Category Archives: Health

Milk Kefir FAQs


Gorgeous day today to take mineral around the twenty-four hundred acres that my cowboy husband looks after all summer. Youngest daughter and I tore across green pastures in the Polaris Ranger, seat belts on!, while hubby four-wheeled alongside in his ATV. Blue skies, frisky heifers, creek crossings, and 4,000 lbs of mineral parceled out amongst 8 locations. We left before lunch and got home just in time to milk the cows at 3 pm! Hungry? No problem. A glass of kefir was just the thing. Need another hungry mouth to feed? Let me introduce you to kefir.

What is Kefir exactly and what are its health benefits? Kefir is a yogurt-like product, a fermented milk drink that is thick, creamy, and has a bit of a tang. It is made with milk and Kefir grains, which are a collection of live beneficial bacteria and yeast. Kefir is a probiotic. It actually colonizes the digestive tract with good bacteria, whereas the good bacteria in yogurt simply feed the good bacteria which are already in your gut. Kefir is rich in protein, and packed with nutrition containing good amounts of vitamins A, B2, B12, D, K, magnesium, phosphorous, and an abundance of the essential amino acid Tryptophan which has a calming effect on nerves. And how many people do you know that have to take a digestive enzyme before they eat certain proteins? Kefir has an amazing quality of replenishing your body’s enzyme stores which aids the body in digesting various foods. Kefir is a drinkable supplement for good overall health and immunity. Remember good health begins in the gut!

What’s the difference between the bacteria contained in yogurt and those found in kefir? Kefir has several major strains of bacteria not contained in yogurt. Kefir contains what’s called “right-turning bacteria” and yogurt contains “left-turning bacteria”. The 30-50 friendly bacteria in Kefir can colonize/repopulate your gut, they stick around and work for you building your immune system and killing pathogens. The 7-ish friendly bacteria in yogurt are transient, keeping the digestive tract clean and providing food for the good bacteria that live there, but these bacteria move on through and need replaced. Both kefir and yogurt are good at restoring the body’s ecosystem after consuming antibiotics or experiencing food poisoning.

Can I have Kefir if I’m lactose intolerant? Generally, people who are lactose intolerant can handle kefir since much of the lactose (milk sugar) is consumed by beneficial bacteria and yeasts during the fermentation process.

What kind of milk should you use? You can make kefir with raw goat or cow’s milk, as well as whole milk, or lightly pasteurized milk. I am a huge believer in the health benefits of raw milk from a clean source of pasture fed cows/goats, but you can make kefir from store-bought pasteurized milk. Just go with the lightly pasteurized, non-homogenized variety and know that it doesn’t perform as well with low-fat milk.

What kills Kefir? The only thing that will damage or kill your kefir is neglect or heat. Kefir needs fed fresh milk to stay alive. So if you forget about it, it will starve and die. Heating it up will also kill it.

What if I need a break from making kefir? Easy. Going on vacation, or just want a week off? After straining your kefir grains and covering them with fresh milk, place the jar in your fridge where the colder temps will slow down the fermenting process allowing the kefir to slowly feed on the milk sugars. Going to be gone for 2 weeks or more? Use a bigger jar and more milk for 2 weeks. Or find a kefir babysitter. Need a longer break? Kefir grains also freeze well. Simply place them in a freezer baggie with some fresh milk and freeze. When you are ready to thaw, place them in a jar of fresh milk on your counter and just give them an extra day or two to get back in business. They may seem sluggish and you may think they are dead but jut keep the faith, Sistah (or Brother!). If you need to, drain off the two day old milk and place the grains in fresh milk again. They will revive. Kefir is amazingly resilient.

What is the difference between store-bought kefir and homemade? Store bought kefir usually contains high fructose corn syrup or sugar, which defeat the purpose of consuming kefir for health purposes. Sugar feeds yeast and homemade kefir helps rid your body of yeast. Some say that store-bought kefir is made from artificial kefir starters which don’t contain the multitude of goodies that traditional kefir starters do.

How long does kefir need to culture? Allow it to culture for 18-36 hours. The length of time depends on personal preference, the temperature in your home and if it is in direct sunlight or not. Kefir likes darkness and warmth. Longer culture time results in a more sour flavor. We like to culture ours for 24 hours, and then double ferment it for another 12-20 hours.

What is double fermented Kefir? It’s recommended to substantially increase the good bacteria in kefir, and to further decrease the lactose content. It also improves flavor. The second ferment uses the strained kefir, ie: what’s left after you remove the kefir grains. The kefir is left on the counter for an additional 12-24 hours, usually with something fun added for flavoring, like a strip of orange peel and a vanilla bean. Yum!

Homemade kefir is simple to make. Here is how you do it!

Kefir doesn’t react well to metals so you will need to use glass or plastic utensils and containers. It also thrives in darkness and a warmer environment (72-86 degrees F), so I don’t have much success with it in winter unless it’s kept near our wood stove. Here’s what you need to have on hand:

  • a glass quart or half gallon jar (depending on how much you want to make)
  • a plastic lid for the jar OR a coffee filter and a rubber band to attach it to the jar’s neck
  • a plastic colander for straining your kefir grains
  • a plastic spatula or spoon
  • kefir grains–can be purchased online, or from a fellow kefir “connoisseur”. Check eBay or your local chapter of buy, sell, trade. Kefir multiplies like bunnies so you are sure to find someone with extra on hand who will sell them to you for the price of shipping
  • milk
  • a towel to drape over the kefir during the 24 hour fermenting period, or a dark cupboard

So you’ve received your kefir grains and you are ready to roll. Put them into your glass quart jar and fill with milk to within 2-4 inches of the neck of the jar. A good ratio of kefir grains to milk is 1-2 TB kefir grains to 2-3 cups milk. It’s not an exact science. Once you’ve been doing it a while, and have cups and heaps of kefir grains, you will be using way more grains than you need to and might even decide to ferment a gallon of kefir every other day because you like it so much! Now you need to cap your jar and shake it . You will do this every so often in the 24 hour fermenting process. It’s okay if you forget, I forget all.the.time. and it still does its magic. After shaking, loosen the lid–kefir builds pressure as it ferments and you don’t want your jar to explode! Place jar in a dark cupboard or drape a towel over it and check it after 24 hours. You can let it ferment for 48 hours if you want it extra tangy, it’s up to personal preference, but after 24-48 hours it’s time to feed those grains so they don’t starve to death.

So after 24-48 hours, get your plastic colander out and spoon out the kefir grains. Many times mine are on the top of the jar, but sometimes they are down on the bottom. You can gently pour the kefir jar contents into the colander, removing the larger, clumpy almost cauliflower-like kefir grains to a clean canning jar so you can begin the process of adding milk and making your next batch of kefir. Your kefir will have gelatin like globs in it, that’s fine, and sometimes my kefir grains are tiny (see kefir grain pics above) but they are powerful and keep on keeping me in kefir! Now you have kefir–the strained liquid, and you may choose to do a second ferment with flavors added, or refrigerate it and use it for all kinds of yummy healthy boosting treats!

More to come on kefir!



Fire Cider

A while back, my oldest and I attended a Mother Earth News Sustainability Fair and at one of the workshops taught by Rosemary Gladstar, we received a hand-out for her version of ‘Fire Cider’, something we traditionally make every late summer in prep for much needed fall and winter immune boosts. We call it ‘Super Tonic’. Same thing pretty much, but Rosemary’s recipe has a few quirks that I thought ya’ll would enjoy! Here’s my recipe post, from back in 2008, if you want to compare notes.

Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider Recipe

  • 1/2 cup fresh grated ginger root
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated horseradish root
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 2 cayenne peppers, chopped
  • 1 lemon, chopped
  • unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (with the mother, like Bragg’s brand)
  • 1/4 cup raw local honey to taste (to be added after mixture has steeped for 3-4 weeks)

Optional ingredients:

  • several sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 TB chopped fresh turmeric
  • 1 orange, chopped

Directions

Prepare all of the ingredients and place them into a quart sized jar. Cover all ingredients with apple cider vinegar. Use a piece of natural parchment paper or wax paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal. Shake daily. After 3-4 weeks, use cheesecloth to strain. Next comes the honey! Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add honey until you reach the desired sweetness.

This is good stuff!! Enjoy…

The Health Benefits of Eating Whole Organic Foods and How They Can Aid in Preventing Illness

What is your opinion of organic food? Do you think of it as overpriced? Do you think of it as unnecessary? Maybe you have looked at the organic foods in the grocery store and thought the produce didn’t look as robust or oversized as the “regular” stuff.

It is interesting to note that there are many benefits to eating whole organic foods, and that many people remain entirely unaware about the ways that these foods will prevent illnesses on many levels.

Food and Health

Let’s start by understanding two of the terms we used above: whole food and organic food. These are two very different things. Whole food are those that are unprocessed and unaltered to a great degree. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains can be called whole foods.

Organic foods are those that are grown to very specific standards and which use no dangerous chemicals in the growing, harvesting, and processing stages of market preparation. In the United States a food cannot simply be labeled as organic without first passing the standards designed by the USDA.

So, why is it that whole and organic foods will prevent illness? Let’s start with nutrition.

The Nutrients in Nature

Because whole and organic foods are grown under relatively ideal conditions and are left as intact as possible, their nutrient levels are superior to the more “traditionally” grown foods.

Need an example? Let’s say you want to buy a bag of apples at the market. These are whole foods, right? Yes, but when they are not grown organically they are fairly saturated with some hefty chemicals. In fact, there is a list known as the “dirty dozen” and it identifies the foods that are the most heavily contaminated when not grown organically. (The list includes peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, celery, cherries, strawberries, grapes, pears, lettuce, potatoes, and spinach)

Now, if you buy the regular, non-organic apples it means you are ingesting large quantities of pesticide residues. It also means that the nutrient properties of the fruit are likely to have been compromised too. This is because the compounds sprayed on the growing apples are intended to make them more marketable. So, the bag of luscious red-skinned apples may look far more appealing than those less glamorous organic apples, but you are going to get a lot more nutrition and good food value from that bag of organics.

Fighting Illness

In addition to upping the nutrition value in foods, buying whole and organic foods also means that you are eliminating compounds that have strong links to diseases such as cancer and immune malfunction.

Of course, there is also the very obvious link to a whole food diet and better health. Because whole, organic foods are low in fat, sugar, and sodium it means that they are less likely to cause any subsequent health problems. For example, if you avoid non-organic and processed foods and opt for the healthier whole foods you are not likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or to become obese.

Lastly, if you did a blind taste test of organic versus non-organic foods, you would usually choose the organic as the better tasting food. This is because farmers have to grow specific varieties if the non-organic food can survive the shipping and marketing processes. Often this comes at the cost of taste and nutrition. Organic farmers don’t work that way and will grow less attractive varieties because they are guaranteed to be packed with flavor, color, and nutrition.

Going organic and eating a whole food diet makes sense if you want to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.

Best Healthy Cornbread Recipe

It’s a cold ‘un out there today! My husband works outside so we’re fixing one of our favorite meals–chili and cornbread. My chili is a thick one, made with browned hamburger, pinto beans, black beans, a diced onion, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, a little homemade salsa and seasonings like chili powder, cumin, and garlic. If you soak your beans overnight and let the above ingredients simmer about 6-8 hours, you’ll have a thick, hearty, stick-to-your ribs meal. Perfect for a cold day!

Our cornbread recipe is a tweaked version of one we got from the back of a Bob’s Red Mill package of wheat germ. Instead of making it into the corn muffins for which it was intended, I double the recipe and put it in a 9×13″ pan, and substitute the white flour the recipe calls for, with freshly ground spelt flour. And because we try to avoid most corn products (because conventionally grown corn contains GMOs), I get organically grown popcorn from our neighbor’s CSA farm, and grind it into cornmeal. Mmm! We love this stuff…

Whole Wheat Corn Bread

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and grease a 9×13″ pan. Recipe may be halved for a 8×8″ square dish. And, if you’d rather make it into muffins, it should make about 24 muffins.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (we like Spelt berries, freshly ground), if you prefer, you could use white flour, or a mixture of the two.
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 eggs, beaten (nothing compares to our own home-raised organic eggs!)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 TB sugar (best is “evaporated cane juice”, if you can find it!)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder (buy “aluminum free”)
  • 1 tsp. salt (sea salt is wonderful!)
  • 2 cups milk (we love us our raw cow’s milk!!)

Stir together flour, wheat germ, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center. Combine egg, milk, and melted butter; add all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Transfer batter to greased 9×13″ pan, and bake at 400*F for 20-25 minutes, till lightly browned on top. Serve warm, of course! (it’s especially good with organic local honey on top!)

(FYI–the pic above is a freebie from morguefiles, not my own, just trying to add color to the post! My own chili and cornbread look quite a bit different…)

Essential Oils in the Home

Essential oils are a homemaker’s best friend! And cleaning is always more enjoyable when your cleaning products smell good! Adding a few drops of lemon essential oil to my mop water makes scrubbing the kitchen floor almost as big a treat as enjoying that clean floor for as long as it lasts in our busy household. *wink* 

And don’t forget to breathe deeply!  Aromatherapy while you work!

So where are some places you can use essential oils in your house?

  • In the washing machineTea Tree oil is an antiseptic that kills germs, add several drops to your load of whites to disinfect them.
  • In your toothpaste–we love Wintergreen essential oil for this. My husband, youngest daughter and I all use baking soda for brushing (my other daughters prefer “real” toothpaste), and adding a single drop (more will sting your tongue!) to the baking soda leaves your mouth tingling fresh, and it tastes sooo good!
  • In your footsoak or hot bath–Lavendar essential oil is great for a calm, soothing, refreshing soak after a long day. Combined with Epsom salts, you can almost feel the toxins leaving your body! Simply add 8-10 drops to a bathfull or basin of hot water…
  • On your kitchen sponge–a drop of Rosemary essential oil on your Dobie scrubber (my sponge of choice for dishwashing!) makes washing dishes a heavenly chore!
  • In the air–as air freshener. Just fill a small spray bottle with water, and add 8-10 drops of your favorite essential oil and spritz the house. Again, my favorite oil for this is lemon!
  • On your wrist–all natural perfume! Try blending two scents. One of my friends loves to combine peppermint with lemon…

So there are just a few ideas to get you going…I’d love to hear how you use and enjoy essential oils in comments!

Favorite Healthy Toothpastes

Quick post on this subject…because I do believe oral health is directly related to overall general health.  Bacteria in the mouth, can lead to infections in the body.

When shopping for hygiene products, there are three COMMON ingredients we avoid where possible:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate–this is a main ingredient in most commercial shampoos, cosmetics, and toothpastes. In toothpastes, it’s been shown to cause a higher incidence of canker sores and that’s minor. Do your research!
  • Propylene Glycol–found in automatic brake and hydraulic fluid, industrial antifreeze, paint, degreasers, wallpaper strippers and more… can cause liver dysfunction and kidney problems and more!
  • Fluoride–according to the Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products, fluoride is more poisonous than lead, and just slightly less poisonous than arsenic. It is a cumulative poison that accumulates in bone over time. After hearing about young children dying from accidentally swallowing their fluoride treatments in the dentist’s chair, we request no fluoride at our appointments.I won’t even comment about it being in our water supply!

So in light of the above, it’s been important to me to find healthy alternatives to what is typically available at Wal-mart. Wal-mart does carry Tom’s of Maine brand toothpaste, which is a “natural” toothpaste with no fluoride…but it does contain propylene glycol.

We’ve found that our favorite commercial toothpaste is JASON Cosmetics brand Powersmile toothpaste, available through the Frontier co-op site and some health food stores. Vanilla Mint is the BEST tasting toothpaste I’ve had in all my 35 years. It’s amazing, for the whole family. This toothpaste boasts the following:

  • Certified organic ingredients
  • Natural flavor
  • Exclusive natural whiteners
  • Bacteria-blaster promotes healthy gums
  • Long lasting breath freshener
  • No fluoride
  • No saccharin
  • No preservatives
  • No artificial colors or flavors
  • No animal by-products
  • No animal testing
  • no lauryl sulfates
  • No propylene glycol

Sounds perfect, huh. It’s the good stuff.

Make your own. :O) Now there’s a fresh idea!

However much we like and recommend JASON brand toothpastes…recently, we’ve been using plain ole baking soda to clean our pearly whites. It’s cheap, easy, and on hand. Wet the toothbrush, add a little baking soda (Bob’s Red Mill brand–aluminum free!), a single drop of wintergreen or peppermint essential oil (more than a drop will make your mouth burn!) and wow, your teeth look and feel like you’ve just been to the dentist for a cleaning. We’re hooked.

There are some great recipes online for homemade “tooth soaps”, kept in soap dispensers, which sound like a great way to contain the mess and squirt out however much you need w/o sharing germs.

So there you go, a few alternatives to name-brand toothpastes and all their potentially toxic ingredients!

More than you wanted to know? ;O)

Homemade Deodorant

OK, so this post is all about battling B.O.  Not only that, but battling it in a safe and reliable way with aluminum-free ingredients. Finally, you can feel good about what you and your family put on your pits. :O)

Why aluminum-free? Well, store-bought deodorants contain aluminum or aluminum compounds, which are said by the “experts” to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and certain kinds of cancer. I don’t know about you, but my children are approaching the age of deodorant usage…and for them to have zero-exposure to toxic metals sounds good to me!

I love being able to pronounce the ingredients of the things I put in and on my body, don’t you? That’s just one more *plus* to this deodorant recipe.

Homemade Aluminum-free Deodorantfingertip spray bottle

  • Bob’s Red Mill Aluminum-free Baking soda (most baking soda brands are processed w/aluminum, so go with Bob’s!)
  • Witch Hazel (available at your local supermarket…same section as alcohol and hydrogen peroxide)
  • fingertip-spray bottle (for witch hazel)
  • plastic storage bottle w/a flip top lid (for baking soda storage)
  • essential oil of choice (coconut or rosemary…)

Fill the mini-spray bottle with witch hazel, and if desired, add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil. Likewise, fill the other flip-top container with baking soda. To use, simply spray the witch hazel on  your armpit, then dump a bit of baking soda in your hand and cup it to your pit…patting it around. It’s not as messy as it sounds, and I’m so happy to report that it’s the BEST protection I’ve ever had from B.O.  My friend who got me started w/this recipe told me that prior to trying this recipe, she also had searched for a good coverage deodorant but always ended up smelling like B.O. and whatever scent the deodorant happened to be.

I’ve been using this recipe with totally happy results for several days now!

One last tip  for sensitive skin, try one part witch hazel, one part aloe vera gel, and one part water.

While we’re on the topic of homemade deodorants, I want to point you to another recipe that sounds good…this one we haven’t tried yet, but came highly recommended by another friend of mine. She says it’s totally replaced store-bought deodorant for her family…teenage son and all! This one is more of a roll-on, and calls for coconut oil, arrowroot powder and baking soda.

At any rate, should we somehow experience a world-wide shortage of hygiene products, you now have a recipe or two to save the day!

Yummy Superfoods: Spotlight on Cacao Nibs!

If you haven’t discovered the Live Superfoods website yet, today is *your* day! What is a “Superfood”? It’s a nutrient-dense food that ramps up your health at the cell level like you can’t believe.

Superfoods range from powders to actual foods. Be sure to check out the big variety of superfood powders at Live Superfoods–our favorite so far is Mesquite with its amazing claims for diabetics. Plus, it happens to be delicious sprinkled on yogurt, or added to smoothies and hot drinks!  Camu Camu powder is said to be highly effective against depression, containing between 30 and 60 times as much vitamin C as an orange!

Goji berries, bee pollen and wheat grasses are some other superfoods our family has tried and fallen in love with. And this is just the tip of the superfood iceberg. Today, I want to tell you about raw cacao nibs!

Raw Cacao Nibs

Chocolate is made from cacao beans…need I say more? But unlike processed chocolate, raw cacao nibs (broken up cacao beans) are rich in nutrients, and full of health benefits. You won’t believe all the ways they are good for you, so go to the link below and read up!

A snippet from the Live Superfoods website on Raw Cacao Nibs:

Cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea!

Cacao is LOADED with magnesium and just might be the number one source of magnesium of any food. Could this be why women crave chocolate before or during their menstrual period? Magnesium balances brain chemistry, builds strong bones, and is associated with creating more happiness. Magnesium is the most deficient major mineral on the Standard American Diet (SAD) – over 80% of Americans are chronically deficient in magnesium.

But what do you do with Raw Cacao Nibs?

We love our nibs mixed in with a little raw honey and coconut butter, and goji berries if we have them. You won’t find a healthier, more palate pleasing, melt in your mouth treat to replace that candy bar fix.  Sometimes we mix it up and freeze it in candy molds, and then just pop them out of the molds, bag them up and store them in the freezer.

(I think I’m going to go pull one out for a snack this minute!)

Here’s another fab recipe. I first tried Agave at the homeschool convention this spring. WOW. Delicious stuff, with the same consistency as honey, but more expensive!

Raw Almond Butter Cups from Everyday Raw by Matthew Kenney

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1.5 cups agave (divided)
  • 2 cups coconut oil (divided)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 cup cacao nibs
  • parchment paper
  • a baking sheet with sides

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the almond butter, 1/2 cup of agave, 1/2 cup of coconut oil and sea salt. Set aside until ready to use (not in refrigerator).
  2. In a blender, blend cacao nibs, 1 cup agave, 1.5 cups coconut oil until smooth.
  3. Spread 1/2 of the cacao mixture from Step 2 onto a parchment lined baking sheet with “walls” to create a thin layer. Place in freezer for 15 minutes or until it firms up.
  4. Remove from freezer and spread almond butter mixture from Step 1 over the hardened cacao mixture.
  5. Spread remaining cacao mixture over the top of the spread almond mixture and put the pan back into the freezer until its firm.
  6. Remove from freezer and turn out the mixture from the pan onto the cutting board. Remove parchment paper and cut up the firmed up mixture into small piece. Voila! Almond butter cups!
  7. Be sure to store these in the fridge or freezer.

Yield: about 1.5 quarts.

For my previous post on nut butters, including Almond Butter, go here!

Last but not least…I’m able to order our raw cacao nibs from Frontier through our local co-op. My coffee grinder handily spins some of them into a powder so my oldest daughter (braces) can enjoy them, too.  We’re totally devoted fans!

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Eggs

Why You Don’t Want to Buy Organic Eggs at the Grocery Store was the title of an article recently delivered to my inbox. Basically, the article revealed industry requirements in readying eggs for market. Specifically washing eggs in chlorine baths, or other harsh chemicals, and then coating them with mineral oil.eggs

One of the first things I learned from the resident farm-pro down the road, is that washing eggs opens them wide up for contamination, which is why commercial producers have to coat their eggs with mineral oil. With 7,500 pores or openings in the eggshell, it’s best to leave intact the protective bloom, or waxy coating that God intended to protect the egg from harmful bacteria.

Spot-washing here and there is how I’ve always dealt with unwanted, errm…*smears*…but come to find out, the best way according to the above article, is to wash those spots off with warm water (20 degrees warmer than the egg) that’s been mixed in a 3:1 ratio with vinegar. Just like my grandma used to do it! (Read the above article to find out why)

We have 39 organic laying hens, and we sell about 10 dozen eggs a week–very small scale. But what you see is what you get. Our chickens free-range from early in the morning till dark, from their chicken “barn” with its two doors flung open wide. We supplement their free-ranging with organic feed that’s been mixed with Fertrell’s Nutri-balancer. This organic supplement contains 10-20% more nutrients than what the USDA requires, plus kelp meal, probiotics, chelated minerals (makes the minerals more bio-available), and phosphate, which enhances the layer’s absorption of calcium for  strong shells.

With organic eggs at the store costing anywhere from $4/dozen in our area, you might want to find a local farmer near you who does things the common sense way. Query him to know exactly what you are buying.

For more on how good free-range eggs are for you compared to your typical grocery store variety, visit Mother Earth’s Chicken and Egg page. I like to print this off and share it with my new egg customers. Most people can’t believe that pastured (free-range) poultry eggs can boast of the following when compared to their grocery store counterparts:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

Happy News for the Kiddos: Did you know that out of the 69 billion eggs produced annually, only 2.3 million of them are contaminated with salmonella. That’s .003 %, or 1 in 30,000 eggs. Go ahead and enjoy that raw cookie dough! Salmonella infections are typically found in commercially raised hens. Sick chickens lay salmonella contaminated eggs. So buy high quality, cage free, organic eggs from a local producer and your risk of salmonella disappears!

One more thing before I sign off…yesterday we butchered around 60 chickens with the neighbors, along with another family’s help. This other family had helped friends of theirs process chickens just a week or two prior.

(This chicken killing thing is catching on…)

Anyway…the point is, this family told us how two families brought their birds to be processed, one family had fed their broilers organic feed, the other family hadn’t. The organically fed birds had more fat and healthier livers than the non-organic birds. Believe me, if you have ever butchered chickens, the liver tells the whole story. They should be dark and smooth, not spotted, green, enlarged, etc.

I’m telling you, God created us and our environments, and man keeps messing with a good thing! No antibiotics or GMO feeds for my birdies!

Get thyselves educated! We ARE what we EAT.

Please Pass the Organic Chicken Meat!

chicks09This news in! Organically fed chickens develop different and superior genes than conventionally fed chickens.

Why is this exciting to me? Well, our spring broilers arrived last Wednesday which means my freezer will be 25 chickens richer in about 7 weeks, Lord willing. Makes this organic, grass-fed effort to raise quality meat for my family much more satisfying.

Get this: Two groups of chickens from two generations were fed exactly the same things, except one group was fed organic feed, and the other, conventional feed. When all was said and done, scientists evaluated RNA (Ribonucleic acid–similar to DNA but different) samples from both groups’ intestines to check out their differences in gene expression. They were unprepared for the amazing results! For more info, check out this article at naturalnews.com: Organic Chickens are Genetically Different from Conventional Chickens.

My immediate thought is this: what does this say about us? If the different cultivation methods of chicken feeds can cause such changes in a chicken’s gene pool, then what does eating conventionally raised veggies and fruits as opposed to eating organically grown veggies and fruits cause in my own personal gene make-up?

Another thing–this study was done in the Netherlands. The conventionally fed chickens were NOT being fed feed containing genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), ie: “Frankenstien foods”, as they are known in Europe. Farmer John, my organic CSA farm neighbor, tells me that currently, most all corn grown commercially in the USA contains GMO’s, so it would be interesting frightening (!) to see a study comparing GMO grain fed chickens with their organically fed counterparts.

A 2006 Consumer Reports study urges that chicken is among the top products to purchase organic. It does not contain the toxic hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that conventionally raised poultry do. This report even suggests that low levels of artificial hormones can increase one’s risk of developing cancer. Traces of toxic heavy metals have even been uncovered in commercially grown chickens. For a list of more chemically laden foods to avoid, go here.

Not only that, when you raise your animals on pasture and feed them organic feeds, you reap a huge bang for your buck. Why? Omega-3 fatty acids are created in the leaves of green plants, where they are vital to photosynthesis. When my chickens graze fresh green grass every day, they are accumulating more of these essential fatty acids. When I eat my chicken, I’m eating its Omega-3’s–and that’s just one of many nutrient benefits.

So…how about that? We really are what we eat, or er…what our animals eat.