Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma last fall, and it changed the way I think about the meat I eat. We are only two at home now, and we don't eat a lot of meat. But we are still omnivores (actually my husband refers to himself as an opportunivore).

We live in Northeastern Ontario; a cold climate where it is impossible to live only on regionally produced food. That being said, I have been searching for food produced as closely as possible to my community to reduce food miles and carbon footprint.

This morning we drove 150 km to The Burt Farm, Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island (Tel: 705-282-0328). This is a family operation, and the owners Max & Johanna Burt were just wonderful to meet. Max is an Agriculture grad from Guelph University. They raise their own cattle, pigs and turkeys. All animals are raised free from sub-therapeutic antibiotics and growth hormones. The cattle are fed by forage and hay, and grain-finished (mostly barley). Cattle are a Hereford/Charolais/Angus mix, bred by Max using DNA testing, to improve on the taste and tenderness of the meat.

We were invited into the back butchering area. It was spotless. All employees wear hair nets. The smoker (the size of a huge refrigerator) is regulated with a computerized panel.

Max makes his own biodiesel from the animal fats and grains that he produces. The Burts are running a closed-loop system as much as possible. He has little sample jars of the biodiesel in the storefront to show customers.

Unfortunately, at this point Max says that the whole food distribution system is designed to bring food onto Manitoulin Island. Currently there is no way to ship food off the island directly to the closest market, which would be our community. The trucks first go to Toronto, then travel almost all the way back and stop in Sudbury. The Burts apparently sell to a Local Food Buyer's Club so we're going to check that out.

I'm so impressed with these people. Their motto is "From our land to your hand". It was worth the drive, and now I know where my dinner tonight came from.

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