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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Letter from Publisher

It’s been more than a decade since Food, Inc., Robert Kenner’s eye-opening documentary, pulled back the curtain and exposed what food journalists, environmentalists and animal rights activists had been informing us for years about factory farms. Yet in Wisconsin, the number of these businesses—referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)—has more than doubled from 2005 to 2019, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau. CAFOs are defined as livestock and poultry feeding operations with at least 1,000 animal units.

As part of the industrial food machine, the goal of CAFOs is typically quantity over quality, producing as much meat and dairy as possible through the most cost-effective means. The result is often inhumane treatment of animals; low wages and unsafe conditions for farm workers; unhealthy final products that contain nitrates and antibiotics; and huge volumes of manure that ultimately seep into groundwater and wash into lakes and streams. Growing consumer rejection of these practices has likely fueled the popularity of vegan diets and meat alternatives, but more comprehensive solutions can be found in this month’s feature article, “Beyond Factory Farms: ‘Big Meat’ Comes at High Cost.” There, readers can find helpful advice on how to bypass industrialized eating.

While the number of CAFOs is high, Wisconsin still boasts myriad small farms that put animal care first, raising small herds the old-fashioned way—in fields, not factories. The result is quality, pasture-raised meats produced without antibiotics or hormones. To find small, family-owned farms in your area, check out FarmFreshAtlas.org for the new Farm Fresh Atlas Wisconsin: a free, year-round local food guide available in six regional editions.

For vegetarians, Wisconsin farmers offer a bounty of produce during our short growing season. Asparagus, berries, peas, rare and heirloom tomatoes, carrots in every color of the rainbow, common and unusual herbs, mushrooms... the list goes on. Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has not shut down farmers’ markets, our cherished institutions that foster the sustainable-agriculture economy and connect urban and suburban consumers with rural growers. Most market organizers have implemented changes this season, such as social distancing and bans on both reusable bags and the consumption of food on premises. Check with your favorite farmers’ market for its guidelines.

After you’ve picked up your tasty, locally grown foods, check out our Conscious Eating article, “Outdoor Feasts,” to get ideas for the grill or your next picnic.

Here’s to healthful summer eating,

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher
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