts of seasonal cooking demos & more - http://www.harvesteating.com/public/department145.cfm
for Agriculture & Trade Policy – www.iatp.org
Food Policy Research Institute – policy, research & info for hunger & food
issues – www.ifpri.org
Stewardship Project – www.landstewardshipproject.org
Land Institute – www.landinstitute.org
Harvest – listings of various products & farms nationally -- www.localharvest.org
Fields Agriculture Institute – www.michaelfieldsaginst.org
Sustainable Ag Working Group – alliance of ecological & sustainable
Catholic Rural Life Conference – www.ncrlc.com
Humane Society – plenty of info on farm animal treatment – www.hsus.org
Food Cooperative -- www.nebraskafood.org
Fresh Produce Guide - www.agr.state.ne.us/pub/apd/produce.htm
Sustainable Agriculture Society – www.nebsusag.org
Wildlife Federation – www.nebraskawildlife.org
Farm newsletter – www.newfarm.org
Plains Agriculture Society – www.npsas.org
Consumers Association – www.organicconsumers.org
Society – online newsletter & network of grass-roots organizations -- www.orionsociety.org
Farmers of Iowa
Food, Land & People – curriculum aids & lessons for k-12 -- www.foodlandpeople.org
Club – Nebraska Cottonwood Chapter – www.sierraclub.org
Food – international movement – www.slowfood.com
CSA Website – national csa listings & small farm information, plus more --
A. Price Foundation -- range of nutritional & health information www.westonaprice.org
– World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – volunteer/exchange registry -- www.wwoof.org
Food & Agriculture Network –
based network – www.wfan.org
Seven Ways You Can Change the World...by Eating!
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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!