Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brief thoughts on tying together the Livestock and Dinner posts

This occurred to me just now as I was sorting tomatoes for freezing; I'll cook and can them later when the weather is cooler.

As a body, Americans waste an appalling amount of food. Alas, food is wasted every step of the way. Crops rot in the field, due to weather, or insect damage, or disease, or just bad timing for harvest. Gleaning efforts in many places - including Amherst! - seek to recover some of the bounty lost in the field. Once harvested, potentially edible food is chucked for numerous reasons... it's the wrong color or shape, for example, and doesn't meet the 'standard' for saleability or further processing. I'm sure there are means of recovering this waste, but I am not familiar with them. Once food is shipped to stores, some items are bruised, or spoiled, or otherwise imperfect. Chuck! Some stores allow farmers to collect this 'waste' for livestock use (note: look into this!). Food is put out on display, and sometimes, is not bought in a timely manner. My local Stop & Shop will package up slightly post-mature produce at a discount for quick sale - I love buying bananas this way, as they're less expensive and ideal for banana bread/muffins. At some point, I suspect, more of this produce is tossed. While there are means each of us could take to redirect some of this loss, I want to focus on the food that actually comes into our homes, and how livestock can help us make use of every last bit.

I doubt that there's a single person among us who has never 'lost' something in the fridge or at the back of a cupboard, or had an infestation of pantry moths (SO disgusting) or ants. What do you do with the leftovers that nobody's going to eat? What do you do with a five pound bag of flour or oatmeal that's lousy with bugs?
Option 1: toss it in the garbage. Boo! Hiss!
Option 2: compost it. Better...
Option 3: take it out to the chickens (or rabbits, or goats) and let them consume it and turn it into meat, milk, eggs, and/or manure. I like this one best!

Although I'd love to tell you that I never, ever waste food, I'd be lying, and you know it.

I have pulled partial bags of frozen vegetables from my freezer and sighed because they're freezer-burned. I have forgotten bags of lettuce. I have faithfully kept leftovers from dinner and despaired when nobody wanted to eat them. So... I take them out to the hens and goats. They don't mind! It's awesome!

Then there's prep waste... for instance, I made spaghetti sauce on Monday. I cooked down a bunch of tomatoes and ran them through a Foley food mill (LOVE this tool, btw) and had only skins and seeds left over. Now, I could have tossed those, or composted them, but instead, I took them out to the hens. Yum, yum, yum, they cackled! There wasn't a speck left when I went back later. We celebrated a friend's birthday here this week, and after we'd gobbled up all the cake, there were still crumbs in the pan. Out it went, with whatever else needed to go out, and the chickens cleaned it up very nicely... made it much easier to wash, too. I cooked, juiced, and drained my grape crop a couple of weeks ago, and was left with skins and seeds. I hope I got all of the useful bits - I will be making jam soon! I took those out to the hens, and to my amazement, they just scoffed at them. The goats, however, thought they were fabulous.

This won't save the world, but it will reduce waste, reduce feed bills, and reduce the nagging guilt we all (should) have over our part in food waste. Considering the magnitude of my animal feed bills (I use about 1,000 pounds of layer pellets per month for JUST the hens... then there's rabbit and goat feed, too!) anything I can provide my girls that nourishes them and reduces both waste and cost is a HUGE plus.


  1. And in the meantime, the government, urged on by the idiots at PETA and Humane Societies, is trying to outlaw keeping rabbits, chickens etc for food so we all have to only eat factory farmed stuff filled with the "right" antibiotics.

    1. Gaia, PETA at least intends to try to compel us all to become vegans... not that either scenario is terribly palatable (pun intended!). I'm far too contrary to be amenable to being controlled or coerced, myself.

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