Monday, July 2, 2018

Fish Fraud: Fish for Your Life

4:16 PM
If you've been paying attention to the news, chances are you know that a good portion of the seafood nowadays is fake.  Not as in fake fish, but fish fraud.  Fish that are passed off as another type of fish.  It many cases, the fish passed off are cheaper and yes, more sustainable, versions of the fish you intended to buy, but in some cases, the fish was actually an endangered species pawned off as something else so that the fishery doesn't have to deal with the paperwork and fines.

It's one thing to buy a fish that you know is sustainable; it's quite another thing to pay for the fish you think you're paying for, but it's actually a cheap fraud.  Although I could harp on sustainability, I'd much rather address the whole issue of fish fraud and how to deal with it.

How Fish Fraud Adds to Our Food Fraud Problems

I've talked quite a bit how Extra Virgin Olive Oil often isn't.  It seems that our fish is pretty fishy as well.  According to Oceana, which has kept track of fish fraud since 2010, about 20 percent of our fish worldwide is mislabeled.  That means one out of five fish meals you eat is most likely not what you think it is.  Like red snapper?  Good luck tasting one.  Out of 77 samples of "red snapper" tested from California and Washington, only one turned out to be the real deal.  What was even more horrifying was that 56 percent of those "red snapper" came from fish that had been over fished and were declining.  Oceana confirmed that with their own study that out of 120 "red snappers" tested, only 7 were real red snappers.

The obvious problem with his fish fraud is that consumers are paying top dollar for food they aren't getting. This encourages the fraudulent companies to continue harvesting whatever is convenient or cheap and passing them off as something else.  This affects your pocketbook and the fisheries, themselves. 

How Much Food Fraud Goes On?

I've tried to look up actual statistics when it comes to food fraud, and I've seen numbers between five and 20 percent.  The range is obvious: nobody really has a handle on how screwed up our food supply really is.  What is concerning is that some of those adulterations and substitutions can actually be dangerous or even deadly.  Instead of rice, how about some nice plastic rice?  How about corn syrup laden honey that's tainted with antibiotics and heavy metals?  Not so appetizing, eh?

So, it's little wonder that we have the problem with fish.  But what, really, can be done about it?

Know Your Fishmonger

If there was ever a case to recommend eating local foods, it is this.  You need to find a local person who sells their local catch to consumers.  In places such as fisherman's wharfs, you need to get out there and meet your fishmonger.  Find out where they get their catch.  Find out if its imported or if he actually caught it.  Opt for local fish rather than something caught far away.

Fish for Your Life

This is the one thing that got me thinking about fishing again.  As much as it might take time out of my ridiculously busy day, it is part of my quest as a locavore. Here in Montana we have streams, lakes, and rivers chock full of fish that get stocked by our local FWP (Fish, Wildlife, and Parks), and it makes absolutely no sense to not take advantage of them.  Plus, trout has an amazing amount of Omega 3s that is far better than the farm-raised tilapia or other fish.

What About Farm-Raised Fish?

This, of course, brings up the farm-raised fish. Some farm-raised fish like salmon or trout are loaded with Omega 3s due to their diet.  Tilapia, on the other hand, doesn't have much in Omega 3s, so if you're eating for heart health, you should stick to that.  You should only purchase fish that have been raised in countries with good practices.  Even so, farm-raised fish are often raised in the ocean, which means that they may be lower in mercury but higher in other pollutants and antibiotics.  It's interesting because Monterey Bay Aquarium has their own Seafood Watch, which helps people make choices on where the healthiest fish for them are.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

China Is No Longer Taking Recyclables

10:14 PM

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.  According to the New York Times, China is refusing to take the world's recyclables any longer, thus leaving Western countries with heaps of trash.  You see, whenever you send your trash to be recycled, it goes someplace else.  In about 50 percent of those cases, your trash made its way to China, and China says no more.  So, recycle depots are scrambling for other places to recycle trash.

I'll admit that we were on the late side when it came to recycling, but we've seen the benefits, We generate much less trash because of the recyclers.  But what to do when there's no place to put the trash?

Almost all the trash at my house comes from packaging.  It really is annoying how much packaging goes into products.  We have little food waste because we have animals that will take care of it, namely chickens, turkeys, and goats.  What they produce gets pushed off to the side of the hill which decomposes and becomes rich soil.  I've had people come and take it for free for their gardens.

Obviously, the right solution would be less packaging, which causes problems in and of itself. Perhaps that's why carrying reusable bags and purchasing products with minimal packaging might be in order.  Just some things to think about...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Fast Food Causes Inflammation and Overactive Immune System

4:14 PM

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that fast food with its high fat, high sugar, and low fiber isn't good for you.  But scientists have discovered that fast food can cause inflammatory response in mice, due to the unhealthy nature of the food.  What's more, even when returned to a healthy diet and maintained a healthy diet for weeks, while the immune response abated, the immune genes remained "switched on."  This has a long term effect and may hasten the development of vascular diseases and Type 2 Diabetes.

So, it's obvious that eating foods that are high in fiber and lower in fat are key to keeping your immune system from freaking out and causing inflammation that can lead to diabetes, clogged arteries, stroke, and heart attacks.  Read about it HERE.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Dirty Little Secret of Commercial Chicken Farms

3:18 PM
I received an email flyer in my inbox the other day about a sale from a big name poultry hatchery about a sale.  I was looking at the different birds and saw a star next to the breeds.  They offered debeaking, dubbing, and dewinging on their birds.

Debeaking, Dubbing, and Dewinging Explained

I stared at the options.  I knew what debeaking does.  The big commercial egg producers have the beak snipped to reduce pecking due to stress.  (Yes, it's painful and inhibits the bird's ability to feed itself.)  I wasn't sure about the term "dubbing," so I looked it up.  It's removing the comb and wattles to reduce frostbite.  Okay, I had heard of doing it for adult roosters who had frostbite on their combs, but not for chicks.  Given how cold it gets here (sometimes down to -30F), I've seen only a couple of frost nip patches on my roosters, which suggests that if you live in cold places, you need to have your chickens protected from the wind, and able to move around enough.  You should choose chickens with smaller combs as well.

That left dewinging.  Oh. My. God.  Seriously?

What Dewinging is

I did some research on dewinging.  In the strictest sense, it is removing the chick's wings at the shoulder.  Japanese poultry producers discovered when you do that to meat birds, the birds gain more weight, thus have a greater overall profit.  Other people online described it to snipping part of the wings to ensure the birds don't fly or even pinioning, that is removing one of the pinion joints surgically in a bird's wing to ensure it doesn't grow flight feathers.

Either way, you have to wonder what kind of sick bastards would do that to an animal.

Even I have my Limits

Look, I am no animal rights activist.  I raced sled dogs for years.  I raise and slaughter animals for food.  I am okay with trapping, although I don't do it, myself.  I hunt and have killed birds and deer for food.  Although Christmas the gander has survived Christmas because of nasty weather, I am not beyond killing him.  But even that ill-tempered bird wouldn't be made to suffer either of those fates.

Preventing Chickens from Flying
Chicken Tractor, photo by Josh Larios.  Used under generic CC license.

I look at dewinging and debeaking as wrong as it causes unnecessary suffering to the animal.  Unnecessary because even though it affects the bottom line to a degree, I think it causes more pain and suffering than the benefits.  And yes, from what I read of studies, there is a higher mortality rate among dewinged birds than those that are left with their wings intact.

I'm including pinioning in this general dewinging, because the animals don't need this done.  If I don't want my birds to fly, I trim the birds' feathers when they start getting flighty.  Yeah, I have to do that a few times a year, but that's minor.

Granted, I have maybe 15 chickens, seven geese, and six turkeys, so it doesn't take that long to trim wings.  I could see if you have thousands or tens of thousands of birds, it might become problematic due to the labor intensive nature.  But there are other ways to ensure the birds don't fly off.

What sick bastard would remove the wings on these?
Commercial meat birds can't fly anyway, so dewinging them is unnecessarily cruel, unless you're really looking to up your bottom line. My own experience with the few meat birds I've bought show that they're terribly misshapen and have a high mortality rate to begin with. Both my husband and I came to the same conclusion: if we want birds for meat, we'll stick with dual-purpose breeds.  I suspect it hasn't caught on in the United States as much because of the demand for Buffalo Wings.  As much as I don't care for wings, I recognize that this fad may be what is preventing the maiming of millions of birds.

You might think that dewinging and pinioning would be used on free range and pastured chickens as a cost effective measure. Really? Free range and pastured chickens should have some sort of enclosure, such as tractors, to prevent them from flying off plus protect them from airborne predators. Ah, but there's that bottom line again.  And that is really what the big companies look at.

Concern for Free Range and Pasture Raised Birds in the Future

I don't get why cruelty is acceptable in birds when it is obviously not okay in mammals. I get that we look at the descendants of dinosaurs as food -- I really do.  I've killed my share of chickens, quail, grouse, turkeys, and ducks over the years and eaten them.  But I've never insisted on painfully harming them in this manner.

I don't know how prevalent dewinging is in commercial pasture and free range birds, but I can see it happening as the big corporation farms enter the pastured and free ranged chickens and their eggs. I know there are many good small and mid-sized commercial farms that produce eggs from chickens in humane settings, but right now they're still the minority. All it would take is someone in the big corporations looking at the practice and deciding it is cost effective.

If you don't raise your own chickens for eggs, and I realize not everyone can, look for eggs that come from ethical farms.  They're out there, but you just have to look. Maybe it's a small farm near you.  Maybe you've stumbled on the Locally Laid farmers who raise their chickens ethically.  Maybe there's another ethical farm who distributes in your area.

I know dewinging and pinioning wouldn't be popular among the caged birds, because they can't move from the cages. But if cage free is outlawed, we'll have a whole new set of terrible inhumane treatments that we'll have to consider.  I guarantee it.

And this, my friends, is why it's important to know where your food comes from.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Organic Educational Seminars Offered for Farmers and Gardeners

3:58 PM

Want to learn more about growing your own organic food?  Don't miss these three in-depth educational sessions on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at Michigan State University about growing organic food.  These seminars are being offered by the Michigan Organic Food and Farming Alliance (MOFFA). 

For more information, check out the Michigan State University Extension and download the brochures.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Do You Know if Your Food is Organic?

6:07 PM
Is your food organic?  How would you know?  That's a good question if you're looking to eat healthy.  The problem is that just like anything, food fraud abounds, according to this one article.So how do you really determine whether your food is grown with no dangerous pesticides and without hormones and antibiotics?  Here are ways to ensure that you have organic food.

What is Organic, anyway?

The term "organic" is a USDA trademark that requires a lot of money and a lot of paperwork to prove
that your produce is truly organic and produced without GMOs, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. There are plenty of loopholes in the USDA law that companies have skirted around.  What's more, there are countries that ship "organic" foods that are simply not organic.

To add to the confusion, there is Certified Naturally Grown, which is food grown to USDA organic standards without the USDA cost and paperwork.  Technically farmers can't call their food "organic" without the USDA seal, so the Certified Naturally Grown is a nice alternative.

Other foods that are labeled "natural" and "non-GMO" aren't organic, and could be grown with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and other no-nos. "Natural" is a throwaway word and marketing gimmick that even I will fall for, but it has no regulation.  Non-GMO means that there aren't genetically modified organisms in the product, but again, the product can be produced by conventional means.

So, how do you determine what's organic other than looking at the label -- which may or may not be correct?

Buy Local--and Know Your Farmer

No matter where you live, you have a chance to buy local and know who is producing your food. Even in New York City, a friend of mine joined a CSA and was able to get fresh produce from a farmer she knew used sustainable methods to grow her food.  Do you have a farmer's market?  You can learn a lot about the farms in your area even if you live in a major city when you talk with the farmers there.

You'll get the freshest food from them as well as food that isn't grown with pesticides and other nasty chemicals.  Not sure if the farmer uses sustainable methods?  Ask. Most are quite honest how they produce their food.  By establishing trust, the farmers learn what you and other patrons want and may change their farming methods to compete in a very difficult market.

Buy Food Produced in a Reputable Country--and One Source

It's generally a good idea to purchase food produced in your own country.  I suspect that most of my readers are in the United States or Western developed countries.  So, if you're buying meat, make sure it was raised and slaughtered in your country. If you buy fruits, ask where the origin is.

Now, obvious there isn't many fresh fruits and vegetables in the wintertime.  In this case, you're going to have to do one of three things: preserve your own food (i.e., freeze, can, or dehydrate), buy frozen and canned food at the store when it is out of season, or buy imported food.  It's not that you can't find a reputable source of food outside your country, but it's much harder to follow trail back to see if it is organic or not.

If you're buying food that is constantly imported, you need to be certain that the country of origin has strict laws governing organic certification.  While this isn't a surefire guarantee that what you're getting isn't fake, you're more likely to have organic food than buying from a country that has a corrupt government. At the same time, be sure that you buy foods from a single source.  That means that you shouldn't trust foods that are mixed up from different countries, especially if the countries have lax standards.

Do Your Research

The Cornucopia Institute is a watchdog organization for organic and sustainable foods. They investigate where your foods come from and rank them according to their ingredients.  They even provide a handy guide for determining if the food is organic even if there are no ratings.  They offer pocket guides and full guides for you to print out and read.

Hunt, Raise, and Grow Your Own Food

This is probably the most time-intensive way to get food for you and your family. That being said, you know what went into the animals and crops you raised, you know how the meat was handled when slaughtered and butchered, and you know where it came from.

All that being said, not even I get all my food from hunting, gathering, raising, and growing my own.  It's difficult, which is why I do rely on store-bought foods.  You can confidently reduce the amount of food which were raised in chemicals instead plan on healthier meals with this guide.

Recommended Articles

You Need to Start Saving Seeds -- Easy and Sustainable!

Do You Know the Difference Between Organic and Non-GMO?

Becoming Locavore 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Free Holiday Wallpaper From Eating Wild Montana!

8:08 PM
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from Eating Wild Montana!  Thanks for being a fan!  As a present to you, I've made a wallpaper to use as your desktop background.  Enjoy!

Download this wallpaper behind the divider.  For Windows 10: Just right-click on the image and select it to download.  Then, when it is downloaded, right click the image again and select Set as desktop background.  It's that easy.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Should Organic Mean Outdoors?

10:00 AM

The Trump administration is set to remove a regulation that the Obama administration enacted requiring organic chickens to have more outdoor time.  This regulation is one that the organic industry wanted in order to level the playing field when it came to factory farms versus organic farms.  Currently, factory organic farms have porches that allow chickens to go outside, but it wouldn't be enough once the regulation took effect.  Now, it is endangered by the possible repeal.

Is Outdoors Simply Good Enough?
Everyone thinks organic chickens get this

When reading this, I had to shrug and say, "so what?"  The picture above shows what a typical "free-range" and "cage-free" farm looks like. Birds are crowded inside and outside the barn.  Their "free range" is on concrete or gravel packed beak-to-comb (as opposed to cheek-to-jowl) with each other.  Now, if you're looking for happy hens, this isn't it.

Of course, the newer regulations may have made this more humane, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the factory farms would get around it. Sorry, that's just how it is.
Instead, most organic chickens get this

Why I don't put a lot of Stock into these Laws

I'm at best skeptical over these laws.  Why?  Because factory farms will find loopholes or will have administrations change or nullify the laws.  Look at what happened to the point of origin laws.  Sure enough, the Obama administration repealed an excellent law that enabled people to know where their food is coming from. So, no matter what administration we have, we'll have politicians in the pockets of factory farms and someone somehow will find a loophole.

If my farm were to become a fully viable chicken venture, I could never claim organic because my
A nice indoor set up
chickens are in a barn.  But unlike the factory farms, they're 17 chickens in a 30 ft by 50 ft barn and have the whole run of it.  They get grain and food scraps, along with the occasional hay, alfalfa, and bugs, but they don't get to go outside, even though the barn is open to fresh air.  Why?  Because we have hawks, eagles, foxes, lynx, weasels, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, and an assortment of other (much bigger) predators.  One rooster I had decided that the barn was not the place to hang out in.  He thought living outside was a great idea and tried to perch outside the barn.  I took him back when I could. When he finally got away from me, he hung outside  the barn where I could do nothing to catch him.  That lasted two days.  I woke at night to a chicken scream -- and then, nothing.  The next day, I found the feathers where the resident fox had his meal.  So, no outdoor poultry -- and no "Organic" label, even though the eggs my chickens lay would most likely qualify.

Even if I did want my chickens' eggs to have the "Organic" label, it would cost lots of money and tons of paperwork to accomplish.  I'll stay small, thank you.

Outdoors or Indoors?

I think it's not a matter of whether your chickens are indoors or outdoors, but rather what quality of life they have.  Are they crammed together with little space to move around in, or do they have plenty of space to do chicken things like dust themselves, make nests, look for bugs, and scratch in the dirt?  Are they safe from predators?  Do they have a reasonable life for chickens?

The best thing is to know where you're getting your eggs from, even if they're not organic or certified organic.  Preferably from your own chickens in their own coop.  But if you can't own chickens, consider purchasing eggs from small farms that sell at local farmer's markets and ask how the chickens are kept.  That way, you support your local economy, have great tasting eggs, and have birds that are raised humanely.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Raw Vegan Holiday Cooking (Funny) [VIDEO]

3:58 AM
When you're talking turkey, I think there's nothing better than roast turkey on Thanksgiving. That being said, if you're into raw and vegan (and even if you're not), you just might be impressed with JP's hysterical raw vegan "turkey" recipe.  He even does a hunt for his turkey.   Have a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe -- Cider and Orange Turkey Brine [Recipe]

9:44 PM
It's close to Thanksgiving,  which means you're probably thinking about cooking your turkey.  If you raise your own turkey, hunted and gotten a wild turkey, or have ordered an organic or fresh turkey, this brine is for you.  It'll probably work with conventional turkeys which are brined at the factory, but may make your turkey salty. For the best taste, have a turkey which is fresh or not been brined.

Anyway, here is the recipe.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Homestead Corner: Filling the Freezer

2:40 AM
It's hunting season which is a prime time for us to fill the freezer for our year's supply of meat.  My husband and I have become fairly proficient in hunting deer, but until recently, we hadn't quite scienced out my shooting.  Most of it had to do with not being able to put my cheek against the stock and see in the scope (fixed), a really bad case of buck fever (somewhat fixed), and a clean bore when I shot it (I need to have a dirty barrel on my rifle).  So, this year, we filled our deer tags within the first two weeks.

Two Bucks in a Row

What's weird is that we had two bucks appear in almost the same place in two consecutive days.  My husband got a whitetail spiker (yearling buck with straight horns) the first day.  The second day, I found a mule deer that was barely a fork (splits into two points at the end).  So, not only did we have venison, but we had two deer we had to dress, quarter, and butcher.  So, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning cutting up and packaging the meat for this year.  Three deer last about 6 months for two people if we don't eat venison every day.  We do have a goat wether that needs to go into the freezer, but that may be an early 2018 project, if we don't find elk or try for deer in other game units.


There's not much to forage right now with snow on the ground.  I'm hoping to convince my husband to go back to the rosehip bushes after general season ends and see if I can gather some more.

Goats, Chickens, and Turkeys

Right now, we've gone from warm to cold temperatures. We've had snow and rain, making the pens an unholy mess.  The critters are feeling stressed.  Not sure, but our llama may be having a relapse of Epi -- a very dangerous blood-borne parasite. I've started her on treatments for it.  I have one goat with mastitis -- an infection of the milk bag.  I've been trying to get Today or even Tomorrow -- a well-known mastitis treatment for cows.  There is none to be had in the entire town; everyone has sold out.  So, I have some mastitis treatment on order and need to treat her. 

Chickens seem to be okay.  I discovered the oldest turkey hen I have is blind in one eye, possibly due to a fight.  My blue slate hen and bourbon jake turkeys are doing great right now. Since I have a tom turkey in the freezer from last year, the other turkeys are safe for Thanksgiving.