Up until a few days ago, I was a card-carrying member of the carnivore club. A couple of weeks ago, I eliminated sugar and gluten from my diet in an effort to get my eczema and psoriasis under control. Surprisingly, revamping my diet has been fairly easy, I don't miss my old friends sugar and gluten, furthermore, I feel fabulous. Eliminating gluten and sugar has had no effect on my skin, but the way I have felt since giving them boot is reason enough to keep them off the menu (I no longer crave a nap everyday at 2pm! No more headaches!). I have long-suspected a link between my dairy consumption and my skin problems, I don't consume a lot of dairy (the thought of drinking milk outright has always turned my stomach, since I was a kid!), but I like it in my coffee, and I love cheese. I. Love. Cheese!
In my efforts to wrap my head around eliminating dairy, I have been researching food. I have borrowed the book Skinny Bitch from a co-worker, I have watched the movie Food, inc., a fascinating look at how food is produced today, and I've been, ya know, Googling (a favourite pastime of mine, if you must know!) all things food-related. I had previously read Fast Food Nation, so I had prior knowledge about factory farming, and how it's overtaking the traditional family farm as the source of most of the food on our tables. Despite what I had read in that book, for the past few years, I've still held on tight to the notion that farming in Canada must be different. I grew up in southwestern Ontario where family farms with cows grazing in rolling pastures are a common sight. Yes, I ate meat, but I have always believed that this is where cows come from -- they live out their days in a grassy field, then they are sent to slaughter (humanely, I might add, as stupid as that sounds!). Granted, this may be the case in those family farms still in existence, however, the reality is that 95% of animals raised for slaughter in Canada are mass-produced on factory farms.
Do you know what factory farming involves (warning: graphic video)? Seriously, I had no idea. I suppose the notion of 'cruelty-free' farming is a contradiction in itself (what is humane about raising an animal for the sole purpose of killing it?), but I was blissfully unaware of what I have been putting on our table, and into our bodies. Until now. I cannot condone practices that I find absolutely horrifying, and by putting money into the pockets of the companies committing these atrocities, I am condoning it (and so are you!).
I'm sure a lot of you are thinking "It's only been a couple of days, give it time, and you'll be back to your regular diet", however, I've given up meat before (for a couple of years!), the sole reason I went back was because I got pregnant with Maddy, and quite frankly, I was the world's laziest vegetarian. My diet sucked, I didn't supplement what I ate with alternate sources of protein, unless bread counts as a source of protein. I have always been the type of person to stop my car and pick up stray dogs, so really, why wouldn't I show farm animals the same type of consideration I show other animals? I play with our beta fish, for God's sake, because I worry about how lonely he (she?) feels!
The link between veal production and the dairy industry is enough to cure me of my cheese habit. As a lactating mammal myself (10 years strong!), I can sympathize with a dairy cow and calves. As much as I may bemoan my morning coffee with rice/soy/almond milk (haven't figured that one out yet), life will go on.
While I'm comfortable giving up meat and dairy for myself, my husband and our children, on the other hand, are apprehensive about my (our!) new diet, proclaiming "But we're not *that* type of people!", whatever that means. So as a compromise, to ease them into the transition, we're going to purchase what we can from a local farm, although my goal is to completely eliminate meat and dairy from our diets (me, now, them, later!). A co-worker (thanks, Christine!) pointed me to the Weston Price Foundation, which promotes the consumption of whole foods. The website links to local chapters, through which you can source locally-grown organic and biodynamic vegetables, fruits and grains; and milk products, butter, eggs, chicken and meat from pasture-fed animals.
The point of this post isn't to debate the ethics of meat consumption in general, rather, I'm looking for advice. If you have any suggestions regarding books, recipes, and local sources for meat, dairy, and eggs, please pass them on. I have been debating a change in our family's diet for a long time, getting rid of sugar and gluten, and feeling so great as a result, has been the impetus I needed to make this change. I have a whole bunch of books on hold at the library, but as with everything in life, it's always nice to get advice from real, live people.