Raised Consciousness

At first I titled this, “The New Consciousness,” but I daren’t because I’m probably out of the mainstream and this was going on long before I discovered it…

“It” is how we who shop for animal products do so.

I clearly remember at the market I’d simply pick up the package of chicken, sole, or bacon that was the quality, cut, and weight I wanted. For decades I fed from two to six of us this way, marketing first for Gene and me at The Grand Union supermarket on 88th Street in New York, then for six of us at the Mill Valley Market then The Market Basket in Malibu… I shopped for meat, fowl, and fish the way I shopped for canned goods — fundamentally cognizant of how lucky I was but usually my mind on other things  (for example, I hoped tomorrow the dermatologist wouldn’t find anything…) Indeed, occasionally I thought about the fact I was eating a fellow creature, but that was a painful pastime and I try not to be self-punitive…

When did it begin that farm folk considered humane treatment for their herds and flocks and began arranging it so laying hens could hop, skip, and jump out into fresh air…? That turkeys destined for Thanksgiving tables (I forget where it was I lived that routinely we’d drive past a turkey farm and see hundreds of enormous birds milling around in the sunshine) ditto…? When came the time commercial fishermen realized their catch should be caught with traditional lines not in sea turtle/dolphin/shark-scooping nets…?  And when did the folks who raised animals for milk and meat realize their animals would be happier–healthier–were they to graze on rooted-in-the-earth-green grass instead of having to root through flakes of dried hay…? Add to this the absence of medicaments…no more growth-enhancing “biotics” of any sort–deposited in the animals’ flesh…

It’s come on gradually and now I shop drastically differently. Now I buy “Mary’s” chicken because the label assures me Mary was a caring mom. I only buy the occasional pork and lamb (I don’t buy beef–likely you’ve read every ounce of beef on the plate cost over 100 gallons of water) from a butcher who assures me the critter was grass-fed, humanely raised. It is an odd but marvelous feeling, this fact-checking habit. As for cold cuts–packaged deli-slices of ham, chicken, turkey, and beef–I no longer buy them. In the brief time between when I did–after my consciousness was raised and before I realized they were processed foods–I bought packages labeled “Humanely raised.” There always was one company providing it, I’m happy to report.

Our milk, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream? We are fortunate to have the Straus Family Creamery nearby. Cows graze on grass in twelve family farms not far from the sea, and their milk comes to us in glass bottles, huzzah. Straus was the first 100 % organic creamery in the United States. I only wish I could be sure the sheep, goats, and cows who send us their pecorino, feta, and brie cheeses are as happy…but I can hope pasture-raised cheesemaking will one day be the norm worldwide…

What I’m here to plump for, particularly, is “pasture-raised eggs.” About a year ago I happened to pick up a dozen eggs with a label I’d never seen–they were on sale, a good buy–and when I cracked them, I was astonished to find the yolks a many degrees richer color than what I was used to. Instead of butter yellow, they were ochre, almost orange. Beautiful. I loved that. I’d thrown away the carton before I went shopping and it took me awhile to discover the key words on the carton were “Pasture-raised.” Oh. I see. At the time, only one label had them, Vital Farms. To my dismay, the eggs weren’t local. Santa Cruz is so close to Petaluma, traditional home of chickens and eggs, that all the eggs I’d ever bought were from nearby sources. (These challenging times, I try to Buy Local as much as possible.) Anyway, I saw that one end of the carton gave the name of the farm where the eggs were laid. Good enough. Vital Farms’ website tells us their company began as a single family farm…in time they found “like-minded farmers who put the welfare of their two-legged and four-legged girls first…” Presently, the company consists of over 300 family farms in “warm-weather states where the winters are mild, and the girls can nosh on native grasses the year-around…We rotate the girls to a new section of pasture every 21 days so they can enjoy the freshest greens while the land recovers.” Yum.

Then last time I went shopping I was surprised and cheered to see a carton of “Pasture-Raised” eggs from a Petaluma company. Hooray. It looks as though the laying hens of the world are getting a break.

Yes, despite the divisiveness in our political world, the food world is increasingly felicitous. Organic produce is more and more available in every form–fresh, frozen, pickled, canned, powdered, dried. At least in Santa Cruz. Would love to know how it is where you live.

That’s all. Oh. I haven’t mentioned (should you care to know–or even remember it was an issue) that Bill and I are no longer vegans. We lasted–denying ourselves all the vegan “can’ts” plus no oils, no nuts, no avocados–for two months, as we’d vowed (I doubt I’ll ever eat hummus again–if I do, it’ll have tahini in it). Trouble was–to our dismay–our heart-health lab numbers weren’t what we expected. Worse, neither of us felt ourselves…decreased energy, at times foggy thinking. It wasn’t imagined–near the end of the two months our CrossFit coach mentioned that Bill and I seemed draggy, slower on the uptake. Time came when I couldn’t understand how anyone could tolerate such a diet. Then my brilliant friend Nan Wollman explained the obvious: everyone metabolizes food differently. Of course.

So we’re back to standard fare, with two exceptions: no processed food, no sugar. (One day soon, more about the wisdom in Dr. Robert Lustig’s latest book, Metabolical.)

Meantime, cheers, dears. Good and planet-prospering dining!

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Chris Baswell
    June 15, 2023 10:21 pm

    Yes, yes, and yes.
    Even in NYC one can (for a price) get fairly local pasture-raised eggs and chicken, and fish from the east end of Long Island, the same stuff my friend gets off the boat in Greenport, and only half a day older.
    Of course, the challenge comes with “for a price,” and so many people — most of us I’m guessing — don’t have the extra dollars for humanely raised chicken and eggs. Still we do the little we can.
    For me, that little includes a near complete elimination of dairy milk, replaced (at beloved Sylvia’s suggestion) by good oat milk. And a lot less — but still enough! — cheese.

    • Ach, Chris, we’re back to Bossie’s milk, and so grateful to have it.
      But of course you’re right, these pasture-raised eggs are way expensive.
      Except today at the market I noticed yet another company with
      “pasture-raised” eggs. And they weren’t a fortune.
      Little by little. You are so dear with your comments. Thank you!


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