Episode 45: Factory Farming with Jen Boulden
Smart, sexy, fun AND educated. This fast-paced interview is fun and informational! Jen Boulden, co-founder of idealbite.com answers factory farming questions with knock your socks off statistics and personal stories that just might change your relationship to food. Learn about factory farming and its planetary effects and economic effects. Educate yourself with the latest knowledge for avoiding products from these factory farms. Heal the planet with easy, everyday beliefs and behaviors that will contribute to the transformation of mainstream Americans into more conscious consumers.
Meredith Medland: you are listening to Living Green: Effortless ecology for everyday people. I am your host Meredith Medland and today we are going to learn all about factory farming, the planetary effects, some of the negative effects of factory farming and also what we really need to know about taking care of the animals on our planet. And of course this conversation merits a conversation around giving up meat and what that might mean for you. So we have got an expert in our midst today and I’m about to introduce you to Jennifer Boulden and she’s the co-founder of “IdealBite.com” and today she is coming to us to talk about her personal experience with animal right, factory farming and what it means to be eating like someone with an ecological conscience. Hi Jen welcome to living green it’s great to have you back again.
Jen Boulden: thanks for having me back Meredith good to talk to you.
Meredith: yeah now you are in a little bit of a different situation this time. You were in episode #15 last July in 2007 and you were really speaking to me on behalf of a company that you co-founded called “IdealBite.com”. Today we are making a little bit of a transition into some of the things that you are personally passionate about that kind of happen outside of the corporate structure of what you are doing now since Disney has acquired you.
Jen: yes, it’s kind of neat to see the progression of 4 years ago when we co-founded “IdealBite.com” and kind of brought to the mainstream this idea of light-green living where you don’t have to be perfect and just do one small thing a day and “hey” we’ll give you a free email to help remind you and kind of motivate you, give you all of the resources. 4 years later now I’m like “okay great, we have over ½ million subscribers that get this email tip everyday and I think we are ready to evolve”. And so it has created the space for me to bring in some of my more personal projects to the podium.
Meredith: Now you also have a new fun video series that is on your blog with you and your dog cricket.
Jen: yes “Cricket TV” is what it is informally named. You know I’m sure you have gotten a lot of requests to do video and we did too. Everybody kind of wants to know who these personalities are behind the pixels in our case. And so we were like “well, yeah let’s give it a whirl” and I thought “Cricket is much cuter than I am and he can speak with immunity” i.e. like you know say what she wants. Like she says “hummers are a bummer” but I’m not allowed to say that as an ambassador of the IdealBite brand right *laughs* so It was kind of our loophole to say what we want.
Meredith: I love it. Now it would be the best for our listeners to check out your “Enviro-Vixen” video which is an interesting spoof on the superhero concept. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Jen: Well again it’s just a lot of throwing things up on a wall and seeing what sticks. This is definitely the web 2.0 and we want to make sure that people are able to connect with us and be entertained by us because everybody knows that just pure education and dry facts is no going to do the job right. So we definitely always try to keep it entertaining and so this was one of our feeble attempts to see if we could entertain. The idea was being Enviro-Vixens and kind of brought back in time and helping people remember to do the simple things so that 40 years hence we are not without, in this case it was the holidays because the electric use went up so much during the holidays. So pretty silly and pretty funny but it was nice being able to kind of rock out for a few days and not be on email.
Meredith: yeah I bet it was, so if you go to “Idealbite.com” at the bottom of the page it says “Check out Jen and Heather on TV” and you’ll see Enviro-Vixens. I just have to tell the listeners some of the sexy parts, you are holding guitars, you are singing, both you and heather have on sexy probably 4 inch igh heels. You were definitely working the hot chick angle.
Jen: *laughs* I know
Meredith: That’s a good thing
Jen: Well it is and I mean it’s no surprise that that whole thing was written and directed by men, which is fine you know *laughs*
Meredith: you know I’m all pro-women-looking-as-hot-as-they-can. I think it’s great I just wanted to seduce our listeners into checking it out, but it was worth it. *laughs*
Jen: I was and I wish I could have kept my 4 inch Gucci heels that the stylist brought. Those were hot, I mean my feet hurt terribly but they would have been worth it.
Meredith: Well lets transition a little bit. Let’s really launch into factory farming and then take a break and then we’ll talk a little bit more about the planetary effects. I also want our listeners to know that you are going to talk about your personal practices and how you came to those.
Jen: Great. So factory farming, and by the way I think that you and I have been drinking the Kool-Aid long enough where it rolls off the tip of our tongues. A lot of people don’t necessarily know what it means. Just to be super clear it is confinement farming. It is also called industrialized farming. It’s not the cute little farmer down the road that has just a handful of animals. It is the mass production of animals in basically small areas per animal. So that is what we call factory farming. So as you might imagine there are lots of things that happen because of this, to our health and to our environment and I think that’s what we are going to explore.
Meredith: thank you and in the mean time, before we take a commercial break if you would like to put your browser up if you have the web accessible right now you can go to “Metrix.com”, and there are some great 3 to 5 minute videos as well as some great welcome information that you can read along with as we are talking about factory farming.
Meredith: Alright Jen tell us how you transitioned your diet and what you are doing now and how that Is directly related to the planetary effects of factory farming, what you are thinking when you are making your food choices?
Jen: alright, in full candor I really came at It more from an animal welfare perspective where at age 11 I decided that it wasn’t cool to eath things that used to have heads. I remember being at McDonalds’ biting into something kind of funky in my hamburger and I pushed it across the table, I think this was back in the days when they had those aluminum ashtrays at the table and everything. I remember my mom and dad looking at me incredulously like “this is supposed to be a treat why wouldn’t you want the rest of your hamburger with that great cheese on it”. I was like “I just bit into something gnarly”, who knows it could have been an eyeball and I kind of went “hrumph” and folded my arms over my chest. That was when I literally stopped eating meat and I haven’t had meat since but I have certainly had to explore a lot of alternatives. At 11 I had no idea that I was supposed to be replacing it with beans and not a lot of people were vegetarians, at least not in my neighborhood. So I was always the odd man out having tomatoes when everyone else was having meat and potatoes. I did see some repercussions in terms of being able to bruise easily and fingernails not ever growing long. So when I got old enough to kind of take the power more into my own hands I did start to supplement with smarter choices. Yes definitely more beans and some vegetables that have higher protein content and I have to tell you, a lot of cheese. I am not a vegan; I am a vegetarian so I eat a lot of cheese and eggs.
Meredith: Can you just give us 2 different days in your eating life, maybe a work week and a night out on the town an maybe a little story about how people are noticing the food choices that you make?
Jen: sure. As you know I love Montana. I have lived there for the last 3 and ½ years and I used to volunteer my time to do some cattle drives just because it is so fun to be on the back of a horse. Meanwhile I’m this vegetarian helping cattle ranching, but they are not doing factory farming, so that’s the whole different ball of wax here. To say thank you, the family that I was helping out were like “we are going to prepare this big dinner and we know you are a vegetarian” and “it’s going to be great come over on Saturday night because we want to say thank you”. So I come over and it smells great and everything is being laid out on the table, and they were like “we made chicken because you are a vegetarian” *laughs*. I guess that’s the definition of vegetarianism in Montana. To be honest Meredith I ate it, I’m not going to be rude because this woman had prepared a meal all day. I think that vegetarians can get a little maybe extreme and I’m just not attracted to people that are too extreme. Want people to like me so that they ask me “oh okay, so really what does a vegetarian mean to you?” and the conversation can begin as opposed to shutting people down.
Meredith: I get it. So let’s talk about the negative effects of factor farming.
Jen: yes where to start. Since your show is primarily about sustainability and living well we could start with just the environmental effects. To be very clear to all of your listeners, I’m not here to say “Give up meat” that I a different show. Eating meat in general is one of the more luxurious things you can do when you are talking about saving the environment i.e. when you do give up meat it is twice as effective as switching from a regular car to a hybrid. You are going to do much more for the planet by giving up meat, but what I’m really hoping to drive home today is that when you do eat meat let it be the kind that is raised humanely, let it be the kind that doesn’t come from a factory farm that are polluting the waterways the air we breathe and actually inhumanely treating a lot of animals.
Meredith: Wow, I love that statistic so I’m just going to repeat that here. Making a choice to eat vegetarian food is more effective than switching to a hybrid car.
Jen: yes it is. It is twice as effective.
Meredith: I love stuff like that. Do you have any others?
Jen: oh absolutely. This kind of stuff will just blow you away. To me it’s interesting, maybe it’s the meat lobbyists that have kept the stats under cover, but for example greenhouse gasses, you know the stuff that is causing global warming. About 18% of all of our greenhouse gas comes from meat production, and that is about 40% more than all of the world’s cars, SUVs, airplanes and fossil fueled vehicles combined.
Jen: Yes. So primarily cows are burping and otherwise releasing methane and methane is about 24 times more powerful as a greenhouse than carbon dioxide.
Meredith: so we know there is a huge impact on the planet, and I know that you have a lot of interest in animals. In fact I wanted to ask you, you had a horse in Montana named “Ku Ku Kachoo” right?
Jen: *laughs* “Lu Lu Kachoo”
Meredith; now that you are in L.A., where is she?
Jen: he’s right up the road. She is.
Meredith: So you brought her with you?
Jen: Yes. I can’t live without my animals. I absolutely can’t do it. My chickens are still in my Montana place and that is because the poultry laws prohibit you from bringing them into California. And so I have a kind of neighborhood egg gathering where they come in to check on the chickens and grab the eggs and then the chickens are there when I come to visit or my friends come and use the house. I’m going to get more chickens here though too.
Meredith: Very good. We have been looking at chickens for here at Santa Barbara too. So you’ve got your horse that’s great. I know that you care a lot about animals, so what are some of the other strains on animals in the factory farms.
Jen: Oh gosh. Personally the best analogy that I can draw is it is absolutely like a concentration camp for humans, but it’s for animals. It goes into deeper and more inhumane tactics because we are actually genetically modifying some of the animals as well. So for chickens, we breed them so that their breast become so big (because that is the part that we like to eat the most I guess) that they can’t even walk and they are basically dying of dehydration because they can’t get to the water. The examples go on and on and on and I don’t want to make anybody cry, but it is one of those things. When you go against nature it is a vicious cycle. For example when you put that many cows together it is a breeding ground for disease, so what do you do? You pump them up with antibiotics, so now the antibiotics go into our system when we are eating their tissue. Salmonella breaks out and we can’t find a good antibiotic to actually take care of it because we have bred so much resistance in using a ton of antibiotics for these factory farmed animals. We use about 50% of the antibiotics in the U.S. on these animals.
Meredith: Oh my goodness. Alright so let’s talk about being more vigilant then. Our listeners are at a “Wholefoods” of a “Lazy Acres” something that gives a little more options than your standard “Albertsons” or “Safeway”. What are we looking for on packaging?
Jen: First of all definitely know where your meat comes from if at all possible. So that means buying locally and talking to the people that may have raised it or may have been the ones to bring it to market. If you are so lucky as to have a farmers market that sells meat I would highly recommend going there and talking to the producers. That is the best way because you find out so much. They will even bring pictures down from the farm of how they are living. If you don’t have access to a farmer’s market like that and you are going to your “Wholefoods” or what have you, you certainly can look for organic labeling. Now that doesn’t ensure that it didn’t come from a factory farm basically. It is one step in the right direction, you can breathe a little bit easier but it I not a catchall. There is no true catchall. The only certification that I have found that has gained some traction is “Certified humane” and they do have their own labeling system, and I did interview the executive director. They are very vigilant about what they require because there has kind of been a marketing scam with the whole free range thing because it could still be this chicken coop that is on a slab of concrete and they see daylight for a few hours a day. Because they are not in those battery cages, they are still crowded and they still don’t have access to really truly free range, but due to the regulation it is still counted as that. So that is why I say first; know where your food is coming from if possible. Second buy organic and third look for those labels that say “Raised humanely” etcetera.
Meredith: Awesome. Okay for those listeners that are not interested in giving up meat or I am about 35 days from getting my black belt in Hapkido and so for me I know I would definitely feel the impact of steak on my body occasionally and that it does make a difference, Although I do eat a lot of Fu and Tempe and cheese and all that. So what are some of the options that an everyday family can do to lessen their impact on the planet?
Jen: the best thing that you can do, this is the best rule of thumb: Eat lower on the food chain. Let me just explain why that is so important. We farm grain and we can eat the grain directly in pastas and breads or we could feed it to a cow. The cow will take between 10 and 14 pounds of grain and from that we will get 1 pound of beef. So it would e much more efficient, effective and helpful for solving global hunger if you could eat what is called “lower on the food chain” because it is the cow that is eating the grain. If you can bear that in mind right down to eating healthier fish; if you are going to be eating tuna which are huge and at the top of the food chain, they are actually the ones that are way overfished and they contain the most mercury because each time it goes up a level in the food chain the mercury amplifies by a power of 10. So it is just a safe rule it is a very solid rule for helping the environment in your food choices. But now to get to the practical point which is what I think you wanted, is if you can source your protein through things like egg and cheese because you can find those free range organic eggs and cheese. Those are my favorite , I know like you I’m very active and I always feel like something is missing if I don’t have enough protein in my diet and I’ll end up just binging on stuff that I just bad for me if I am not truly full. So eggs and cheese is how I start of the morning and then my snacks always consist of nuts and pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. They seem to be power foods there. Quinoa tastes like pasta but it is a grain and it has a lot of protein. It kind of tastes like Tabouli, it’s just really neat especially for the summer for making summer salads. So I think quinoa is an undiscovered really cool grain that has lot of protein.
Meredith: I’ve got some in the fridge right now.
Jen: do you?
Meredith: I can make it in a rice cooker; it’s just really easy you know.
Jen: very cool
Meredith: 2 parts water one part quinoa and you’re all set.
Jen: again I do eat some fish from time to time because it has so much great high protein as long as it’s not being overfished. I live in California how can you say no to sushi sometimes. I try to make sure that it’s like a wild salmon for example because it has the omega 3’s that you need and it has the protein. Anything in moderation you know. We are omnivores we are not supposed to necessarily be without animal products in our diet. It’s just what has happened is that the demand for meat went up 5 times in the last 50 years. So now we are experiencing problems trying to keep up with demand. Every resource that it takes to make is now on overdrive and wreaking havoc.
Meredith: Yeah exactly. Good statistics, thanks for the personal information. Is always great to have that
Meredith: alright Jen before we wrap up the show we have got to talk to you about some of these fun media moments that you have been having. Most recently you were on “The View” and Whoopi Goldberg was there giving you a little bit of a hard time.
Jen: yeah, I think that is just her shtick right? Roll her eyes and engage the audience it was so fun actually being up there with her. So this was earlier this month actually I did “How to go green on a budget”. What is going to save you money and where to actually spend on green and where to skip it. It was about a 7 minute segment with Elizabeth and Whoopi and we had a blast. Whoopi is of course giving me a little bit of a hard time saying “there is no way I’m switching to Eco-toilet paper. I want only the soft stuff for my butt” *laughs* and I was like “hey pick your battles” you have got to pick your battles your conscience or your derrière. After the show she came up to me and we hung out talking and within 30 seconds I really forgot that she was a megastar,; that I had watched her in all of these movies and all of these amazing comedic routines. We were just chit chatting and she was telling me about the farm that she has or the cabin that she has up in Vermont and about her wine collecting and more about her toilet paper habits. I just had the best time talking to her , I felt like we were kind of Insta-buds and she has this incredible easy-to-get-to-know-you personality which is why I think that she is so alluring. It comes through on the television and on the movie screen. You are just like “I kind of want to be your friend”.
Meredith: well I’m glad that you enjoyed that. You have also been on good morning America a few times yeah?
Jen: yeah I think it is definitely in the double digits now; Sam Champion and always joke that we are each other’s TV wife and husband. He is not married and neither am I and we kind of look alike I guess I’m told and we’ll do segments on kids and neither one of us have any and we’re like “well you know we could have one for television” *laughs*. There could be Eco-fertility, Eco-pregnancy, think of the segment.
Meredith: well congratulations on all of the national media. I’m really glad. I’m also remembering 2 stories that I want to make sure that I repeat for our listeners. These are stories that you shared with me in that podcast #15. You can go to LivingGreenShow.com and if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page you can see Jen’s picture as well as the show. So 2 things the first is: you were living in New York and I think you left a corporate gig and before leaving you had fallen down the stairs because you had a duffle bag full of papers because the company wasn’t recycling is that right?
Jen: That is exactly right. That was my catalyst for changing my career path to kind of align it with my values. Before I was recycling when I could and doing the corporate gig thing. I was of course working late one night and I saw the cleaning staff coming through and take all of my piles of paper and everything that I had forced everybody to accumulate and put it in the trash. So I was like “fine I’ll just bring it home to my apartment building” because I know that my apartment building recycles. So once a week I would take these duffle bags home and on this one day I was wearing incredibly high heels and my heel caught on the subway stair and I just went flying down. I had thee 2 duffle bags, one in either hand so I couldn’t catch the railing. I just went Bounce-bounce-bounce down on my knees and paper was flying everywhere like Tweety Bird. That is when I was like “there has to be a better way”. Here is no way we are saving the world through recycling. We have to get up to the more powerful impact points. We have to get to the point where there is no need to recycle so much because we are consuming less and we are making things in a cradle to cradle manner where there is no such thing as waste like “this is just ineffective and I’m done”.
Meredith: Good story and that is really one of the things that catapulted you into IdealBite. I remember you saying correct me of course if I’m incorrect here but you gave up a salary when you guys first started about 4 years ago and there was even a time where you had to make choices where “okay I may not actually be able to buy organic food all the time because I am trying to launch this business and I’ve got to make my own choices” and there were some pretty edgy moments right before your Vanity Fair layout.
Jen: exactly, very edgy. I think that it’s a rite of passage in starting any business. If you don’t feel edgy at a certain point you are either doing something incredibly right or incredibly wrong I don’t know which one. It is a fairly typical entrepreneurial story where you are living off of your credit cards. We actually had 2 kind of freelance employees and heather and I would write the convenience checks from our credit cards or savings account and we did that for about a year and a half. So not taking salary and having all of our savings go out into the business and then we were at a make or break point after doing this for about 8 months. And then Vanity Fair called on like a Friday night and said could you make yourself available for this 2 page spread that would be in their first green issue. Heather and I were like “who are you and why are you joking with us , this is cruel”, but it was true and once we were in that photo spread basically all of the people that we had been talking to as potential investors jumped right on in. We were like “hey we are going to be in Vanity Fair, are you in or out?”. Actually 8 of the 9 jumped in and we were able to pay ourselves about a 20k+ salary for the next year after that. So it wasn’t like we were living large but at least we weren’t going into such extreme debt, but yeah I am very happy that I can afford some organic food these days.
Meredith: Well congratulations on that. I think the most natural question from here is, if our listeners are launching an idea or a product or a service or a dream, what advice do you have for them to take that into reality? Particularly in our new economy.
Jen: Well first of all definitely make sure that the idea has passed what is called a proof of concept. In your head it may be brilliant but send it out there and see what people think. If you can, do a prototype. If you can have people actually come in and give you their thoughts like through a survey or a focus group. No company or no idea is an island unto itself, you have got to engage and make sure that this is something that would sell or that would be attractive right. So after you have that going for you; you have got to make sure that you are ready to devote to this like your head is on fire and you are running toward the well. Nothing else is going to matter and you are going to have to sacrifice but it is worth it when you believe in something so strongly and it does have proof of concept. It is the best thing in the entire world, but it doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice and little strokes of luck along the way.
Meredith: alright Jen well thanks for bringing us this sassier shade of green. A couple of things that I want to let our listeners know. They can follow you on twitter, so if you go to Idealbite.com you’ll see the links into following heather or Jen or just Idealbite in general and of course you can link to their Facebook page. So those are great things and then I’ve got my big personal question. The last one that is so important before we go. I know that heather uses “Sodastream” which makes her water into like club soda. So my favorite thing of all time is either club soda or Perrier sparkling water. I love sparkling water; I don’t drink so that is my standard thing that I drink when I go out. I also know that I try to take it easy because it is a lot of bottles to recycle and so I was following Heather’s twitter stream and she twittered about Sodastream or sodaclubusa.com so I want to know about that, what is it like and does it work, what’s the scoop?
Jen: Absolutely. Actually I did a New Year’s Day segment with Sam Champion on Good Morning America and that was one of my top 5 favorite products for the New Year. You can see me demonstrating this product, it is so cool. So basically there is either glass or PVA free recyclable bottles that you can put into this soda machine and it works in a way that it has some carbonation that happens just by using these little tanks that you fill up. So you don’t plug it in you just press down on the top. I like the one that is shaped like a penguin, you can press down on the penguin head and it squeaks 3 times and then it’s done. The all of a sudden you have either got just pure carbonated water and you can add these all natural flavor drops which I like because I drink so much water every now and then I’m like “meh”, I’d like to spice it up a little. So you can buy these all natural flavor drops and then you are done. You never have to buy more soda or carbonated water again hence saving you money as well as all of the bottles that would go into the trash.
Meredith: That is a trip. It really does look like a penguin I have my browser up and I clicked on it. How much does it cost because I don’t see the price on here?
Jen: The basic one is $80 and again if you are looking at this from an economic perspective and let’s say that you buy a 6 pack of carbonated water or other type of soda per week, you are going to make your money back in less than a year. So if you use it for a few years then you are basically making money on this thing.
Meredith: so it comes with the bottles right?
Jen: it comes with the bottles though the actual one that is truly a penguin that has the big fancy glass bottles, I think that one is probably about double the price; I mean it is the deluxe. That is for your serious soda drinker and people that probably do a lot of entertaining and you know leave it out in the bar area. If you are just like “hey , my kids are constantly reaching for soda and I want them to have something that is healthier and something that they would even have fun making themselves and save some money while we are at it ” you have got to get this thing.
Meredith: Does it really taste good? Is it really similar, I mean if you had a bottle of this penguins stuff or whatever and you had like a “Crystal Geyser” or a “Pellegrino” would you notice the difference?
Jen: well first of all to answer your question, yes it tastes good. We would never recommend anything that we haven’t tries or didn’t like. For every product that we recommend there are 3 that have been cast aside. So with that said each of the different carbonated water companies have their own different tastes that they have developed so I can’t say that it would pass a blind tastes test with Pellegrino because I don’t know what exactly they are using, but it is good I promise you especially with the little cranberry flavor and strawberry-kiwi etcetera. It is one of those things that I try to drink after a meal as opposed to having another glass of wine or having that desert just to be on the healthy side because it satisfies that sweet craving.
Meredith: Well that’s awesome. Thank you for that
Meredith: The most important question of the whole interview right? How do I personally reduce all of my plastic water bottles? I love it. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Congratulations on all of the success I am really super proud of you and for the listeners remember there are all sorts of ways that you can interact with Jen through idealbite.com. Thanks Jen.
Jen: Thank you Meredith it was so wonderful to be back and congratulations on all of your success 2 and ½ -3 years in the running.
Meredith: Thank you very much and listeners if you want to find out more about what I’m up to you can go to livinggreenshow.com you can find all of the episodes there. And if you are interested in the journey toward black belt or all of the other things in the circle of influence in my world they are located at MeredithMedland.com. You can check out either of those and I’m of course very accessible you can send an email to [email protected] I’m happy to take your comments or you can post them onto the blog. Now last thing, if you love this show and you want to help it keep going, if you are in iTunes and you put in a 5 star rating and fill out a few comments in the section it takes literally 3 minutes. ITunes will increase where this show shows up in their searching and what that means is more people have the opportunity to be exposed to the green conversation so that will definitely help. Thank you for that.