Friday 27 August 2010

You learn something new everyday!

I consider myself a fairly well-educated person, and conscientious too. I make informed choices about where I buy my food, grow my own, have my own chooks. Can you imagine how foolish I felt then, when at the childrens farm the other day? I discovered that most calves are taken from their mothers within days, to be reared on bottles. I had assumed that they were weaned more naturally, and that as they reached a natural age for weaning, the milking machines took over, but this is sadly not the case.

I had also assumed that male calves were reared for beef, but again this is not the case, more likely they are shot, or used for veal.

I have spent some time on the compassion in world farming site, and had a rethink on my eating habits. I am fortunate that we have a local farm shop that can provide free-range chicken and pork, but it looks like I've got a few more questions re: beef and dairy products.

Looks like oat milk may have a bit more of a place in our cupboards from now on. And a reduction in other dairy products too. Does anyone know if goats milk is any more "ethical"?


  1. It does make you ponder a lot doesn't it - when I heard about chickens being locked up for 4 year with no day light I never buy non free range chicken now. Luckily we have a farm that sells beef down the road and I see the cows pottering around happily but still feel bad about eating them.

  2. The industrial revolution has a lot for answer to doesn't it?

    There are now some farmers who are bucking this trend, a little research may help you find one nearby that is more ethical.
    I know our local open farm museum often has male calves donated to them as they are considered "worthless" to some farmers - so sad when you look into the big eyes of the Jersey calves they have there. At least they will have a chance of life there, although still not perfect.

    With goats, they are weaned from the mother at about 6-8 weeks (I learnt this from a local farm - although others may vary). Most goat meat available is from the male kids as they are sadly no longer needed for a milking herd. Again thought, there are more ethical breeders out there.

    Good luck with your research xx

  3. This aspect of eating dairy always makes me uneasy. I try to buy organic milk where I can, but I'm not sure if this makes any difference to the fate of male dairy calves or not. There is that horrible intensive dairy factory due to open near Lincoln isn't there, that makes me determined that I will only buy organic milk. We're a weird country, we ban foxhunting, but don't have a second thought about the poor chickens or turkeys or male calves. *sigh*

  4. Hmm - it is one I wrestle with a lot, and have never come to any kind of solution. We do eat dairy and some meat, - organic, but somehow it doesn't feel right - veganism just doesn't work for us either, so wejust cut down our consumption as much as possible. Once when we were thinking of getting goats, we were given the advice - 'kill the males at birth - no-one wants them and it's kinder in the long run'!! Noooo!!! Not sure about other goatkeepers, but that comment ended my dairymaid career before it even started. xxx

  5. Co-incidentally I was at the farmers' market today and one of the stallholders was selling rose veal. His neighbour has a dairy herd and he brought on the male calves for this. We chatted a bit about the ethics of the dairy industry - he felt that things were improving - especially for organic and small farmers. Then he told me that Macdonalds now bring on male dairy calves to adulthood to use in their burgers. I'm not sure how I felt about that one. Just throught you would be interested. xx

  6. Oh I hate it when they go and do something "good" like that!

    I'll try and check out the local farmers markets, I think that might be my first port of call (after quizzing the butchers at the farm shop!)

  7. depends on your goat dairy, and how out there you want to be!
    Our goats milk is very ethical. But we can't sell it because it's not pasteurised. Well, we can sell it for puppies and so on but not for human consumption, though we drink it ourselves.
    I would look around for local producers - most goats are kept inside as the grass makes the milk taste different (well, duh!)- and I'm not too keen on that.
    Our ramshackle family of goats lives all over the place, and we leave kids with mummy all day for months,just shutting kids in the nursery and mummy in her own bedroom overnight so that we can share the milk in the morning!


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