Eco-Friendly?

I’m looking at a magazine put out by the Virginia Department of Agriculture. The photo on the cover is of wholesome beautiful food, but the lead story is titled “Big Win: China Imports Virginia Poultry.”

I wonder if the places that produce the food Virginians are eating are generating headlines like “Big Win: Virginia Imports (fill in the blank–California, Mexico, Costa Rica, etc.) Vegetables.”

But leaving that aside (y’all have heard it plenty of times already) I was struck by another little article about a Virginia agricultural export–wood pellets.  To my surprise I learned that Virginia exports over $35 million worth of wood pellets to Europe every year and that wood pellet exports have doubled in the last two years.

It seems that in France, Germany and Italy the wood pellets are used for home heating and in the U.K. they’re used for electricity generation.  I wonder if the folks who put in pellet-burning stoves, in part because of a desire to generate heat with a renewable resource, are aware of how far those pellets are traveling to get there.

Reminds me of something I learned recently about recycled paper.  Like many people these days we’re careful to recycle our paper. But apparently the recycling manufacturing is done primarily in China.  When the ships arrive from China loaded with the trinkets they sell us, we fill the empty cargo containers with our trash, which they recycle and sell back to us as “recycled paper.”  That doesn’t sound sustainable to me, or as eco-friendly as we probably imagine recycling paper to be.

Just some random thoughts about the crazy world we live in.

Win. Win. Win.

We let our little flock of Dominiques forage in garden plots to help prepare and fertilize them. But we aim to have them off the land at least 120 days before we put a food crop on it.  For the last month or so they’ve been grazing a garden of oats and crimson clover, which we’ll be planting in vegetables this fall.

IMG_6675

But now it’s time for them to move.  This time of year, with our spring gardens still producing, and our summer and fall gardens ready to produce within the next 120 days, they don’t have any garden work to do. So we rotate them onto a hay field, where they can enjoy grass and any grasshopper unlucky enough to hop into their area.

Allowing chickens to forage and supplement their diet with grass and bugs is what makes their eggs so wonderfully amazing.  As I’ve often warned on this blog, don’t be fooled by “free range” or “cage free” claims on supermarket egg cartons.  Federal law allows a producer to claim their eggs are from “free range” hens as long as the hens have theoretical access to a “porch.”  So all a producer has to do is put a little run on the side of a factor farm chicken house and cut an access door to it.  It doesn’t matter if the chickens ever actually go outside (and the operator will provide them no incentive to do that).  Without the natural foraging the yolks of the eggs will never have the firmness and the rich orange color of a naturally raised hen (or the taste, of course).

“Cage free” hens

“Free range”

A real farm-fresh egg and a factory egg

A real farm-fresh egg and a factory egg

On our farm we not only get the benefit of the chickens’ work as tillers, fertilizers and pest control, but we also get wonderfully delicious eggs and they get a life worthy of living.  Win, win, win.