All Flesh Is Grass: Lessons of A Symbiotic Utopian Society

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In Part 2 of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan investigates the old pastoral practice of organic farming. Although farmer Joel Saltain raises “chicken, beef, turkeys, eggs, rabbits, and pigs, plus tomatoes, sweet corn, and berries” on his land,  when asked what he farms he simply replies, “I’m a grass farmer.” Saltain further explains that this is because the animals do most of the work on the farm. As simple as it is, grass is the necessary compound for a healthy ecological animal system. There is a symbiotic relationship between the grass and the animals. The grass creates phytonutrients and nutrition and is understood as the “foundation of the intricate food chain.”The intuitive nature of animals providing for one another is perhaps the greatest example of a utopian society that we humans could ever imagine. There is a particularly amusing arrangement among the farm animals that goes as follows:     First, the cattle graze the uncut pasture. Then, the, “birds follow and clean up after herbivores” and by doing so they remove parasites and maggots out of the cowpats. Spreading the manure in this way leaves hens with the title of the “sanitation crew.” Because the hens are so successful at removing the unwanted organisms, there is no need for chemical parasiticides to be given to the cattle. Yet, we go to great lengths to separate them, taking them from their usual food supply of fresh grass and instead feeding them nutrient less corn and soybeans, causing them to be pumped with hormones and other inorganic products.This completely intuitive cycle is what we might expect nature to be like. Joel’s farm is a perfect example of a utopian society where the animals all work together to live happy and healthy lives. Food for thought: why do we separate animals, remove them from their natural habitats, feed them corn and soy to fatten them up and then slaughter them? Wouldn’t you prefer an ecosystem like Joel’s farm? Perhaps the biggest step towards creating a balanced world would be to back up and reexamine our food systems. Clearly our modes of agriculture are forming more corporate gains at the price of greedy low prices, animal cruelty and the lack of a symbiotic cycle in nature. For how do we expect to form a healthy and loving society when the very source of our nourishment is being stripped away from their natural states?

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