I’ve been living a real food lifestyle for about ten years now. I started my journey when struggling with infertility. I found Nourishing Traditions and have been learning all I can ever since! It took a lot of baby steps to get where I am now. But it wasn’t until my family moved to a farm two years ago that I realized just how important it is to care for our bodies and the Earth and to raise animals well.
And with all the recent news about glyphosate, it has become more clear that we, as a nation, are not living the way God intended.
I see it all around me with neighboring farms growing GMO crops. And I recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which fully opened my eyes to the reality of our dysfunctional food and healthcare systems.
It has been weighing heavily on my heart for some time that most people are not living the way God intended. Even as Christians, we are not being good stewards of his creation. Whether we are doing the growing or the buying. And even in how we care for our own bodies. So today I’m going to be blunt. I hope it makes you think about daily choices and long-term consequences.
What Does God Want Us to do on Earth?
Living in the country, some of the problems with caring for the Earth are in front of me daily. I see the same genetically modified crops grown year after year in the same fields, sprayed with toxic pesticides (yes, glyphosate!). The soil has been depleted of all nutrients. Which means the crops themselves are lifeless. It is basically a field of calories, void of any nutrition.
Farms have gone from small, diverse subcultures to mega-farms with field after field of corn and soybeans. These, in turn, become the bulk of our food, whether it’s infant formula, a box of cereal or even the unsuspecting bottle of honey
Unfortunately, there is not much incentive for farmers to change since the government makes this type of farming profitable while small-scale farms growing quality food can barely survive.
In addition to poor farming practices, we have to deal with gas emissions, water pollution and a lot of waste.
This is not what God intended for his beautiful creation.
Instead of producing lifeless food with more than five different ingredients in one product all made from corn, we should be growing a diverse population of vegetation, nourishing the soil with compost and manure, rotating crops and sourcing our food locally. We should not have to add synthetic vitamins and minerals back into our food because it has none.
Simply choosing organic food, although a step up, is not always that much better. The majority of organic food is produced by just a few large-scale farms. Their farming practices aren’t all that different from the conventional ones. And if you are choosing organic processed food…it’s still processed food. It’s still heavy on corn and void of much nutrition. And it still has to travel long distances before it gets to your table.
As good stewards we should try to source our food locally and sustainably as much as possible. Visit your local farmer’s market or start your own garden. Eat what’s fresh and in season. Then preserve the rest for winter. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s also better for your health and your budget.
I just finished freezing ten gallons and canning sixty pints of green and yellow beans from our garden. The seeds cost less than $5.00. And now we have enough beans to last us until next summer. We ate a lot fresh too. And gave some away. How’s that for eating locally and saving money?!
How Should We Care for Animals?
Animal care can be a touchy subject. How should they be treated? They are just animals. Or should we even consume animal products at all?
We should start with the fact that humans are indeed omnivores. God created us to digest plants and animals. And the Bible does tell us it is ok to eat animals. But are they just a commodity? And are we still good stewards if we eat animals that aren’t raised well?
Animals are part of God’s good creation. We are responsible for treating them well. It saddens me every time I see a cow locked up in a barn feeding on piles of corn.
Caring for Cows
Did you know…cows are herbivores? They are also ruminants. Which means their stomachs are designed to digest grass. NOT corn. Corn actually makes their stomachs bloat and can even kill them (something my children have learned already in elementary science!). Add pesticides to the mix and you really have a mess.
Sadly, most of our beef these days comes from cattle raised on feedlots, called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation). They are fed corn and special blends of animal parts and antibiotics. None of which is good for them. Cows should not be consuming animal products (remember – herbivores). And the antibiotics are precautionary since there is so much sickness when animals are raised in a confined space. They are fattened quickly since their bodies can only tolerate this type of feeding for a short period of time before it would kill them.
“But corn-fed cows have good marbling,” you might say. True. But the marbling scale was only created to promote the corn industry! To make you think more marbling is better so more corn could be sold to farmers.
Then there are pigs.
Pigs raised in confinement don’t have it much better. Since they are weaned too early they never lose their biting/chewing reflex. Which makes them bite the tails of other pigs standing so close. This doesn’t always bother a pig, but a bitten tale can become infected and the animal is no good.
The solution for this seems simple. Wait a few extra weeks to wean the pigs. Instead, farmers clip the tails of the pigs (without any pain medication), leaving a sore stub. So if they are bitten by another pig they will fight back instead of ignoring the biting and allowing it to get infected.
What about chickens?
You see commercials all the time about “cage-free” chickens and eggs. Do you know what that means? Absolutely nothing!
It just means all the chickens are piled into one really large coop instead of in individual cages. They still don’t go outside. They are still just sitting in filth. There must legally be a small door to the coop. But it is not opened until they are at last 5-6 weeks old. At which point they are so used to their living environment they don’t notice it. And for meat birds, they will be butchered within a few weeks anyway.
If you buy animal products from the store or a restaurant, the majority of the time this is what you are consuming.
What if instead, we source our meat from a local farmer that raises animals the way God intended? Try visiting the farm where you purchase your meat. The cows should be grazing on grass. The pigs should be outside rooting around. The chickens should be running all over the yard eating bugs and leaves. They should have a good life, growing and eating the way God designed them. Then there should be just one bad day (as Lori and Joel Salatin say) for them.
Plants and animals work in harmony when they are allowed to live the way God intended. The sun transfers energy to the plants. The plants transfer that energy to the animals. And both the plants and the animals transfer the energy to us.
Cows keep the grass trimmed while getting nourished. Chickens keep the fly population down. Pigs can even rotate compost for you by rooting! It’s really an amazing design when you see the intricate interactions (check out Polyface Farm if you want to see this in action). We need to stop intervening with our “bigger and faster is better” mentality. And let things work the way God designed them.
I believe there is great nutritional value in animal products and that they are a gift from God. But I think I’d rather be a vegetarian or vegan than consist on a diet of CAFO raised animals. As a Christian, I can’t support treating animals that way.
How to Live for God Daily
If caring for the Earth and animals is so important, think how it’s even more important to care for our own bodies?!
Sadly these days most people treat their bodies very poorly. They don’t sleep enough. They eat processed food. And they fill their lives with so much stress.
Those are the generalized problems. But then we get into the details.
How much money do you spend on food? How does that compare to how much you spend on recreation? We are always trying to save money by cutting our grocery budget. Yet we spend freely on non-essentials.
Quality food should be a top priority. And your budget should reflect that (though finding ways to save on real food is always good).
What about health care? Do you hope that you stay healthy? Or do you invest in your health by spending money on preventative care, like visits to the chiropractor, herbs and supplements, essential oils and exercise equipment? This type of spending will actually prevent more health care costs in the future.
Let’s dig even deeper.
What are you willing to do to your body? There are many optional medical interventions these days that people do without much thought. Male and female sterilization, vaccines, circumcision, gallbladder removal (it’s often not necessary, though doctors are quick to suggest it).
Even overexercise and extreme diets are often not in line with caring for your body. They can do more harm (stress) than good. We’re so focused on dieting and looking a certain way that we forget to nourish and care for our bodies. They are God’s temple after all.
What about our children? They start life with a bang, injected with toxic substances and aborted fetal cells. They grow up eating convenience foods (because it’s too inconvenient for parents to take time to cook nourishing food) void of nutrition. Kids are given round after round of antibiotics. Then they spend day after day sitting in desks for hours on end.
A Better Way for Kids
What if we let kids be kids and run around outside as much as possible? What if we boosted their immune systems with fresh air, sunshine, bare feet and nourishing food? How about we teach them some new food rules?
Do you immediately give your child medication when they have a fever? Fevers have a purpose! A fever is part of God’s amazing design of our bodies. A fever is how your body fights illness. Just like your ankle swells when you get a sprain. A fever is the swelling when you are sick. We need to stop being so quick to intervene with medications and let our bodies heal on their own. God created our bodies with the ability to heal if we allow them to.
What God Expects of Man
We have really veered off the path. I know I’m not perfect. And we often talk about the 80/20 rule. But I think it’s time we started aiming more for 100%. Meaning we always choose to support well-raised animals. We always make self-care a priority. We always try to source food locally when possible. We are omnivores.
I don’t say any of this to make people feel bad. I certainly have room for improvement! But we do speak with our dollars. The less processed food and CAFO meat you buy, the less demand there will be. And less of it will be made.
After two years of farm life, I am very passionate about caring for God’s good creation. We have a large garden where we grow as much of our food as we can. We also have apple, pear and peach trees. What we don’t grow we source locally. It takes a lot of time and effort to preserve summer’s and fall’s bounty, But it is so worth it to have quality, sustainable food year round. Even with a new baby in the house, I try to do as much preserving as I can to keep us going.
Just the other day I went grocery shopping. I hadn’t been to the store in almost 2 weeks. And the only vegetables I bought were sweet potatoes. We didn’t grow any this year, and I don’t know where to buy them locally at this point. If it weren’t for my nursling’s food reactions and my limited diet I wouldn’t buy them at all.
We work on this as a family. From toddlerhood on my kids help in the garden with the growing and in the kitchen with cooking and preserving. I want the next generation to stop relying on convenience and get back to hard work and good stewardship.
Currently, we also raise chickens for eggs. We hope to add meat chickens and pigs to the farm in the near future. We buy our fresh, raw milk from a local farm. We purchase our beef, pork, and chicken from three other local farmers.
Everybody has different resources and limitations. But we can all make more informed choices. Let’s start living the way God really intended. Let’s care for His creation and marvel at its complexity and beauty.