June 1, 2013

Monsanto found guilty of chemical poisoning in france


Monsanto Found Guilty of Chemical Poisoning in France

glyphosateMonsanto has been the topic of a lot of news lately, especially with the multi-country march that took place against Monsanto a short time ago. What can be seen as another big victory for public health, a French court found Monsanto guilty for poisoning a French Farmer. Paul Francois is a humble farmer who began experiencing neurological problems such as memory loss and headaches after being exposed to Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller back in 2004. The decision reached 2012 for this case sets a powerful precedent that can continue to help raise awareness and dismantel the ignorance that exists around Monsanto and their products, including GMO foods.
In previous cases against the pesticide giant, farmers were unable to prove and properly link pesticide exposure to the side effects they were having. This is not the case for Francois’s,  as an expert opinion was able to determine the sum of the damages incurred and verify the link the Lasso pesticide and his illnesses.
After the case ruling, Reuters attempted to contact Monsanto’s lawyers but they decline to comment.
Not The First CaseAlthough Francois’s story is one of few positive endings, his is not the only case where people have attempted to hold  Monsanto accountable for their dangerous actions. In 2011, he and other farmers formed an association to help raise awareness and go after Monsanto for the negative effects their products have on farmers. Awareness of the association grew and their claims were met by other farmers who were experiencing similar illnesses. Since 1996, the agricultural branch of the French social security system has gathered about 200 alerts per year regarding sickness related to pesticides. It is unfortunate to say that only 47 cases were even recognized in the past 10 years.Francois, whose life was damaged by Monsanto’s products, has been successful in his quest to hold Monsanto accountable and has now set a powerful precedent for other farmers looking to do the same.
I am alive today, but part of the farming population is going to be sacrificed and is going to die because of this,” Francois, 47, told Reuters.
In 2007 France banned the Lasso pesticide following a European Union directive that came after the ban of the product in other nations. Another push for other countries to do the same.
One of Monsanto’s main reasons for creating the products they do is to ensure and good quality of life for people. We can observe that their pesticides are not only harming people but the practice of farming that requires pesticides is not only harmful to the earth but produces less nutritious and less bountiful crops. The argument that we need to produce more food is absurd given that alternative farming practices could be done. Monsanto is a completely unnecessary business.

Do you buy eggs?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Do Pastured Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?

If you get your eggs from your local farmer you may notice they have some, um, greenish brown streak marks on them still. Maybe even a feather or two as well. If you can recall, it is very different than what an industrial egg from the grocery store looks like, all clean and uniform in size (even the so-called "free range" or "cage free" eggs).
What's the big difference? Prior to the 1940's eggs were kept on the counter because there were no refrigerators! What has changed?
Before I go any further I am going to just state the obvious because I feel it is necessary... Nature is so amazing and it's incredible to me that everything is created to have a purpose!
Ok, now that I got my soulful-hippie two cents out of the way, we can discuss what actually happens when an egg comes out of the hen.

Pastured Egg
An egg shell is very porous and has anywhere from 3-6,000 pores covering the entire surface! (source) When the hen lays an egg her body does one last thing to protect the egg before hitting the air: she deposits a natural anti-bacterial mucus membrane called the bloom. The bloom comes out wet on the egg but then dries quickly, filling in all those little pores on the egg to protect it against things like bacteria and outside gases or chemicals.
The bloom also serves a purpose of keeping the egg fresh on the inside. The bloom keeps the moisture contained leaving a much bigger, firmer and more bright orange yolk.  The albumen, the soft, jelly-like substance surrounding the yolk, is slightly hazy looking. (source) This is a reaction with carbon dioxide and proves the egg to be fresh.
Something else to consider is, in nature, it takes about 2 weeks for the hen to lay the eggs and then "set" (incubate) on them. During this time period, the eggs have not been refrigerated and will eventually hatch into vibrant little chicks.
Then why is refrigeration necessary in a large egg producing factory?

Industrial Egg
Let's take what we learned about an egg and put it into the industrial setting. We now know the surface of an egg is extremely porous and when we consider the way things are "managed" in an industrial environment, it can be quite frightening to think about eating an industrial egg.
We are all aware that in large egg producing factories hens are living in crowded and unhealthy conditions, breathing in the ammonia fumes all day, every day and have little to no sunlight. Common sense will tell us that sick hens equals sick eggs.
Within 7 days of when the sickly hens (who may or may not have salmonella) lay their sickly eggs, workers take the eggs and wash them to get all the dirt and feathers off of them. Some companies take it a step further and rinse the eggs with a chemical wash.

No bloom + chemical wash = chemicals seeping into the egg
No bueno!!

Companies may also spray the egg with their own protective coating (mineral or GE vegetable oil) to make them appear satisfactory to the consumer. (source) If the eggs you buy at the grocery store appear to be shiny that's why! Once washed, rinsed and/or sprayed the eggs then HAVE to be placed in a refrigerator to protect them from being infected with bacteria. I've read that several companies actually pasteurize the whole egg to ensure there is no bacterial growth going on. From the time of being laid to the time it actually hits your belly, the egg may sit for weeks! Talk about a nutrient depleted egg!
Remember how I mentioned the bloom serves a purpose of keeping the egg fresh? Well, with industrial eggs since the bloom is washed off, the pores are then exposed. This creates open airways to allow any kind of bacteria (think salmonella) to enter. Not only that, the quality and freshness of the egg drops. This is why if you crack an industrial egg open, the yolk is small and pale yellow. The albumen loses it's haziness and becomes translucent. All are indications of an egg that has lost its freshness.

So Do Eggs Need to be Refrigerated?Scenario 1: Okay let's say you buy eggs from the farm with the blooms still intact and you put them in the fridge immediately. No worries! But let's say you take those same farm fresh bloom-intact refrigerated eggs and let them sit out to the point they start to sweat. At that time, it's imperative to use the eggs as soon as possible because when the egg sweats it loses the bloom. I also wouldn't recommend putting them back in the fridge because since the egg has no bloom it is now at the point where the quality and freshness are quickly degrading.
Scenario 2: Now let's say you buy eggs from the farm with the blooms still intact and instead of putting them in the refrigerator immediately, you leave them on the counter. No worries! But if you wash the eggs, you must use the eggs as soon as possible. Again, the bloom comes off as soon as any liquid hits it.
Scenario 3: You buy free range eggs from the grocery store..... wait. I don't recommend this scenario to anyone because industrial eggs are bad news! BUT if you have to buy them, always keep them refrigerated... no matter what! If you take them out, use them immediately!

The Ideal Temperature
With backyard eggs or eggs from a trustworthy farm source, you can get away with leaving them on your counter for a couple months if they are stored around 65°F to 70°F. If you are nervous they may not be fresh, you can do the float test to see if they are okay to eat or not. With factory farm eggs, it's necessary to keep them at a temperature of 40°F (USDA guidelines) so no bacterial growth occurs.
If you are still worried and consider yourself somewhat of a germ-o-phobe a good general rule of thumb to follow is to keep the eggs the way in which you received them.  If they were refrigerated, keep them refrigerated. If they were sitting out at the farm store, leave them on your counter! And always ask the person you are purchasing the eggs from if they have washed them or not.
A good solution to ensuring you receive the freshest of the fresh eggs is to have your own backyard chickens! I would LOVE a few hens so Andrew and I could walk out into the comfort of our own yard and gather nutrient dense eggs!

How do you keep your eggs? Do you have your own chickens?

December 4, 2012

Gluten-Free Tuna Noodle Casserole.

We don't normally do casseroles at our house. Yet today I started thinking about how yummy tuna noodle casserole would be, mind you the last and only time I had it was 12 years ago in college...So I came up with this gluten free version that was so yummy and savory I feel guilty even calling it a casserole...Enjoy!

GF Tuna Noodle Yum Yum
1/2 cup Grassfed Butter(Do yourself a favor and invest in this, it is a life changer), divided
Box of Gluten Free Noodles
1 Small Onion, diced
1 jar pimentos, or roasted red peppers
1-2 stalks celery
1/4 cup GF All purpose flour mix( I used GF pancake mix because that is what I had)
2 cups milk
2 cans tuna
1 pkg of gluten free saltines or crackers
2 tbsp grassfed butter, melted
1 handful cheese
Salt and Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Bring a pot of salty water to boil and cook pasta to al dente.
  3. Melt 1 tsp of butter in a cast iron skillet(or a le crueset dutch oven), add onion, pimentos, celery, and garlic cook to tender. Put mixture in a bowl to the side.
  4. Melt 4 tsp of butter in cast iron skillet, and mix in flour until smooth. Slowly add milk, mix until smooth and slightly thickened. Add salt, pepper and fresh thyme to taste. Remove from heat and add tuna and onion mixture.
  5. Crush crackers and roll in melted butter
  6. Top casserole with crackers and cheese
  7. Bake for 25 minutes
**You can add mushrooms, diced tomatoes, peas...really whatever you have in the fridge**
**My kiddos doused it in choloua**

Where we have been in 4 sentences.

So I know it has been a while, I could write a whole post about how lame we are and how busy we have been. But that would be boring and tedious....

1. We had a baby, Isabel was born October 8, 2011.

2. I have may have celiac, and we are in the process of testing the kiddos.

3. Christopher has been working!

4. We got chickens, 26 to be exact.

So now that y'all are all caught up, we can carry on like we have been.

November 16, 2012

Dang the Hawks!

So yesterday a hawk decided one of our chickens was worth more to him than us.  I got a text about noon saying a hawk decided to kill one of our hens.
Apparently the other hens decided to pick at it for the rest of the day and cleaned everything off from the neck up.
We are down to 20 hens and 4 roosters.  Hopefully we will be able to process the roosters soon.  With my previous post, they talked about how to handle the old birds for cooking.  So I am pretty jazzed.  We already have 3 roosters in the freezer, now we just need to get 'em in the pot.

One of the best articles on Old Chickens

Rediscovering Traditional Meats from Historic Chicken Breeds

Article Published in the ALBC Newsletter, by Gina Bisco

The chicken meat most of us take for granted today is quite different from what our grandparents experienced. Today commercial chicken meat production is very different from methods and ideas common before the mid-20th century. Those of us who want to conserve old chicken breeds need to understand the traditional chicken meat classes and their excellent cooking qualities.

There are 4 traditional chicken meat classes: broiler, fryer, roaster and fowl. The traditional broiler age range was from 7 to 12 weeks, and carcass weight from 1 to 2 1/2 lbs. (Squab broilers would be youngest and smallest of these, typically Leghorn cockerels about 3/4 to 1 pound dressed.) The next age and weight group was called the fryer. Traditional fryer age range was from 14 to 20 weeks, and carcass weight from 2 1/2 to 4 lbs. Traditional roaster age range was from 5 to 12 months, and carcass weight from 4 to 8 pounds. Most roasters were butchered between 6 and 9 months. Hens and roosters 12 months and older were called fowl or stewing fowl signifying that slow moist cooking methods were required.

These traditional meat classifications, used until the 1940s, were based on the growth patterns and carcass qualities of the pure breeds that were commonly used throughout the U.S. to produce eggs and meat. Traditional chicken meats were classified by butchering age because of the special product qualities associated with each age range. Even though modern product labels and modern cookbooks still use the terms broiler, fryer and roaster, these traditional meat classes no longer apply to the modern meat line chickens because of their extremely fast growth rate. The modern meat line chickens grow so fast that all sizes, even the largest size, are butchered before they are old enough to be classified as traditional fryers.

Historic breeds' natural growth rate may appear to be a disadvantage when compared with modern meat lines. But natural growth rate offers a very real and significant advantage that can only be obtained with age flavor! Though historic breeds can all be butchered young, in the past people preferred the richer flavor of the meat from chickens older than 12 weeks. Once it is realized that flavor cannot be hurried with faster growth, but requires time and age to develop, then the advantage of keeping historic poultry breeds becomes clear. The modern meat lines grow too fast to develop the rich flavor that people used to expect from chicken meat. The modern meat lines are bred for uniformity, and to reach certain sizes under controlled conditions. They grow so fast that they have to be butchered quickly when they reach target weights. After about 9 weeks of age, modern meat lines suffer increased losses from bone and heart failure. They are not designed to live long enough to achieve the rich flavor that traditional chicken breeds achieve.

Historic poultry breeds are, in contrast, very flexible as to butchering age. Any historic pure breed can be butchered between 7 to 12 weeks for use as broilers, 12 to 20 weeks for use as fryers, 5 to 12 months for roasters, and over 12 months for stewing fowl. Although historic pure breeds were categorized as egg breeds, meat breeds, and general purpose or dual purpose breeds, these categories were not nearly so specialized as the modern mind tends to assume. Prior to development of the ultra-specialized single-purpose meat lines and egg lines, all pure breeds were managed more as multi-purpose flocks rather than exclusively for production of a single specific commercial product.

Prior to 1920 the egg breeds were so classified because of feed efficiency, smaller size, and lack of broodiness not only in regard to number of eggs produced. The meat breeds were classified as such not because they were used only for meat, but because they were the best suited to producing the highest quality, largest and top-priced roasters. In fact, until 1920 and measured by eggs per hen per year, meat breeds such as Brahmas and Cornish were competitive with many egg breeds. Their primary disadvantages as egg layers were their greater food consumption and inclination toward broodiness. The general purpose breeds were therefore not the only category expected to produce both meat and eggs. Rather, general purpose breeds were considered most practical for general farms. General farm chickens were expected to be as productive as the egg breeds and meat breeds, but require less attention.

All historic breeds were once used to produce table eggs and meat. They were expected to lay well enough to be used for egg production, and every flock produced fowl when the layers were culled. All historic breeds produced about half cockerels and lacking the capability to accurately sex at hatch, excess cockerels were raised with pullets until they were old enough that the differences were obvious. The farmer could then decide which traditional meat classes would most profitably fit the excess males.

Probably most broilers and fryers on retail markets in the early 20th century were from egg breeds, such as the very popular Brown or White Leghorns. The egg breed cockerels did not have the carcass traits required to achieve the best roaster prices, so most were usually butchered at the younger broiler or fryer age. The heavy breed cockerels (cockerels from the meat, general, or dual purpose breeds) could be used for fryers or broilers if market conditions indicated it was too risky to keep them longer. But these breeds had the right body traits to be graded as excellent roasters when well grown. And roasters were always preferred.

The product qualities of a traditional high quality roaster do not at all resemble the modern meat line chickens in the supermarket labeled roaster. The carcass of a traditional roaster is overall longer and narrower, has a naturally shaped breast, and has proportionately far longer legs and larger thighs than the industrial meat line carcass of the same weight. The carcass of meat line roasters has a very broad breast and relatively tiny legs and thighs. The traditional roaster carcass yields a fairly even amount of dark meat and light meat, whereas the meat line roaster yields nearly all light meat and little dark meat. And, due to the much younger butchering age, the meat line roaster has a soft texture and bland flavor, while the traditional roaster has the rich flavor and firm texture expected of the more mature chicken.

The traditional meat types each require appropriate cooking methods. Far from being a disadvantage, this greatly expands culinary potential. But, after more than 50 years of supermarket chicken, most Americans don't know the first thing about cooking older chickens, and have no contemporary sources to turn to for that information. Modern cookbooks are designed for the modern meat line product.

Generally speaking, the quality and flavor of chicken meat from historic breeds is going to be superb as long as it is understood that different ages require, or are best suited, to different cooking methods. The key is to know the butchering age of the bird as well as when the bird was butchered. Top meat quality requires proper processing. At butchering time, chickens must be killed quickly and humanely, stressed as little as possible. Stress reduces meat quality. Also, it may be that hand plucking could result in better meat quality for older butchering age ranges, as the mechanical pluckers are said to toughen meat somewhat.

After processing, for best meat texture, chickens should be chilled and aged before cooking. Most sources recommend chilling and aging chickens for 24 hours, and up to 3 days before freezing. I think aging at least 24 hours improves the texture, and that older chickens are better with longer aging, up to perhaps 5 days in the refrigerator for fowl. The properly aged bird should retain a very fresh clean smell with no hint of taint. I've read that chickens that are to be frozen need not be aged first if they will remain at least a month in the freezer. However, that advice may have been based on industrial meat lines, butchered very young. For historic breed chickens butchered at 12 weeks or older, freezer aging may not be enough. If a chicken was not aged in the fridge for at least 24 hours before freezing, then after thawing I usually will allow it another day or more to age in the fridge, before cooking.

An important generality about the difference between cooking modern meat line chickens and cooking historic breed chickens is that for the latter there is a bigger distinction in time needed to cook the light and dark meat. Modern meat line chickens, being all butchered within a very young age range, all have leg meat nearly as tender as the breast meat, which will cook about as fast. The historic breed chicken has had more exercise over a longer time before it is butchered, which greatly increases flavor but also increases cooking time for those muscles. This becomes noticeable in the fryer age range: the breast meat of a fryer will reach optimal doneness noticeably before the legs. The difference increases as the butchering age increases, and seems pronounced in birds over one year. The cook has to plan how to prevent the breast meat from getting overcooked, and dry, by the time the leg meat is done. Good cooks will find many ways to achieve this end, and the results are well worthwhile.

The traditional classifications indicate the ages best suited to different cooking methods. Broilers are the youngest and tenderest chickens and can be cooked by quick dry heat methods. At the broiler age range, up to 12 weeks old, historic breed cockerels are quite slim and usually under 2 pounds carcass weight. Due to the tenderness of youth as well as their slim proportions, they are suited to broiling, whole or split in half, by direct heat such as in the oven broiler or outdoor grill.

The traditional fryer age is up to about 20 weeks old with the bird usually not weighing more than 4 pounds. At this age cockerels have had a lot more exercise and have developed wonderful flavor, but should still be tender enough to cook by dry heat methods - though to cook evenly they usually have to be jointed. Egg breed cockerels are reputed to be excellent fryers, and at that age range may be as meaty relative to their smaller bone size as  the cockerels of heavier breeds. Fried chicken is really worth the mess and calories, at least occasionally, with home raised fryers.

The roasting age range specified for historic pure breeds is from 5 months to about one year, but most traditional roasters will be butchered between 6 and 9 months. This age range is expected to have much richer flavor. General purpose breed roasters can be baked uncovered in the oven at moderate temperatures. But open pan baking requires frequent basting. I find it easiest to get consistently great results throughout the wide roaster age range by using an old graniteware chicken roaster that has a tight fitting lid. This type of dark enameled roasting pan was designed to retain moisture and brown the bird without taking the cover off. (Good browning may not happen in a roasting pan with cover made of shiny metal.) If the cockerel is over 10 months old, I'll usually put in a cup of water. Baked at about 325 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for about 30 minutes to the pound, without removing the cover, they do not need basting and the skin browns nicely. The breast should still be moist and not overcooked when the legs and thighs are tender; if that doesn't happen, try a lower temperature and more minutes to the pound. It also helps to cook the bird with the breast down.

General purpose breed cockerels are usually from 4 to 6 lbs carcass weight at roaster age. Historic meat breed cockerels should surpass the weight of general purpose breed cockerels at some point in the roaster age range, and their flavor should be equally wonderful. While I believe egg breed cockerels should make fine small roasters, they may require moist heat cooking at an earlier age range since they reach maturity significantly younger than the heavier breeds. Hens and roosters butchered at older than one year, classified as fowl, make very fine eating also. This class was perhaps the most commonly eaten and least seasonal type until the mid-20th century. But today mature fowl is rarely available, unless you keep your own flock or know a farmer who does. It is essential to use moisture and low temperatures in cooking hens and roosters over 1 year old.

It will take hours longer to cook fowl, but the meat is richly flavored and was esteemed for sandwiches, chicken salad, pot pie and all recipes calling for cooked chicken meat. Fowl will become just as tender as younger chickens as long as it is kept moist and the meat temperature is kept low, preferably below 180 F. If the meat temperature goes above 180 F, the protein fibers toughen so that even if it is cooked long enough to fall apart, the individual fibers remain tough. When stewing, the water should not be allowed to boil, but should be kept at a simmer temperature, 180 F or less. Fowl can also be steam-baked with 1 or 2 cups water added to the pan; the pan should be tightly covered so the moisture won't escape, with the oven temperature at 300-325 F. Whether stewed or steam-baked, the breast meat of fowl will be best (especially good for sandwiches) if it is removed as soon as it is done, which may be a couple of hours before the dark meat is done. I allow at least 3 hours to cook a 3 1/2 to 4 lb hen.

Some prefer the electric slow cooker for stewing chickens. The only slow cooker I've tried allowed the meat temperature to get too high, 200 F or higher. Perhaps others have better slow cookers.

A great advantage of the historic chicken breeds over modern meat lines is discovered when making broth. It is hard to make good broth out of supermarket chicken. They are so young that there is just not much flavor in them to make a good strong broth (and in the process the meat becomes tasteless mush). Our ancestors knew and greatly appreciated the rich flavor of strong chicken broth. Historic chicken breeds can all be expected to produce superb broth.

There are basically two methods for making chicken broth. One is to stew the chicken. With this method, flavor goes out of the meat and into the water, so to protect meat flavor, use only 3/4 to 1 cup water per pound. Fowl is the best choice for this method of making broth because fowl has the most flavor. A 4 lb. stewing hen can be gently simmered in enough water to produce between 1 and 1 1/2 quarts of rich broth, while retaining good flavor and texture in the meat. Do not allow the meat to boil.

Another method of making broth is to use the bones and skin from baked chicken (like Thanksgiving turkey soup). Simply add water and simmer on the stovetop for a couple of hours. This method makes decent broth from chickens that are much younger than 1 year (though older are still better). According to one cookbook, for a rich broth the proportion should be about 2 cups water for every cup of bone and meat scrap. I expect to get about 4 to 6 cups of rich brown broth from the bones and skin of a roaster or old hen that was first oven cooked. Bones and skin from baked chickens can be saved in the freezer until there is enough to do a large batch of broth at one time. Usually cookbooks that give directions for cooking fowl specify stewing hens and don't say anything about roosters. Some modern books on raising chickens even say that old roosters are not good to eat. But, remember the old song, She'll be comin' 'round the mountain? It was the old red rooster that was going to be made into chicken and dumplings. From my own experience I'd guess that meal was worthy of song. The general purpose breed roosters I've butchered have been very good to eat, even when several years old. Properly stewed, the old rooster's meat has superb rich flavor and the texture is firm but tender, not dry, tough, or stringy. The rich broth from stewing an old rooster is truly wonderful. Use more than 1 cup water per pound when stewing a rooster; roosters yield significantly more strong rich broth than hens.

For more information and recipes well suited to all the traditional meats that can be produced from the historic breeds of chickens, look to old cookbooks from before the 1950s. Here are some favorites:

            Fowl and Game Cookery, by James Beard, 1944.
            Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, 1941.
            The Modern Family Cookbook, by Meta Given, 1942
            Let's Cook It Right, by Adelle Davis, 1947, 1962, 1970.

Some cautions regarding old cookbooks are in order. Those from the mid-1800s and earlier can be very hard to follow. The older the cookbook, the sketchier the instructions seem to be, and the more likely they are to use unfamiliar terms. Cookbooks from the late 1800s and later are the easiest to decipher and tend to give more complete instructions.

Don't believe it when a cookbook tells you hairs on the chickens are a bad sign or that they mean the bird is old. The hairs are just filoplumes, a hair-like feather, whose presence and length is variable and not directly related to age. People commonly used to singe them off. They can also be plucked with tweezers, or left on if they don't bother you.

Another old cookbook caution is outdated ideas about food safety and bacteria. Some say you can stuff a chicken the day before you cook it, which is now considered a dangerous practice. Some old cookbooks also say chicken can be stored at temperatures well above what is now considered safe.

Aside from these sorts of cautions, what old cookbooks say about cooking chickens is generally true for historic breeds. After all, those were exactly the chickens that were familiar to cooks then. No one would have known what to do with a 6 or 7 pound, 9-week old supermarket chicken. The size would have made an impression, as would the bland flavor.

Gina Bisco lives in Chittenango, New York, where she raises, and eats, Chantecler chickens. For more information contact Gina at gsb7@earthlink.net.

June 12, 2012

Chicken and Garden Update

A lot has been happening.  We have expanded the chicken run so they are now able to walk around without cover during the day.  The little chickens are still in their little area but I think next weekend will be spent trying to introduce them to the big chickens.

The Garden has been going well so far.  We are trying some new stuff with lattice and letting the vine stuff grow up that to keep it off the ground.  So far the melon seems to enjoy it along with the cukes.  We will see how it turns out.  Tomatoes seem to be growing like crazy this year so we hope to capitalize on that with a lot of salsa and canned tomatoes for homemade sauce this winter.

I will update more later if possible.
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