Why being good to our food is good for us
MANILA, Philippines - Does food treated well when alive actually taste better?
For Costales Farm, a farm recently enlisted by organic food and wellness store Healthy Options to produce their first locally-sourced products, it's more than that.
In the 5-hectare farm nestled at the foot of Mt Banahaw near majestic Majayjay Falls in Laguna, chickens and pigs get VIP treatment.
At the Organika event last January 23 in Ortigas where Healthy Options launched their local products, Rappler chatted with Healthy Options’ LJ Mallari who coordinates with Costales Farm in farm operations related to the store’s products. This basket includes organic vegetables, herbs, pork, chicken, and eggs.
LJ, clad in a cowboy-inspired checkered shirt in honor of the night’s “farm” theme, said she visits the farm twice a month and can attest to the farm’s humane treatment of its animals.
In industrial or conventional farms, chickens are placed in battery cages only large enough for them to stand, sleep, and eat in. According to a report posted on the website of Wesleyan University, up to 10 chickens inhabit an area of 2.33 square feet. That’s smaller than half a sheet of A4 paper per hen which leaves them no room to spread their wings which span 30 to 32 inches.
The tiny space also inhibits their basic instincts of perching, roosting, dust-bathing, nesting, and scratching, making the chickens more aggressive and prone to attacking other hens.
These chickens are not happy.
Adding to their misery are the wire walls of the cages through which their heads get stuck. This can lead to slow death through starvation and, of course, pain.
The cages are lit up 24 hours a day by electric lights because chickens need light to lay eggs.
For sure, these measures are practical. Farms save space and the chickens lay more eggs. But it’s misery for the chickens.
In contrast, the chickens in Costales farm live a life of "luxury."
LJ rhapsodized, “Our chickens are pasture-raised, meaning they can roam around freely. Our minimum requirement is 0.5 square meters [of space] per chicken.”
This gives space for chickens to be chickens and indulge in their nature-programmed activities and habits.
In addition, they get natural sunlight in place of artificial lighting. This means less eggs but a more natural flow of their bodies’ processes. They become less egg-producing machines and more nesting hens.
No steroids, growth hormones, and synthetic supplements for these chickens. They are fed only grains, organic vegetable trimmings, wild bugs, and insects.
It’s a pig’s life
LJ assured that their pigs are just as happy as their feathered farm-mates.
Aside from being given ample space to frolic and fulfil their natural instinct for foraging and rooting, they sleep in beds any pig would rate 5-star.
LJ shared, “They sleep on a floor of soil, carbonized rice hull, and sawdust. You can imagine how soft that is!”
And if you imagine their pens to be muddy and stinky, LJ said you will be greatly disappointed.
“If you go inside their pens, you won’t think you’re inside a pig pen. You won’t smell anything. It smells just like a normal room.”
Like the chickens, the pigs enjoy an all-natural diet of rice bran, duck weed, copra meal, fruits, and vegetables.
Humanity to animals
You may well ask: "Who cares if you treat them well if they’re going to end up on your plate anyway?"
Whether miserable or happy, these animals are raised only to be killed as food. There’s no hiding or sugar-coating that fact.
But farms like Costales that care about the happiness of their animals carry the added burden and cost of treating their livestock humanely.
Costales chickens don’t produce as many chickens and pigs, without growth hormones or artificial supplements, and don’t grow as fast as pigs in conventional farms.
But according to Yani Cardeño, Healthy Options Brand Associate for Advertising and PR, there is a benefit to treating farm animals well.
She explained, “They’re not stressed. They don’t get sick. This means they don’t get antibiotics or unwanted chemicals in their system which get to us when we eat them.”
In contrast to the strain on their bodies because of abnormal growth due to injected growth hormones and supplements, the chickens and pigs grow at a natural pace which makes them healthier.
Whether it’s a bonus of their goodwill or the practical reason why they treat animals the way they do, it makes patrons of Costales farm and Healthy Options probably sleep better at night. - Rappler.com