Animals on the endangered species list are generally wild animals. And usually they are there because of hunting, loss of habitat, or pollution. If we leave these animals alone, and they generally come back. Rare Heritage Livestock breeds (Endangered species of Livestock) only exist on farms and have to be fed, watered, moved and generally taken care of. Farms have to choose to raise a rare breed, and do their best to make it financially viable to do so.
If you as the consumer choose to buy from breeders of rare livestock, farms will grow, herds will expand, and collectively, we can get these breeds off the conservation list. That is what we call success! In the case of meat breeds, you literally have to eat them to save them!
Example of Extincted Pathogen and its Effects
A healthy gene pool is very important to all agriculture. If you remember hearing about the Potato Famine in Ireland back in 1845, this was caused by Phytophthora infestans, a pathogen now largely extinct. This pathogen ferociously attacked the one species grown in Ireland at that time, the Irish Lumper. Why was this an Irish Famine and not a European Famine? Because the rest of Europe grew a variety of potato species, they were not as heavily affected. Over 1 million men, women and children died because of an over reliance on one species of a key crop.
Our Rare Heritage Livestock Food System
The vast majority of our food system relies on a handful of livestock species
- Holsteins for milk
- Jerseys for cream
- Black Angus for beef, four species of hogs crossbred and heavily reliant on Yorkshire
- Cornish Cross (so hybridized it cannot reproduce) chicken for meat
- Leghorn chicken for eggs
- Broad Breasted White Turkeys (hybridized just like chicken).
Because of our hybrizing, selection toward maximum growth or production, and our farming styles, all of these are at risk of massive collapse. Most recently in 2015, 50 million turkeys were killed to prevent the spread of a deadly Avian Flu in America. This is partially because these hybrid birds do not have very strong immune systems, and are raised in cramped indoor factory farms, and these diseases spread very rapidly in these populations.
Nonetheless, to have a healthy gene pool, you must have thousands of breeding animals and many different breeds. Genetics are a big reason to save these breeds. These animals have genes that no other breed has. When you selectively breed towards one trait like max weight gain, you lose many other traits. Ask any zoo about their “Species survival plan” and you’ll get a good sense of why genes matter.
Taste, for you the consumer, the best argument for saving these species. Commercial breeds are here because they grow fast. That’s it. Nothing to do with taste. If you have the chance to taste a commercial cut of meat, against almost any heritage breed, it will knock your socks off. A great organization called Slow Food maintains a list called their Ark of Taste (think Noah’s Ark), which lists the best tasting plants and animals, and we raise our rare heritage livestock from their list.
At Redemption Springs, our goal for the consumer, is to produce hands down the absolutely best tasting proteins you can find. The fact we can do this, improve the land, save rare heritage livestock breeds AND reduce our carbon footprint isn’t about competing priorities. It’s actually HOW we can produce the best tasting proteins. We couldn’t create this level of flavor without these methods. And frankly, we believe that’s how it should be.
We should not be farming for maximum profit and lowest food costs, farms should work to produce the best taste and nutrition, and consumers should pay farmers what that food is worth.
Read next about the three legs that hold up the amazing flavors we produce at Redemption Springs.
First Leg – Best Breeds
Second Leg – Best Feeds
Third Leg – Best Environment