The Eat with Care blog

Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)

Heritage Breeds Supper! June 28 in Vermont

June 23, 2015

Ossawbaw pigs, a heritage breed

Ossawbaw pigs, a heritage breed

When you begin exploring the topic of humane animal farming, eventually you bump up against the issue of breeds. Industrial agriculture — in its quest for quick profits — has turned a small handful of animal breeds into fast-growing meat machines that produce huge quantities of flesh on their frames.

These animals are often genetically predisposed to have oversized breasts, weak legs, respiratory issues, and reproductive challenges, all of which cause them to inherently suffer, no matter how happy their environment or how humanely they’re raised.

Yet miraculously, even in this age of industrial agriculture, the slower-growing breeds that our ancestors developed over centuries have managed to survive. Breeds like the Tamworth pig, the Dominique chicken, the Tunis sheep, the Milking Devon cow.  A select number of farmers and homesteaders have kept the genetics of old-fashioned breeds intact by continuing to raise these animals, even though rare breeds require more time to grow (and thus, require more feed and labor).

Today, small-scale farmers are rediscovering and raising these more “normal” breeds because these animals do better on pasture than industrial breeds and can withstand extremes in climate. And consumers are beginning to eat them, recognizing that they’re simply more tasty than the breeds that modern agricultural companies have developed.

Heritage breeds deserve to be celebrated!  Which is why I’m proud that Humaneitarian is co-organizing the first-ever Heritage Breeds Supper in the state of Vermont. This free, public event, co-organized with Slow Food Vermont, will be held on Sunday, June 28 at 5 pm at the Intervale in Burlington, Vermont. Anyone with an interest in heritage breed meat is welcome to attend (please RSVP here).

It will be part potluck, part barbecue: participants are invited to bring a raw cut of heritage breed meat for the grill (to be operated by grillmaster Luke Stone of Hindquarter) and we’ll all get to taste the different breeds. Alternatively, people can bring a pre-made dish featuring heritage breed meat. To make shopping easier, each person who RSVP’s receives a list of farmers in northern Vermont who sell heritage breed meat.

A number of farmers who raise heritage breeds will also be present at Sunday’s event to talk about their animals and why heritage breeds matter. We’ll have information on hand from the Livestock Conservancy, the organization doing the most work in the U.S. to promote and safeguard heritage breeds. And we’ll eat well, of course!

Things that have been around a long time should be revered: art works, buildings, traditions, people. They deserve our respect, admiration, and attention. Heritage breed farm animals deserve these things, too, and it’s time for them to regain their rightful place in modern agriculture. Come celebrate them with us this Sunday!