Friday, December 21, 2007

A Great Article on the NYT!

This is from a week or so ago — I'm still behind the old Christmas curve! — but I wanted to point it out as a really great take on "retasking" hunting as "localism" by Alaskan author Steven Rinella:
EVERY year, 15 million licensed hunters head into America’s forests and fields in search of wild game. In New York State alone, roughly half a million hunters harvest around 190,000 deer in the fall deer hunting season — that’s close to eight million pounds of venison. In the traditional vernacular, we’d call that “game meat.” But, in keeping with the times, it might be better to relabel it as free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat.
You know, he's right on target. Here on the outskirts of the People's Republic of Boulder where I live, most of even the chain supermarkets label food as to where its from. And, yes, here at the Secret Hidden Bunker in the Rocky Mountains we do our best to "eat locally," as much as possible choose produce and foodstuffs from local farmers and ranchers. This is made easier by the fact that my Swweetie's brother works with local organic farmers and keeps us in the loop.

At the big organic markets like Whole Foods, the meet practically comes with a pedigree...which ranch, what the animal was fed, a few tidbits about its life and death ("free range;" "humanely harvested;" etc.).

I've always been puzzled about how people who can talk articulately about the importance of "quality of life" for farm animals and against the too-often casual horror of factory farms — as a journalist, I have been to factory farms where my initial response was to torture the owners — then be vehemently against hunting.

It's no secret that I don't eat a lot of meat (although judging by my endless weight problems I must eat everything else!). I got out of the "habit" when I was running traithlons and I discovered that one of the trackable elements in my performance was what I had eaten the previous few days before a big race. A lot of meat — epecially red meat — translated into slower times.

At the same time, I fell victim to a horrific family history of high blood pressure and heart disease...the short story is most of the members of my family who didn't manage to get shot died from complications of high blood pressure/heart disease. I chose to control my blood pressure through diet and exercise. QED...hello Mr. Salmon! Hello Ms. Beans and Rice! For the sake of argument, a few years back I declared "turkey" a vegetable, and there is no better turkey than that havested with a shotgun — no steroids; no antibiotics; no growth hormones; a free-range omniverous diet; and, hell, he had a life! He fought for hens and passed his DNA along down the line before he ended up on my plate. He died quicky and humanely, which is pretty mucy all any of us can ask...
While many people will never give up their opposition to killing Bambi, others may change their minds when they realize that destroying a deer’s reproductive abilities or relying on the automobile for population control is really no less wasteful than tossing fresh produce into a landfill.

Maintaining the ability to cull semi-rural and suburban deer herds is just one of many struggles facing hunters today, along with battling land development on wintering grounds, limiting oil exploration in our last wilderness strongholds of Alaska and combating the introduction of livestock diseases into wild animal herds in the Midwest. But an emphasis on resort-based quail shooting and whack-’em lingo are not going to persuade the critics.

Hunters need to push a new public image based on deeper traditions: we are stewards of the land, hunting on ground that we know and love, collecting indigenous, environmentally sustainable food for ourselves and our families.
Excellent story!


Not Available said...

MB, do you eat no red meat at all? How about pork? I've cut back on red meat (and no whiskey) over the last 2 years due to gout. I still enjoy red wine ($2 Buck Chuck)!

Anonymous said...

That's strange. I shot USPSA matches with a guy (Behavioral Psychologist I think) who stopped eating breakfast at the buffet and started having liver and onions for breakfast no less and he said it helped him.

Anonymous said...

Michael: As one of the resident farmers in the gun writing community I have to take exception to your comments about "factory farming".

I'm not exactly sure what defines "factory farming", which I feel falls into the same category as "Saturday Night Specials" or the ever popular "Assault Pistol".

All of the pork producers around here use confinement buildings which to the agriculturally ignorant are 'pork factories', but I have NEVER seen anyone lining up outside our local supermarkets to pay the producers a reasonable equivalent per pound for "Free Range Hogs", so agricultural economics dictate the production efficiencies found with confinement buildings.

It all comes down to economics. One man's meat is another man's poison (perhaps literally and ironically in this instance), but the bottom line is the market place determines how goods and services are produced and what price the consumer is willing to pay.

As one who is intimately familiar with agricultural production practices in both grain and livestock from Indiana to Colorado (Yes, I worked for Monfort---Remember?)I view the whole organic farming movement as a classic Joseph Goebbels sales job.

Some are honest, but I question if a wide percentage would withstand severe scrutiny as to their weed and pest control practices in terms of what the public views, accepts and defines as "organic".

It is a concept as empty as "Reasonable Gun Control".

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Michael Bane said...


I defer to your comments and apologize...and, yes, it does all come down to economics. The market does indeed decide.

I am willing (and have the ability) to pay more for what I perceive as higher quality foodstuffs. I try very hard to frequent those suppliers that I have direct knowledge of their practices...of course, that is practical in only a tiny fraction of overall purchases.

I have become increasingly fastidious about my turkey after visiting a large-scale turkey farm (northern Colorado is big on such). I'm sorry, Frank...but while I understand totally the economics behind it, it offends me on a profound ethical level, and I am unwilling to support the process with my dollars.

I am not part of, nor do I subscribe to any, movement. I grew up in the South in the 1950s, and I have killed and butchered hogs, chickens, turkeys, goats, whitetail deer and any number of smaller creatures. But I believe in the hunting ethos, at the root of which is the concept of a quick kill. If I truly believe in that, how can I not apply the same standard to the food I buy?

Again, Frank, my apologies...and, as you know, consistency isn't my strong suite!


Not Available said...

Frank said..."I view the whole organic farming movement as a classic Joseph Goebbels sales job.

Uh Frank? Would you mind speaking to my wife about this?

Also, do you have plans for another gun book?

Anonymous said...

Michael: Apology accepted.

It's just that as a keen observer of human nature, a full time cynic as well as a student of economics, I believe the more profitable the business the stronger the possibility becomes someone is CHEATING!

When something is labeled "ORGANIC" in the local supermarket, who set the standards to meet that label? State? Federal? Or is it the Supermarket? And then who inspects and maintains those standards? Who pays for these inspectors and most importantly are there serious criminal penalities when the standards and ethics are violated or ignored?

Eating food labeled "Organic" may make the residents of Boulder feel all warm and fuzzy, but until someone is sent to jail for perpetrating a fraud by labeling something "Organic" while using common agricultural husbandry practices I will continue to view the whole thing as a scam that victimizes the agriculturally ignorant.

Don: I'm actually in research right now for a book that will be something new for me. I leave the day after Christmas (that is if ENTERPRISE can find the damn Suburban I reserved ten days ago!?!) for a feral hog hunting expedition in Oklahoma. I plan several of these ventures for the next year or so for research because I believe free ranging feral hogs are going to become the next hot button pest control issue in agriculture (primarily because of disease and crop damage concerns) and possibly could become a sport rivaling prairie dog shooting in the coming years....that is if the demographic information I've been studying is half-way accurate.

Kinda ties in with the points raised here doesn't it?

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Anonymous said...

I am with Frank. I spent my childhood and most of my "teens" on the family farm. I raised cattle, chickens, ducks and we tried hogs for awhile. We "graised'em" in the summer and "barned'em" in the winter. Funny thing, if you left the gates and barn doors opened, they all ended up in the barns, all crowded up, even in the summer. So much for "free-ranging".
Life Member