Thursday, August 23, 2012

Species Appropriate Diets-Real Agricultural Sustainability

If your animals aren’t eating a species appropriate diet– you aren’t farming sustainably. End of story. Argue all you want until you are blue in the face. Organic, GMO, non-GMO, I don’t really give a shit. If it’s not fed a species-appropriate diet, it’s not healthy and it’s not sustainable. Write that down.
When human beings abandoned their lives of hunting and gathering to begin farming, a major decline in soil health and human health began. Leaving our species-appropriate diets of hunted and gathered foods in favor of nutritionally sub-par cereal grains in the hopes of leading a more sedentary lifestyle proved to be detrimental, and moreover, unsustainable. Our populations boomed, our health decreased and we got short, sick, and fat. This move was <em>unhealthy and unsustainable. </em>
The annual cereal grains depleted the soil of vital nutrients and eventually led to soil erosion and soil infertility that got people’s heads cut off. For instance, researchers from the University of Sheffield discovered with radiocarbon dating that there were three distinct periods of soil erosion in the Americas, the first coinciding with when the Highlands Indiands first began cultivating corn approximately 3,500 years ago, the second occurred on the slopes of cultivated hills, and the third and most recent loss of soil fertility and erosion coincides with deforestation. Yes, cutting down a bunch of trees at once can also #$%^ a bunch of stuff up. The decline of Teotihuacán was linked to crop failure, soil erosion, and soil infertility, and sacrifices were made. Usually that involved decapitating humans, rolling their heads and bodies down the steps of a pyramid like in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. Relying on unsustainable cereal grains isn’t a smart plan. Cereal grains aren’t sustainable.
Now back to the animals.
Most domesticated animals, from chickens to pigs to cows to farm-raised salmon are eating a diet of corn and soy. Now, from what we understand above, it was problematic for humans when we abandoned our species-appropriate diets. What about the animals?
Let’s start with what we know already: When a cow leaves a feedlot to an open grassy pasture, it doesn’t starve until it finds more corn or soy, it eats the grass. As we know, grass-fed cows are sustainable. Corn and soy fed cows are not. Duh, that’s easy. Grasses, forbs, and browse are species-appropriate for cows. Species-appropriate diet is sustainable, species-inappropriate diet is not.
Quick Aside: Nobody needs to micromanage fields of native grasses, so inputs like water irrigation systems and fertilizer (except from in the form poop) is extraneous. In a smart, species-appropriate system, inputs are on a closed-loop cycle so you don’t need to purchase corn or soy from your neighbor’s irrigated, pesticide and petroleum-based fertilizer-laden, monoculture.
You see, domesticated animals also have a diet that is species-appropriate, all you have to look at is their wild counterparts and their behavior without the “helping hand” of a human. If an animal usually scratches and pecks at the ground and eats mostly grubs and other invertebrates with a few plants and a few seeds on occasion, it’s safe to say that that is their instinctual, and therefore species-appropriate diet. Chickens that escape from their encampments don’t starve in the wild looking for corn and soy, they eat their species-appropriate diets– and they thrive and multiply.
Like the Hollywood Freeway Chickens, the two colonies of feral chickens that live underneath the 101. No, they aren’t being fed corn and soy to stay alive, there are plenty of cockroaches and crickets in that area that they eat. See, population control. That’s also part of the bigger sustainability picture.
I digress– back to corn and soy.
At some point we decided it was a good idea to domesticate animals, and remove them from their species-appropriate diets too. Then, like us, they also became sick and fat. That corn and soy that we are feeding those animals in our so-called “sustainable” operations is the exact same shitty corn and soy that we are eating. It’s coming from an unsustainable form of agriculture, isn’t it? We don’t eat wheat and corn and soy because it’s not healthy, and it’s not sustainable. So, is it that hard to accept that chickens, pigs, cows, and farmed-salmon that eat them are also unsustainable? I think not.
If you rely on an unsustainable form of agriculture to survive, by proxy you are not sustainable. Commit that last sentence to memory and it will change the way you look at “sustainable agriculture” forever.

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