Something to Chew On

How has (urban) farming changed your diet?

Of course, for our family, we love growing our own food.    The benefits are that we are considerably healthier, not to mention all the money we are saving from not having to buy organic and  by avoiding doctor visits!   But after nearly 20 years of being vegetarian (occasionally eating fish) and with the talapia fish in the backyard tank growing bigger each day,  a hot topic around the dinner table is ethical eating.

As a teenager, reading Robbins ‘Diet for A New America really opened my eyes up to the horrific practices of the meat industry and we’ve not touched red meat or fowl since.   Our consciousness over the relationship with the land and its animals has grown these last couple years where we have come to question eating habits in relation to farming.

Recently, we have noticed some articles “ethical meat” that have raised some valid points about such eating habits

Simon Fairlie: How Eating Meat Can Save the Planet via

Countless studies claim that eating meat harms the planet and contributes to global warming. The U.N.’s 2006 Food and Agriculture Organization report states that meat produces 18% of the world’s carbon emissions — more than the global transport infrastructure. But in his new book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, Simon Fairlie, a British farmer and former editor of the Ecologist magazine, tears apart the theory that being carnivorous is bad for the planet — and says that eating moderate amounts of meat could be greener than going vegan.

Read full article

Is Eating Meat the Best Way to Fight Factory Farms? via

“It’s a hard reality for a vegetarian to swallow, but my veggie burgers did not rattle the industry cages at all. I was simply avoiding the battlefield, stepping aside as a pacifist. There is nobility in the vegetarian choice, but it isn’t changing the system fast enough. In a world where meat consumption is soaring, the plausible 25% of the world’s inhabitants who have a mostly vegetarian diet aren’t making a dent in the rate us humans are eating animals. In theory, a plant-based diet avoids consuming animals but it certainly isn’t getting cows out of feedlots. However, steak-eating consumers choosing to eat sustainably raised meat are. They chose to purchase a product raised on pasture when they could have spent less money on an animal treated like a screwdriver.”

Read full article

Eat meat and save the planet, says eco-warrior and former vegetarian via

Simon Fairlie, a farmer and writer, is now shattering the consensus that we should avoid eating any meat or raising any animals in order to save the planet.

Read full article

More to come…

In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by  (another) horrible & deadly earthquake & tsunami.  Not to mention, all those folks & friends in Christchurch, NZ, who are still dealing with tremors and extensive devastation in their city.   Thank you for writing us back and updating us on your current situations.


  1. Jessica says:

    Thank you for posting these links… we have an ongoing conversation in our house about ethical eating, and I enjoy reading/hearing the variety of opinions out there.

    We eat meat; we try to buy all of it from our farmer, where we know the animals are raised in a sustainable way and treated well. This, of course, costs more, so we find that we eat less meat. It seems to balance itself out, in a way, forcing us to eat vegetarian meals more of the time (having a CSA helps as well, because we have to work to eat all those veggies!). I know many would disagree with our choice, and we struggle with it at times… but realistically, I don’t ever see our home ever being 100% vegetarian.

    As a side note, I want to mention that I have really been inspired by the work you are doing, and we are hoping to follow your example in whatever ways we can as we move into our own home. Thank you for the work you are doing!

  2. Susan Tomi says:

    so glad you’re back, I so enjoy you!

  3. Susan says:

    Yes, I’ve always agreed it didn’t have to be “all or nothing” as far as eating meat is concerned. Eating meat occasionally isn’t the problem; it’s millions of people eating large servings of meat 2-3 times every day that is bad for the environment.

  4. Frydaze1 says:

    As a recent convert to aquaponics, I am also facing the question of the tilapia and how I’m going to deal with them. I do currently eat meat, though I try to purchase only locally, ethically raised animals. But these tilapia will be entirely my responsibility to kill and clean. And if I’m unwilling to do so (which may happen) I won’t eat ones that someone else killed for me. It’s no more ethical to have someone else do the dirty work for me. So I’m curious to see how my eating habits may change in a few months. Or perhaps they won’t, and I’ll add chickens (as is my current plan).

  5. Amy says:

    Great articles! I was vegetarian for years until grass fed/organic meat from small farms was available. I decided it was healthier for our family to eat real food vs. processed veggie burgers. Now we follow the Weston Price/nourishing traditions philosophy and are very happy with that. We have a great relationship with a grass fed local beef farm as well. For a family of four traditional meat based dishes goes a lot further than a veggie/vegan diet.

  6. AlaskAnna says:

    Last Earth Day, someone wrote a letter to the editor in my city’s newspaper, urging everyone to become vegans for the planet. This was Alaska. How is that sustainable, eating soybeans shipped from who knows where? I’ll stick to my raw goat milk from the girls out back, and moose meat. Far more ‘green’.

  7. Barbara Dutton says:

    I have been exploring this same topic recently. If you have not read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, it is an excellent source of information.

    I purchased (and ate) a locally raised, pasture fed chicken recently. It was so much tastier than the supermarket chickens I used to buy. It was expensive, but a welcome addition to my normal vegetarian fare.

  8. Candace says:

    We try not to eat away from home, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, and we’ve noticed since we changed our eating habits that whenever we eat anything with preservatives we both wake up in the night sweating profusely, and I have terrible dreams. We are not vegetarian and have chosen to eat locally grown humanely raised meat whenever possible. My dad hunts, so we have venison, and we went in with some friends and bought a local pasture-raised cow. With that, I noticed recently that we hardly ever eat chicken or fish anymore. We never eat meat away from home. It’s revolting to think of doing so.

  9. Aim says:

    It’s made me more concious of what’s ACTUALLY going into my body, and I haven’t felt this good in years. Amazing what a little bit of fresh home grown produce can do for a persons health.


  10. Jimmy Cracked Corn says:

    Urban homesteading has totally changed our diet. In season, the garden tells us what ingredients we have to work with instead of a grocery store shopping list. You learn lots of new recipes when you have a counter with 100 pounds of tomatoes, zucchini, sweet corn, peppers and peaches sitting on it. We haven’t bought ketchup in 3 years. Or whole canned tomatoes, or pickles, etc.

  11. elaine says:

    What have you decided about the tilapia? Will you be eating some of them or just using them for fertilizer? I think eating some of the fish will probably be beneficial and bring some additional protein to your diet.

    • Anais says:

      @elaine: Probably will eat some of them in the future.

  12. Dawn Mathews says:

    Our family of four bought a couple of goats a year and a half ago. Little did we realize it would propel us into the urban homesteading frontier. Next we had egg laying chickens, then baby goats, then more chickens and rabbits. Now we are planting a garden and composting like crazy (love my worms). I guess homesteading leads to a thought process that brings you back to the earth, where we were meant to be. We aren’t to the point we can eat all our food organic from our yard (4/10 of an acre) but we are getting there. I love that we were doing this, trucking right along not even knowing about the Dervaes! We were so excited to find that someone else was doing this too. Then, a couple of weeks ago I went to an organic growers school in Asheville NC and realized this is a huge movement. I’m so excited!!! This year we will be raising all our vegetables from our yard (hopefully), milk and cheese from the goats, eggs and meat from the chickens, meat from the rabbits, and manure from everybody. That’s amazing to us. We live in a neighborhood too! If you think you can only do this ‘someday’, ‘someday’ might just be now. Give it a try:)

  13. jen says:

    Could you post more about your diet and about the ethics of backyard fish farming? I have been following your blog for some time and thought you were all completely vegetarian (also says so on the facts and stats page). Could you talk about why you are now deciding to raise fish and if you expect what you eat to change significantly?

  14. Mil says:

    Hello Farming Family!
    How has urban farming changed my diet? I mostly shop at the Farmers’ Market, grow, and forage for our food. It’s so that I have a hard time eating produce bought from stores. I don’t feel it has the same life force and isn’t as fresh.

    Best wishes,

  15. CE says:

    Dawn Matthews said it all, and very nicely too. I do not have the goats but my gardening lead to my chickens which are a pleasure and provide protein in the form of eggs. This year I will raise some to can and freeze the meat. The manure is important to my garden and healthy soil means more production from my small space and limited growing season. I do enjoy eating what each season provides and that decreases the work of preservation.
    This year I will raise some additional chickens for meat because they will have a healthy and pleasant life and be killed humanely. And I will know this is true. The chickens will be well treated and provide good quality nutrition for my table. It will be hard to kill them. I have done it before and I did not enjoy it. But I am killing by proxy when I purchase store bought chicken and I have no idea how that chicken was treated when alive or at it’s death. So this year I will take more responsibility for the meat that I eat.

  16. Charity says:

    In response to the “Ethical Eating” post and the Simon Fairlie philosophy:

    In many ways, I am very impressed and inspired by what you do at Path to Freedom. But this post is bothering me so much, that I am having a hard time not feeling utterly disgusted at the selfish twisted logic that excuses the continued exploitation of animals, by suggesting that there is ANY way that large scale “production” of animals for food products is sustainable or ethical.
    The title of this post indicates that ethics are considered in how you “question eating habits in relation to farming”. Yet the articles that are referred to do not seem to consider ethics really, just measures of so- called environmental impact. The articles from former vegetarian Simon Fairlie who “is now shattering the consensus that we should avoid eating any meat or raising any animals in order to save the planet”, do not really touch on the ethics of our relationship with animals at all.
    From the Time article:
    “I was a vegetarian from 18 to 24 years old, and I gave up meat partly because I had misgivings about the cruelty to animals. But I began eating meat again when I moved to the [English] countryside and started keeping goats. I had to do something with the male goats. They wouldn’t produce milk or offspring, so I started eating them. At 59, I now eat meat twice a week. I still to this day have some misgivings about killing animals for food. But intellectually, I know it is the right thing to do.”
    This is the thinking that I have huge issues with. Even on a small scale, sustainable farm, the worth of these animals is viewed through the lens of how they can benefit humans, not considering any value they have in their own right. The fact that in dairy farming, male goats (or cows, even on organic farms) are considered useless because they are not supplying us with products is a testament to our collective inability to live in a symbiotic way with the world around us.
    Then to further this man-made dilemma of what to do with the useless male goats and consider it ethical to then kill and eat them, because at that point you can say to yourself that you are being environmentally conscious by not wasting anything, is a self-made justification that would never have to occur if you were not viewing the animals only by merit of what they could produce. That is the essence of why I find this logic twisted and selfish.
    It is a very convenient way of thinking for those who want to justify their animal food addictions to say such things as Simon Fairlie says,
    “The way forward is to switch to organic farming. We would have to cut meat consumption by half, but our dairy intake would remain about the same.”
    Even cut in half, there are nearly 7 BILLION people on the planet! How many animals, even if people could get down to that 1 or 2 occasions of eating meat a week would that take? And how sustainable or ethical can that possibly be? Production rates would certainly still have to be very high, and the land use required to substitute a “sustainable and humane farm” for a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) is such that it seems unfeasible to produce at the rates that consumption demands. And if the dairy intake remained the same?

    Dairy cows have to be kept perpetually impregnated to produce milk. Their life spans are significantly shortened by their usage as production units. The males are discarded or killed and sold as veal, or pet food. This is ethical?
    I do not think that every single person has to become vegan in order to stop these things from happening. I do feel very hopeful about the public perception changing towards animals, and I do encourage those I know to choose humanely raised animal products over factory farmed ones. That choice does make an impact, but the suggestion made by Simon Fairlie that this is a large scale solution is offensive to me- his logic is faulty and does not truly consider the ethics of our relationship to the animals that we co-exist with in this world.
    Must have meat and really want to do it ethically? It’s not going to come from a grocery store then, regardless of the label.
    Hunting or fishing for yourself or your family would be a far more ethical choice if you wanted to include meats in your diet. The animals you take by doing that, led a truly natural life, not a manufactured for production life, and all the “dilemmas” that go with it. Done properly and respectfully, the animals you take by hunting never see it coming, and their deaths are akin to a death caused by any other predator.
    I am vegan (probably the only one in the world who supports hunting for the reasons stated above) because I cannot give any support to the animal production industry, even those that claim to be ethical, because I know that more often than not, these claims are just that, claims.

    There are ethical farms that raise livestock, inasmuch as that is possible, but these are few and far between and are run by people who are really, really trying to farm in the most ethical way they know how. But these farms could never be large enough to feed even the reduced appetites of nearly 7 Billion people. Therefore, that model would not be the one used to save the planet by Simon Fairlie’s theory. It would be one just a little less horrific than a Factory Farm, just enough so that society’s conscious could be appeased by deceptive labeling with such nice sounding words like “Organic” , “Humane”, and “Grass Fed”.

    If ethics are really at the heart of the issue, then I suggest considering an animal’s right to life without manufactured suffering, and a fair chance as the first and most important criteria to consider. If you can honestly feel that this criterion has been met, then by all means, include whatever animal foods that you can gather in this way. If not, then it is not honest to consider it ethical. Maybe environmentally considerate, but not ethical.

    • Pego says:

      It is hard to find an ethic that is not chained to a religion or to some personal vanity, like being “better” than other people or animals. To pin our ethics to being in ballance with the planet, then, has the benefit of logic, and of restoring something humans have been crushingly out of ballance with.

      • Persephone says:

        I’m not sure where you’ve been learning your ethics from, Pego–or even what you think the definition of ethics is–if you think religion and personal vanity are the only sources of ethical systems. How about pure and simple compassion? Seeking to live a life that does the least harm and the most good possible? My ethical standards stem from the values of compassion, non-violence, respect, egalitarianism…

        If you want to talk about logic, nothing seems more logical to me than recognizing that 1. non-human animals seek pleasure and avoid pain, just as we do and 2. humans do not need to eat animals or their bodily secretions in order to be healthy. Therefore, I don’t eat animals or their bodily secretions.

        People spend so much time bending over backwards to defend eating animals, when it’s clear that from every perspective–our own personal health, the health of the planet, and the lives of the animals themselves–not eating them makes so much more *logical* sense, as well as intuitive heart sense.

  17. Eloise Martindale says:

    Hi Dervaes Family,

    As has been mentioned, people have been hunting & fishing for food since prehistoric times. In places like Alaska, meat in the diet is probably the only way to survive on local food. I wonder if we have gotten so far removed from the reality of survival that we no longer have clear thinking on the subject of animal based food. Wolves, bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, hawks and other animals kill and eat all the time. The animals we raise for food, if we nourish them and treat them well, have a much better life than if they were in the wild. They never go hungry because they can’t find food and they don’t have as painful a death as if they were were killed by an animal predator. Many of them would never have never been born or had a life at all if humans didn’t raise them for food. If we didn’t raise all these animals for food many of them would become extinct because they are not able to survive without our care. So I wonder if people who live in simpler cultures would even ask these questions about food they need in order to survive. Do we fault them for eating meat? Do we consider them ignorant and not our equals? Perhaps they have something to teach us?

  18. jared says:

    What’s the latest on your aquaponics project? We haven’t heard anything about it for a while.

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