Opening a butcher shop was a financial leap of faith. Committing to whole animal butchery as both a methodology and ideology means that we never just buy food in a case, mark it up a set percent, and put it on a shelf or in a cooler. But, we were committed to bringing the best tasting, healthiest, locally sourced food to our community in the most respectful and best way possible. As is often the case, the hard way was the right way. Your support of our shop (and by extension - local, sustainable agriculture) not only keeps our lights on, and those of our farmers, but it might also be helping to save the world.
The commodities world is a constant race to the bottom. Producers are driven to deliver fungible products as cheaply as possible, which results in ever shrinking profit margins. In the food industry, this has resulted in intensive farming methods which keep livestock in close quarters, often entirely indoors, and large swaths of monoculture crop fields, which often rely on CAFO manure to keep the soil from becoming barren.
If you're reading this, you're probably familiar with the negative effects of such practices for livestock, for us as consumers, and for the planet. But, as the rest of the world begins to adopt the industrial agriculture model, the damage and danger caused by these practices is escalating at an alarming rate.
In November of last year, the BBC article Antibiotic Resistance: World on cusp of 'post antibiotic era' shed light on some truly frightening facts. If the statistics are accurate in this reporting, one fifth of animals in parts of Asia are now testing positive for antibiotic resistance. Whether or not we have crossed the precipice into the realm of the post-antibiotic era is up for debate, but the severity of the situation seems crystal clear.
A month later, Congress repealed the country of origin labeling rule (COOL) for beef and pork, arguably in response to $1billion in retaliatory import tariffs by the WTO, which had claimed COOL was discriminatory.
The repeal of COOL will place pressure on US based industrial livestock operations to increase productivity. This means that farmers will have to raise more animals in the same or smaller amount of space. Feeling the effects of this change, the US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance launched a large, well funded public relations campaign in January. The campaign's intent is to educate consumers on the importance of domestically produced livestock. While many farmers applauded the high production value videos and ads, their message (one video features an Iowa pig farmer smiling while stating, "I would say all pork is humanely raised.") is likely to fall on the deaf ears of consumers whose only interest is the price of the limited selection available at the grocery store. With the globalization of food, it becomes impossible for us as consumers to know what we are eating unless we are shopping locally.
There is good news, however.
When you support real, local food, you are helping to correct the aforementioned damage. Braeburn Farm, which raises almost all of the beef we sell at Left Bank Butchery, is seeing increasing amounts of carbon in it's soil. The water in the stream that runs through Braeburn Farm is cleaner when it leaves than when it enters. What does this mean? Braeburn is sucking carbon from the environment and putting it into the ground. It is literally cleaning the environment. And this is not an isolated case. An article in Modern Farmer recently stated, "Many consider livestock on pastureland the ideal system for sequestering carbon."
Increasingly, consumers are finding a personal connection to food and cooking, as evidenced by the growing popularity of farmers markets and local food movements. Farmers markets and butcher shops like ours are moving from being viewed as specialty food stores to being viewed as an integral part of weekly grocery shopping. The effects of buying local food cannot be overstated. People are enjoying healthier, tastier food, supporting their local communities, positively affecting the environment, and spending more time with family and friends as a direct result of cooking more frequently.
It is said that we vote with our wallets. Nowhere can change be more effective through this type of voting than in our weekly grocery shopping. Each time you purchase food, you are given a choice. Choose wisely - the world may depend on it.