The 114 delegates, representing the entire of the United States, were gathered in downtown Denver last weekend for the first-ever Slow Meat symposium.  Huddled in the ballroom of the LEED certified, state-of-the-art conference center, they were treated to the keynote address, delivered by Alan Savory of the Savory Institute. The topic: desertfication (the process whereby fertile land turns to desert). As the delegates would soon learn, livestock–once blamed for the process–may indeed hold the key to what appears to be a desperate and irreversible calamity. Here is the content of Savory’s compelling message, given at TED 2013:

 

The last time I was here in Colorado–exactly two years ago–the locals raved about an eccentric cafe in Manitou Springs, that enchanted western town resting at the base of Pikes Peak. The Waldo Canyon fire was ragging then, and the normally  bustling town was nearly deserted (its evacuation status had only recently been lifted). My wife and I were amongst the only souls that morning in the highly popular Adam’s Mountain Cafe, an space which made you feel as if you were sitting in the parlor of an old Victorian hotel. The menu boasted a “Slow Food Manifesto”, something that only occurred to me last week as I made preparations from my home in Michigan to attend the Slow Meats symposium, beginning tomorrow in Denver. The Manifesto is an inspiring treatise of the animating spirit behind the Slow Foods movement.

This morning I learned that after severe flooding last summer, the cafe under whose spell we came two years ago had relocated. Both to honor the memory of that original, stately Adam’s Mountain Cafe and in commemoration of the Slow Meats symposium taking place in Denver this weekend, here is that treatise. May you find inspiration in it:

International Slow Food Manifesto

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial revolution, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model. We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes, and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo sapiens should rid themselves of speed before it reduces them to a species in danger of extinction. A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and long lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency. Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food. Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only true progressive answer. That is what real culture is about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, products?

Slow Food guarantees a better future. Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement with the little snail as its symbol.

In the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, seven miles or more from the nearest utility pole, rests Neimer Camp, perched on a bluff overlooking a small, inland lake. The remote hunting camp is lit by gas lamps and heated by a wood stove on which all the meals are cooked. Running water comes from a reservoir which sits atop the roof of the main cabin. It was to this secluded retreat that my brother Andy–along with our cousins–twice had the privilege of visiting when, in the springtime of my Junior and Senior years of high school, our fathers pulled us out of school–our alma maters–and brought us for an extended weekend to this rustic, undomesticated hide-away.

My cousins, brother, and I spent our days fishing, building fires, and shooting bee bee guns at pop cans. It was there that I caught my first Pike, an almost pre-historic fish with sharp, jagged teeth; there, that we turned 12 and 10-gauage shotguns on clay pigeons. In the twilight of the day, we would strip down in the communal shower house to examine each other for any deer ticks, carriers of Lyme Disease, seeking to burrow into our flesh. In the evening hours, the older men enthralled us with stories–some humorous, some mythical.

Of all the gifts my father bestowed on me, I am most grateful this Father’s Day for Neimer Camp. It instilled in me a love for the outdoors, conservation, and authentic masculinity.

Our family took another step this week in healthy eating when we purchased a cow share, a move that gives us weekly access to raw–as opposed to pasteurized–milk. Cow sharing is the only way–in Michigan at least–to get your hands on this rarity. On Monday we picked up the first installment from our friends at Two Sparrows Farm & Dairy in Lowell, MI, but not before enjoying a delicious dinner of grilled barbeque chicken, raised on pasture just outside the front door of the farmhouse.

After dinner, we joined our hosts, the Belprezes (Dan, Whitney, and their daughter Cecilia), in the barn. There Polly, the heritage Guernsey cow, works twice a day to provide us (and our neighbors) with fresh, nutrient-dense milk. The Belprezes stressed the importance of following strict protocols when running a raw-milk operation. Immediately before milking, Polly’s utter is given a disinfecting bath and then rinsed with an iodine solution. Foreign objects like dust and dirt cannot find their way into the receptacle into which the milk is pumped, owing to the fact that the milk passes directly from each of Polly’s four teats–a phrase I never thought I’d “udder”–through a tube and into the closed, sterilized container. The raw milk is then cooled to 40 degrees within a specified amount of time.

This milking brought an end to Dan and Whitney’s farm day, and we retired to the living room for root beer floats (or “Brown Cows,” as we called them growing up). Whitney explained that raw milk is living food, filled with healthy bacteria and probiotics, integral to intestinal health. In this way, raw milk is like beer which, too, is alive with living things (yeast). As their strict sanitizing procedures reveal, however, sloppiness can lead to contamination which is why it “behooves” all farms involved in raw milk production to heed the same standards as those employed at Two Sparrows. The carelessness of even one farm would unfairly effect public perception of the entire industry.

One will notice that raw milk from Polly has a beautiful–but very faint–yellow hue. This is because the cow is raised on pasture. Perhaps this is why butter is yellow in color. One often notices a similar phenomena in the fat of grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Whitney also shared with us that in the conventional milk industry, milk is dyed white to create a uniform color, necessary since one gallon of milk, she said, may contain milk from as many as 1000 cows. The dye delivers a consistent, uniform appearance.

Because the Belprezes raise pastured beef, our conversation naturally drifted to the subject of cattle. Dan shared a story of how their neighbor, a farmer who raises corn, alighted on a most interesting discovery concerning GMOs. Last growing season, the farmer–who raises GMO corn–found it necessary to plant some non-GMO corn. Half the field sprouted the former variety, and half the latter. To his consternation, deer ate up about 25% or more of the GMO-free corn, leaving the other variant completely untouched. Having heard stories like this before, we marveled at the innate ability of animals to detect food sources that provide their bodies with the highest levels of nutrition before moving on to less desirable sources.

We pulled away from Two Sparrows after 10:00 P.M., light still lingering in the western sky–one of the marvels of a Michigan summer. In the ice chest, snug in the trunk of the car, the bottles of farm milk lightly bounced on the country roads and the voices of frogs swelled in the warm night air. As in the days when milk delivery was common, the glass bottles eventually made their way, under the cover of dark, to our neighbors’ back porches.

 

For those interested in a cow share at Two Sparrows Farm & Dairy, visit their “Cow Share Program” page under the FARM PRODUCTS drop-down menu on their homepage.

Two Sparrows is hosting, this Sunday, June 8, a farm tour at 2:00 P.M., where they will provide cookies and refreshments.