They're why I have been moving our family to more organic foods.
This morning, as I pulled out a glass bottle of milk from a local dairy, Crescent Ridge (small batch milk and a promise never to give their cows antibiotics, and it tastes yummy!), my little girl asked me to tell her again about happy chickens and happy cows.
I've been trying to teach my children, in small doses, why I have been moving our family to more organic foods, and away from added chemicals that we just don't need. (Confession: it helps assuage my guilt over the fact that they don't eat much variety if I give them organics) A good example of this is the homemade chocolate syrup I make. Organic cocoa powder, organic sugar, vanilla, dash of salt, and some water. That's it. It makes a pint of chocolate syrup that tastes delish and lasts a long time in the fridge. I used my pint up over the course of five weeks and it was still good. Why do so many companies add so much junk to their products?
Anyway...here's how the conversation played out:
Me: Well...when you have happy chickens & cows, they give you happier (read: tastier & healthier) meat, milk and eggs.
Kids: Why are some cows and chickens unhappy?
Me: Because they are forced to live in unhappy, small spaces. And they are forced to eat foods they don't normally eat.
Kids: Like what?
Me: Cows are forced to eat corn. They do not want to eat corn; their tummies are made to eat grass. Chickens scratch and peck at the ground for worms & insects.
Kids: So why don't they just give the cows grass?
Me: Because it's too expensive. It costs less money to just give them corn. We have a lot of corn in the USA.
Kids: So what's the big deal with corn? So, they eat corn. Whatever.
Me: Imagine if I never gave you any food you could eat, I told you that the only thing you were allowed to eat was grass.
Kids: YUCK! We wouldn't eat it!
Me: Right. Yuck. But if it were the only thing to eat, after a while you would have to eat it to try and survive.
Kids: We would feel sick from eating grass!
Me: Yup. And then I would have to give you medicine to keep you from getting sick. Isn't that silly, I could just feed you what you normally would eat and you wouldn't get sick. Then I wouldn't have to give you medicine. And they give the cows chemicals to force them to make even more milk. That's where it all gets really yucky.
Me: Because that medicine and chemicals then gets into your milk, eggs, and meat. And then it gets into you. And then your body doesn't respond to antibiotics or medicines like it should in situations when you really need them. (6-year old Max's eyes are starting to glaze over, I'm losing him...)
Sophie: What about the chickens?
Me: They want to be out running around pecking at the dirt to get their food. When they sit in cages they get unhappy, and peck at other chickens. They get the end of their beaks clipped off to keep them from doing that.
Max: WHOA! They get their beaks chopped off? (I got him back with that. Boys.)
Me: And when their chickens live so close together and don't get to run around outside where there is fresh air, they get sick easily. So they get those chemicals and medicines like the cows get.
Sophie: Well that's just sad, they should just let the cows and chickens be happy and run around outside, eating grass and dirt or whatever you said a chicken eats. Why don't they let them do that?
Me: It's all about money, sweetie. And what's, ummm, easy, I guess.
Max: (getting up from the table) This is too much for my brain. (I have officially lost him)
Sophie said again that it was sad and took after Max to get ready for the bus.
I know that was a very simplistic explanation. They are nine and six, I can't get too much more in-depth than that just yet.
I remember being 12, spending the summer of 1982 in Germany with my Oma and Opa. I had eaten more than my fair share of milk chocolate while I was there, it was just so delicious and creamy. High quality stuff, even just your basic candy bars at the supermarket. I asked my Oma why the milk chocolate was so much better in Germany than back home in the United States. She had a simple answer for me that I remember well, even to this day:
"We have happy cows."