Alexis and Eric Koefoed own and operate Soul Food Farm in Vacaville. When we filmed at the farm they had about 1200 laying hens—many of them old fashioned, heritage breeds. Alexis says: “How you get a really delicious egg is you have to have chickens running around outside eating a variety of things. We don“t feed them any pharmaceuticals in their feed and they’re eating vegetables we grow on this farm. So they have a more varied diet and here chickens get to forage and peck up grass and bugs and so there’s no constraining and that just creates a bird that is more vibrant and energetic.”
Egg facts: A hen requires between twenty-four and twenty-six hours to produce an egg. Thirty minutes after laying an egg she starts all over again. A female hen is born with thousands of tiny ova, which will one day become egg yolks. Just before laying, the egg is rotated and laid large end first. The size of the eggs increase as a hen gets older.
Dennis Dierks owns and operates a small organic farm in Bolinas, north of San Francisco. He practices the cultivation of beneficial indigenous micro-organisms, called BIM for short. Each spring, to build the farm’s soil, he collects a small amount of debris from the nearby forest—material that is rich in microbes that ease the transfer of nutrients from the soil to growing plants.
Dennis Dierks’ crew mixes the debris with some cooked rice and lets it ferment. Then it’s blended with other fermented ingredients collected locally—seaweed, nettles, comfrey, lactose, and fish guts. The result (which stinks to high heaven) is simply called “the brew.” Seedlings are soaked in it and then transplanted to the field where the beneficial microbes continue to multiply, sending out white filaments called mycelia. These serve as microscopic conduits for nutrients between the soil and the roots of each growing plant.
You can’t always tell the quality of a vegetable by how it looks. Vegetables produced in conventional, industrial scale farms are grown to withstand long distance transport and look good in a display case. Often producers will saturate plants with water just before harvest to “bulk up” the vegetables. What they gain in weight and appearance they loose in flavor. On Tim Mueller’s Riverdog farm only about 60% of the organic vegetables grown are suitable to be sold at market. The rest, which have slight imperfections, are served to pigs that thrive on their varied diet of heirloom tomatoes, melons, turnips, squashes, peppers, and much more.
Tim Mueller crossbreeds domestic breeds of pig with European Wild boar, the original ancestor of all domesticated swine. The resulting piglets have lateral stripes on their flanks. Mature adults have longer snouts, better adapted to rooting in the wild.
In the pilot program a butcher dressing out a pork loin, says: “No fat, no flavor.” Most pork today is bred to be lean, in response to consumer demand for lower cholesterol meat. However the tastiest pork loin comes from an animal with a good layer of back fat which is not trimmed from the meat but which impregnates the meat as it is roasted. Worried about you cholesterol levels? Consume less meat on a regular basis. Eat the good stuff on special occasions.
Pig Language: To “farrow’ means to give birth to a litter of pigs. It comes from the Middle English word, farwen, with the same meaning, which in turn comes from the Old English word for pig, fearh. A female pig is called a gilt from birth through when she has a litter of piglets, then she is called a sow. A male pig is a boar or a hog. A barrow is a male pig castrated before puberty. A group of pigs is referred to as a sounder, a mob, or a drift.
The natural maternal instinct of an animal to protect its young is often bred out of factory animals. In an industrial hog operation sows are kept separated from their suckling piglets by iron bars so that they do not roll over and crush their litter.