One of my favorite parts in Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, was the section on Polyface Farms located in Virginia. What was so fascinating about Polyface is their focus on a sustainable system. Their values really lay out what makes them so impressive.
polyface sustainable farm
They realize that their business is not just producing chickens, beef, pork, or rabbits the cheapest way possible (which is also the unhealthiest way). Their business is producing a product that doesn't sacrifice food safety, their surrounding environment, or the animal's happiness. They are also able to increase their profits by being extremely efficient and charging a bit more for a much better product.
Polyface's proprieter, Joel Salatin, looked at all facets of farm life and rearranged them so they didnt operate as independent operations, but rather a system of intertwined cycles. For example:
Cattle are able to forage for clean grass each day with a moveable fence (this is different than the cattle most of us eat living in muddy, dirty, cramped feedlots)
- Chickens that follow the cattle around to the fresh grass sprouts and the bugs out of their poop
- Pigs that come behind the cows and root around in the cow's bedding (wood chips/sawdust mixed with the cow manure) which helps aerate the bedding and aid in compost development
- The blood from the slaughtered chickens is added to aforementioned compost to make it more nutritious for the garden and pastures
So the next time you're at the store and trying to decide on which cut of meet to get, think about how the meat was raised, and how it's former life is going to impact your health and the taste of the meat. As Polyface farms proves, Sustainability is not just about helping the environment, it's about making a living by doing what's right, because doing what's right makes life much happier to live.
While you probably don't have a farm in your backyard, think about your home as a system, and how that system is part of a larger environment. Think of ways you can eliminate waste (recycle, compost, rain water capture) and make smarter decisions (control your thermostat, turn off lights, insulate), that won't just save you money, but will also make your home and local environment a happier place to live.