By Jeff Opperman, The Nature Conservancy
While visiting friends in Toronto, I spotted a small poster tacked behind their toaster that read: “Bacon is like a little hug from God.”
So true, I thought, smiling at how much I love those little hugs. But for so many reasons — cardiac health, the environment and humane farming practices — eating bacon often seems more like making out with the devil.
But I’ve found one way to wrest bacon away from the dark side and restore it to its rightful place as divine embrace: I mostly eat bacon that comes from pigs that I can visit. Pigs that lounge happily in sun-dappled mud puddles. Pigs that forage for acorns and hickory nuts and stand proudly on the edge of a meadow like some porcine version of Elsa (the lion from Born Free).
I’ve directly witnessed all of these piggish pursuits during annual visits to “our” farm in Wayne County, Ohio. My family and I are part of a dairy co-op and, along with the milk, we get much of our yogurt, beef, pork, poultry, eggs and various other products (e.g., maple syrup) from this one family farm.
We belong to the co-op for a lot of reasons, including a preference for supporting local family farms, access to fresh, healthy food and, as described above, the psychic comfort of knowing that our carnivorous tendencies are sustained by animals that live like, well, animals and not as cogs in some brutal industrial machine.
Here’s another reason for supporting farms like our co-op: lower impacts on lakes and rivers. Agriculture is one of the major sources for water pollution in the United States. I do not mean to demonize agriculture — we can’t live without it, of course. Global agriculture is what feeds 7 billion people…which means it’s the most fundamentally important activity on the planet. It can also never be free of environmental impacts.
But agriculture can always strive to reduce those impacts.