Birke Reports: What’s Really In Your Local Meat?

This post is written by Birke Baehr, a 14 year-old organic farming advocate and author. I am thrilled Birke is a regular contributor here on Food Babe, inspiring other children and adults across the nation to eat local, Non-GMO and organic. 


Hey everyone! I am so thankful to Vani & the Food Babe blog for having me on as a guest blogger.

As some of you may know I am a youth advocate for sustainable food & farming. I am very concerned about the production of genetically engineered food and crops. I’m also a large supporter of getting to know your farmer. I believe everyone should buy “local” and that it is important to be able to shake hands with the person that grew your food. I’m always visiting farms and getting to see how the farmers raise their animals and/or produce.

When talking to the majority of my local “pasture” based dairy or meat farmers, I always ask if they use any type of supplemental feed usually made from corn or soy. If they do use any, I ask them if it contains any genetically engineered ingredients. I usually hear from them that it does contain genetically modified (GMO) products and this fact upsets me.

cow

The one thing I get told time and time again is that non-GMO feed or even organic feed is too expensive. Every time I hear a farmer blame “the price” of non-GMO feed for not using it, I become even more determined to find a solution for them.

We must not only pay attention to GMO ingredients in additives and in raw form, but we must keep an eye out for 2nd generation GMO food, like feed or grain for livestock.

Many people don’t realize that they are consuming GMO food when they buy non-organic or local meat. If you buy local (or grass-finished, or pasture raised) – you are doing a great thing, but when the farmer is using GMO food to feed the livestock that can be passed down to you.

GMO food that is fed to animals has been linked to sickening them with diseases, like kidney & liver toxicity, cancer, infertility, birth defects, and death.
Scientists have found genetically engineered D.N.A. in animal tissue, that we end up consuming in the end.

We must find a solution to this issue. I want to help farmers source local non-GMO or organic feed for a fair price. A co-op of produce farmers, land owners, seed suppliers, and monetary backers should be formed. A co-op would have three key benefits:

  1. Stop farmers from having to truck feed from across the country.
  2. Eliminate farmers having to resort to GM feed.
  3. Help farmers obtain organic feed without having to pay a fortune.

This idea I hope will sprout up across the country in many different regions, so the farmers and everyone involved will make money. We need to let our farmers know every time we go to the market, we will not settle for GMO feed. Until this idea becomes reality, I don’t mind paying the extra price for the farmers that do use organic feed because in the end the real price we’ll pay will be our health and well being.

If you are raising livestock and looking for non-GMO feed – check out the resource guide from the non-GMO shopping guide here. (Especially for all you backyard chicken folks!)

And remember to buy organic meat or avoid conventional meat altogether if you want to stop consuming 2nd generation GMO food. I know Food Babe highly suggests this all the time.

Thanks for Reading!

Birke


More About Birke Baehr -

An Internationally recognized speaker and youth advocate for sustainable food and agriculture, Birke has visited and volunteered at farms around the United States and recently published his first book, “Birke On The Farm“. Birke has spent the last four years traveling around the United States and Italy visiting organic farms and learning from the farmers who steward those farms. He has attended numerous organic agriculture seminars and workshops; including one with renowned farmer and author, Joel Salatin who Birke looks up to in his pursuit of new thinking about food and agriculture. Birke continues to educate himself in this genre and intends to be a sustainable organic agriculturist in the future. He has a passion for educating others, especially his peers, about the destructiveness of the industrialized food system and the enlightening alternatives of sustainable and organic farming, food and practices. You can follow Birke on Facebook and Twitter.

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37 Responses to “Birke Reports: What’s Really In Your Local Meat?”

  1. Michael Kovach

    Hey Birke, great blog! (And I’ve shared you TED many times!)
    Your idea about a non-GMO feedstock co-op is a great one, and would definitely be a step in the right direction. But I have another to consider, that may even go a step further toward long-term sustainability: promoting grass-only diets for those critters whose digestive tracts were designed to eat grass (ruminants—you know, the “4 stomachs” crowd!). The argument against that I often get from fellow farmers is that it’s “not economically viable”, because it takes longer to “finish” a beef on grass alone (~26 months vs 20-24). They seem to forget the expense of fitting ground, buying seed (or even preparing and storing “saved seed”—provided it’s legal to do so with the variety they plant!), planting, applying manufactured fertilizers, harvesting, drying, storing & moving all of that feed. Nevermind what to do with all of the manure concentrated in one place! For we grass-fed believers, it’s a real head scratcher that our way (which, when done right, builds the soil dramatically, rather than tearing it down, allows the animals to grow at a healthy pace — eating what they evolved to — and requires no GMOs or chemical inputs) is the exception more than the rule! (Heck, here we even save fuel for the lawnmower by moving groups of sheep in temporary fencing!)
    Anyhow, keep up the great work championing a more sustainable, healthier approach to feeding our planet. Young people like you are our best hope for a better earth!

    Michael Kovach
    Proprietor
    Walnut Hill Farm
    (https://www.facebook.com/WalnutHillFarm)

    Reply
  2. Lisa Imerman

    Birke, You are 100% right on. I agree. I was dismayed when a local farmer I bought eggs from switched from the organic feed to conventional feed. They claimed the chickens didn’t like the organic as well and it was too expensive. I quit buying my eggs from her. It turned out to be a good move not only was I able to source local, free-range chicken eggs that are from a certified organic farmer but he has such a good supply I can get as many dozen as I want and he delivers locally to my area. I do pay a bit more, but for me it is sooo worth it. I make sure my beef and other meat is not fed GMO’s as well.

    You are an inspiration and I am so glad that Vani had you on her blog (one of my favorite blogs).

    Lisa

    Reply
  3. Ruth

    Many of the farmers around here let their cows graze as much as they can. A lot of them feed them hay that they bale come winter time. What I don’t like is when they feed them silage, which comes from the corn stalks that are GMO. I do know some farmers that don’t feed any corn products and that is good. But, I also know a great many people that think corn feed beef is the best.

    Reply
  4. cécile poletti

    Hey Birke! Great job!
    i follow you and believe that you are what the future should be…and the future is NOW! Right on! for your stealthy work, and keep it up, cause you’re a great inspiration!
    I also like the comment by Michael Kovach re. grass fed animals (even though i do not consume any animals)! We drastically need to get back to slow living and an intelligent, natural and sustainable way of farming!
    Thanks all for the awesome efforts!

    Reply
  5. jamie

    How do you find out this information? If I were to ask my butcher at my local grocery store, he wouldn’t know how the cattle is fed. Harris Ranch in Calif….if I called them and asked them these type of questions, would I get an honest answer? Not sure how you can get this information if you don’t know any farmers or don’t know where your beef is coming from. Please answer.

    Reply
    • Sandi (to jamie)

      If you’re buying your meat at a local grocery store, I can almost guarantee you that the animals were GMO grain fed and feedlot finished, unless it was specifically labeled ‘organic’. The answer is to buy local (not local grocery store – actual locally-raised beef), know your farmer and ask the questions.

      Reply
      • Birke Baehr (to Sandi)

        I agree with the comment above, almost all of the meat you find at supermarkets are fed GM feed unless they’re certified organic. Most of the local farmers in my area (eastern TN). That I see at the farmer’s market, are very transparent they allow visits to the farm and are happy to answer any question you have to the best of their ability.

      • Morks Saloon (to Birke Baehr)

        Connect with your local farmers through local farmers markets and/or a website such as http://www.eatwild.com
        This is how I found many of my local farmers. You still have to ask them good questions, but at least this let’s you find them! Additionally, you can join the Weston A. Price Foundation. They are all about local and traditional. No soy, no corn, no crap. They can point you to their local chapter in your area and connect you to farmers. I am also doing this. They do lots of research!
        For vegetables, http://www.localharvest.com is pretty good. Helps you locate farmers. You still have to ask questions (organic is best).
        Finally, you can grow your own from organic or heirloom seed (both are non GMO by definition) or find a local organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. http://www.justfood.com lists those. You will also find CSA farms via the http://www.eatwild.com site. A solid year of committed research and adding two small freezers to our small apartment has really paid off for us. The only food we get at our local supermarket (and by that I mean our local health food store, not a conventional supermarket – yukk) is greens for green juicing and a small handful of other things. Probably 20% of the grocery budget. The other 80% go straight into the local farmers’ pockets. Oh, and I live in the middle of NYC, with nary a local farm in sight. Indeed, where there is a will, there is most definitely a way.

      • Ava Rose Stone (to Morks Saloon)

        thank you so much for sharing these links!

      • Morks Saloon (to Morks Saloon)

        Edit:
        Just realized it is a .org not a .com on justfood:
        http://www.justfood.org/

        Also, this site is specific to the NYC metro area. For other areas, use localharvest, eatwild, and WAPF:
        http://www.localharvest.org/
        http://www.eatwild.com/
        http://www.westonaprice.org/

        And to see me cook and juice, just click on my screen name – takes you right to a collection of YouTube vids.

        Happy Sourcing, Everyone ;)
        C. Mork

      • brenda case (to Birke Baehr)

        Birke,
        I too am in Northeast TN…Small wonder! I’m closer to southwest virginia and I can’t find many who have grass fed or organic meats. I have health issues that are affected by the totality of hormones/antitbiotics and such. Where would you suggest I go? I don’t know where to find farmer’s markets. I am still fairly new to the area..

      • Birke Baehr (to brenda case)

        Brenda,
        Depending on how close you are to Jonesborough, I know some farmers who sell at the market there. The name is JEM Farm great folks and great meat! I worked on their farm for a week try to look for them there, they also do delivery to the Tri-cities! http://jemfarm.net/

  6. irene collie

    Keep educating them Birke! I used to have 75 acres in alfalfa and 15 in grass/alfalfa mix on my place in Oregon. My cows & llamas grazed freely on the 15 acres. The goats were used for the weeds and whatever part of the crops they could reach while weeding. All were healthy, and the herd was always kept small. If you’re greedy, it’s not the way to go. Of course, if you’re greedy, you usually don’t care about other’s health or what is happening in the food chain. I just finished 4 years of working for an inffectious disease doctor as a researcher and I am so appalled at how the cattle/chicken/pork industry fight for high antibiotic use, which IS in our food chain and passed on to us. We really aren’t being good stewards of this earth. I’d like to know if the GMO crops are having a negative impact on our honey bees, since pacific northwest hives have lost almost 50% of their bees this year.

    Reply
  7. Doug B.

    Thanks for the attention to this important fact! I wish organic meats were more available, but they are often difficult to find. Even with “minimally processed” meats, I always assume that 9 times out of 10 they were probably fed GMOs. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  8. Valerie Boutwell

    Birke,

    Excellent Job! Keep up your good work. I also am interested in what livestock are being fed. I have gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, and started wondering if the beef that I was eating might have gluten in it. I have read that some grass fed ranchers are allowing the cattle to graze on the fields where wheat was grown after the crop is harvested. I understand that there is gluten in the seed, so if some of the plants had not fully matured, there would still be gluten in the field. I did find one source of beef where the rancher assured me that his cattle were grass fed and grass finished on only grasses, not grains of any kind, and no wheat or barley or rye grass. After alot of reading, I think perhaps the sharp increase in people suffering with gluten intolerance may be linked to GMO consumption.

    Reply
  9. Collette

    Birke: You are 100% Awesome. That is All.

    Reply
  10. capndunzzl

    F.B. why do you have to be so beautiful…….

    Reply
  11. Tara Burns

    Thank you for this article. We are a pasture based farm in North Central PA. We struggle with this issue all the time. Currently we aren’t able to find GMO free feed at a price that our customers will afford paying. We would love to see a co-op of sorts start. It would help us greatly. We want to be GMO free. I want to feed my family GMO free food, but we are being a sustainable farm (this is our only job) and currrently non-GMO isn’t sustainable for us. This was an awesome article shedding light on the problem. Chicken and Pork aren’t meant to be cheap. Read Joel Salatin’s book Folks this Just Ain’t Normal. Thank you again for the article

    Reply
    • Tara Burns (to Tara Burns)

      I forgot to mention the issue is quantity. We get a 3ton load of feed every 2 weeks. We need a place that will supply that size of a farm. We raise close to 5,000 broilers, 50 hogs, 1,000 laying hens and 40 grass-fed only cows.

      Reply
    • Assistant to Food Babe (Krista) (to Tara Burns)

      Thanks for sharing your point of view!

      Reply
  12. Sandy

    Hi Vani,

    Great job with your articles as always. Meat is such a carcinogen, besides the whole GMO issue. All the animals are fed hoarders of antibiotics, which includes quionlones, which is a potent drug. Not to mention fecal contamination which is even indicated in organic meat. That was the tipping point for my husband and I going vegan and we were big meat eaters. Dr. Greger has some great educational videos on nutritionfacts.org which are back up by great scientific data. Our food supply is in big trouble with the GMO’s and prop 37 not passing!
    Sandy

    Reply
    • Sandi (to Sandy)

      ALL animals aren’t fed antibiotics, but all CAFOs use them extensively (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), which is where grocery store meat comes from. There are many conscientious farmers out there who raise their animals in an environmentally responsible manner and do not resort to hormones, antibiotics or gmo grain (or ANY grain, for that matter).
      By ‘fecal’ I think you’re referring to some reports of e. coli being found in the majority of supermarket meats tested, even some organic ones. E. coli is a bacteria, not fecal matter; cows fed a high-grain diet become very acidic and are more prone to E. coli infections. Also, I read that the E. coli in the organic meat was actually transferred by the processor/packer and did not originate in the meat itself. Again – get to know your local farmer well and ask plenty of questions.

      Reply
  13. satiny

    Eating meat uses more precious resources than a GMO-free organic, vegan diet. If you don’t give up dead animal flesh for compassion, give it up for the planet. It has been well documented that meat is not only murder, but uses more water, land, air, contributes to global warming, etc. See the Robbin’s books for documentation. Encourage everyone to go meat -free as often as possible. Educate yourself and others about the toxicity of eating animals for the planet and for your and the animal’s health. The time to change is now. We are running out of water and we are at 400PPB of carbon in the atmosphere.

    Reply
  14. Sandy

    Sandi, I respectfully disagree, especially with the scientific community studies on the harmthat meat incurs, (yes, even organic) with the high level of satruated fat. I also agree with Satiny that meat uses so many resources that could effectively put to use for production of a plant based diet. As I stated, my husband and I did eat organic meat at a step level level 4, and once we started researching what meat does in reference to blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer, etc. we stopped. And yes, i mean e coli and fecal matter —check out nitritionfcts.org, dr Fuhrman and other nutritional Dx who have the studies to back it up. My blood values after six months are now normal, so it works for me. I do not fault anyone who wants to eat a clean source of beef, pork, chicken, etc, but I d o think people need to know the facts and make an informed decision based on those facts. BTW—I belong to an organic CSA which is fantastic and in the all they raise Turkeys for slaughter and he cannot honestly guarantee his fowl is non fecal oe ecoli safe.

    Reply
  15. Lyn

    Fantastic post Birke! It is great to see such commitment from the youth of today. I am lucky where we live as there are a lot of local farmers using organic methods even if they are too small to be certified.

    I do know from a consumers viewpoint price, once again, rears its ugly head, especially for families on a tight budget. With more demand the price will gradually get lower both for the consumer and farmer. The best way to fuel demand is education and people like you and Vani are doing a great job. Thanks!

    Reply
  16. Vera Shaver

    Hi Birke,
    That was very inspiring story I just read,
    keep up the good work we need more organic farmers.
    Vera,

    Reply
  17. Jen Siskind

    Birke – Contact Bob Burns in CT for more information on co-operative non-GMO feed supply under works in our area. Email contact is: aiki.ledyard@gmail.com

    Reply
  18. Kathryn

    I find it interesting that farmers say non-gmo feed is more expensive than gmo feed. A study published last year analyzed USDA data and found that gmo corn seed production costs are double the cost of non-gmo corn seed production and 47% higher for soy. With corn and soy making up the bulk of food animal feed, the data indicates that it should be less expensive to feed them non-gmo products compared to gmo products. Although I would prefer animals to fully graze on pastures, I know it is extremely difficult to find 100% grass fed meats so if they are going to feed them some grains, I would prefer it to be non-gmo for both the animal’s health and the end consumer’s health. I like your ideas to cut down on shipping costs and support local farms. http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24

    Reply
  19. Frank Ch. Eigler

    (Eating another creature’s DNA, genetically modified or not, does not do anything to us. That stuff decomposes in our GI tract. If it didn’t, I’d have four legs, wings, fish-fins, and a whole lot of leaves growing out of my body.)

    Reply
  20. Joanna

    I have to give credit to my local farmers – they are open and transparent about what their animals eat, where they live and how they are treated. I’ve personally been to all of the farms, know the farmers by name. Many of them grow their own non-GMO grains, if they feed the animals grains at all. I do pay a premium for that, and to me, it’s worth it.

    Reply
  21. Birke Baehr

    I’d like to thank everyone so much for reading. I enjoyed hearing the feed back from many different people. Thanks again!

    Reply
  22. Cecille Chan

    Thank you very much, Birke. I stopped eating meat some years ago. I guess I am one of those that can do it. I watch the PETA videos about the mistreated animals prior to their being killed and it kills me inside. The latest video is about the rabbits that cry as their fur is being ripped off of them. They then go into shock after having to go through all that severe pain of having their fur ripped off of them. And no they are not given anesthesia.

    My love around you,

    Cecille

    Reply
  23. Jason

    hi I just want to say that the whole gmo thing is blown greatly out of proportion. also the whole organic thing can actually be worse for you then reguar farming and it uses more resources for less output. I have lived near farms my entire life my dad and grandparents are farmers I know many famers your whole thing about evil gmo is simply not true in fact everything we eat is genetically modified you don’t find bananas like we eat just everywhere in the tropics same as most grains over the entire time humans have cultivated we have crossbred aka modified food to make it better for us. also organic food is fertilised with animal and sometimes human poop and you know whats in poop right (ecoli and other bacteria if you didn’t know) and some gmcs are quite good for us, a crop that produces a natural pesticide that can be eaten with little preparation and grows on a cupful of water imagine the help 3rd world farmers will get just wanting to clear up some common misconceptions. also my grandparents farm used to be used by a seed corperation to grow gm crops

    Reply
  24. Shelly

    Food babe or anyone else:

    Is Kroger’s Simple Truth brand as organic as it claims to be? Meat included?

    Reply
  25. Matt

    Weston A Price = religious cult

    Reply

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