About the author : Daniel Griffith
Daniel is a emergent conservationist and first-generation regenerative farmer with a background in high-technology and entrepreneurship. Daniel is the co-founder of Earth2Earthlings, a podcast about the regenerative movement and is the Hub Leader of the Robinia Institute, Virignia's Hub of the Savory Institute. Daniel is a published author, consultant, and holistic management educator.
When Morgan and I started farming, we set down a couple of fundamental tenets for our farm—unshakeable beliefs that would form, impact, and guide every decision we made on the farm. If you have come across any of our farm’s marketing, you will recognize this paragraph:
“We absolutely and entirely do not provide or use any hormones, fertilizers, antibiotics, vaccinations, medications, synthetic vitamins or chemicals, wormers, appetite stimulants, injections, irradiations, GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, any-other-cides, or chlorine baths to our land and flerds (herds and flocks) ever. Period.”
This was the first tenet. It is one that is actually very simple to maintain. Farm in nature’s image and it is easy to be natural.
The second tenet is not so easy: “To control and manage the breeding and feeding stock for all the products sold on and by our farm.” Otherwise put, if we didn’t raise its parents, we won’t sell it (we are glad to note that, as of January, 2019, this tenet is 100% enforced).
This tenet seemed plain to us at the time and we thought it would be common-place in the regenerative and holistic management world of grass- and permaculture farms. Oh, were we wrong. Most farms today buy adolescent-aged livestock and then raise and “finish” that stock to processing age.
The reasons for this we now understand are many fold. First, it takes different infrastructure to maintain and breed animals than to buy and finish animals. Second, spending years developing your breeding stock negatively extends the timing of the sale of your products. You not only have to wait for the animals to be born and raised, but you have to feed the momma/papa for years with no return. Third, your sale of products is based on the validity and natural temperament of your breeding stock. If your boar, for instance, doesn’t want to breed your sow this year, you don’t make any money while you have to still feed both of them. Nature may exist on patience and natural cycles, but farms still need to make money. Lastly, raising your own breeding stock sets the maximum limit of production below what can actually could be sold. This means that, if your farm acreage could support the production of 5 pigs year-round, you now can only raise 3 pigs for sale, as 2 of the 5 are breeding stock.
This all being said, our dedication to this tenet has not waxed since its conception and every meat product sold by our farm—aside from the chickens of course—is a multi-generational effort by our farmers. Why?
It has to do with mammary glands and estrogenics—or mother’s milk and blood.
Mother’s Milk and Agriculture
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, our first tenet is to be organic in the true sense—natural as nature is natural. However, modern science has concluded through definitive findings that chemicals are transferred from one generation to the next through mother’s milk.
Take Glyphosate, for example:
Dr. Don M. Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University wrote in response to a study completed by the Moms Across America:
“It is well established in the scientific literature that glyphosate disrupts the endocrine hormone system, and is toxic to liver and kidney tissues, a strong mineral chelator, and a potent antibiotic that kills essential microorganisms in the gastro-intestinal tract. The levels observed in breast milk and urine in this preliminary survey indicate that intake of this chronic toxin is highly biologically significant and almost 100 times the amounts documented in peer-reviewed scientific studies to cause birth defects, kidney and liver damage, hormonal disruption, and predispose to cancer. Much higher levels of glyphosate in breast milk than urine indicate a concentration factor that can especially compromise the health and development of an infant through direct toxicity, deprivation of essential mineral nutrients, and dysbiosis of the microbiome essential for immune, neural and physical development.”
To summarize, a good number of preliminary studies demonstrate that environmental chemicals—glyphosate in this example—are transferred directly to mammalian infants through their mother’s milk.
What does this mean? You may need to sit down for this one…
You can purchase pork, for instance, that is labeled as “organically fed,” “certified organic,” or “beyond organic,” that carries just as many endocrine disrupting and harmful chemicals as one that was NEVER organically fed.
Just in case I’m not getting through to you … the question you need to ask your local farmer is not what they are feeding their pigs. Rather, you need to ask them what their pigs’ parents were fed.
If your farmer does not control the husbandry of multiple generations of their animals—from breeding stock to feeding stock—, then how can they market their products as “beyond organic?” How can they guarantee to his customers that their meat products contain the lowest amounts of environmental chemicals as possible? They simply cannot.
The old axiom is true: you are what you eat. That being said, you are what your food eats, and that includes their mother’s milk.
We have chosen to control the chemical legacy of our products so that we can offer our customers the best meat possible. Is it perfectly clean meat? Sadly, no. Our environments are plagued by the use of modern chemicals and glyphosate has been found in the rain … but, by controlling lineage, we control what we can. We can definitively reduce the amount of chemicals in our food system and offer our customers the peace of mind that, truly, this is the cleanest food possible this (sad) day in age.
The second reason we have chosen to raise all our own breeding stock is because of what is called Estrogenics.
Estrogenics is are a “class of molecule that are structurally similar to estrogen and they are trouble,” wrote Anthony Jay, the President of the International Medical Research Collaborative. They are compounds that bind to the estrogen receptors in the body and change those cells entirely. These receptors are found in nearly every cell in your body and, therefore, estrogenics can change/impact your brain, fat, muscles, reproductive organs, etc.
For instance, the mycoestrogen zearalenone (ZEA) is a contaminant in cereals and grain, such as soybeans and wheat. When it is consumed by mammals, it automatically binds to their estrogen receptors and “causes liver tumor-formations, brain problems, and impairment of male reproductive systems,” write Jay. In other words, soybeans cause liver cancer in mammals.
Another example is the herbicide atrazine. This agricultural chemical is illegal in Europe, but is currently the second most used herbicide in the United States (second only to glyphosate, of course).
Perhaps you don’t like frogs, but you will hate this … atrazine “chemically castrates frogs even in tiny doses, is an endocrine disruptor, and likely causes birth defects in people,” to quote a 2015 medical study. A 2004 study concluded that low-doses of atrazine caused “developmental toxicity in mouse embryos” and further found that embryotic death resulted from these “chemical abortions.”
Okay, estrogenics destroys and kills. But what about future generations? How do they impact lineage—the family tree?
In a 2006 article in Endocrinology, we find that “data suggests that…increased susceptibility for tumors…is passed on from the maternal lineage to subsequent generations of male and female descendants; the mechanism involved in these transgenerational events include genetic and epigenetic events.” Or, otherwise and more simply put: estrogenic changes in a mammals body is passed along to future generations. If soy caused the growth of liver tumors in the mother, then her offspring will “genetically” be predisposed to liver cancer.
Wow! Simply, wow!
All this harrowing data suggests that to control the chemical reduction and physical health of our farm’s products, we have to control the transgenerational effect chemicals play within the mammalian genome.
I will be completely honest with you. It is not always “fun” to raise breeding stock. Sometimes, after a long and hard day of caring for a non-pregnant sow or a dry cow, it crosses our minds to just quit this tenet and just go out and buy feeder pigs or stocker calves or lambs. When our bank accounts are running low at the same time when we have customers piling up on waiting lists, we consider the validity of this tenet.
And then we remember…
We farm in nature’s image. We farm to produce truly natural food. We farm to restore and regenerate the land and our health. We farm under nature’s patience.