If you’ve been paying attention in the marketplace, you may have noticed food labels like Heirloom or Heritage in your produce section and at the meat counter. It might be tempting to discount these labels as yet one more trendy fad but don’t do it.The term “heritage” in the food marketplace typically refers to animals and meat products. Preserving heritage breeds not only provides variety in the marketplace but also generates diversity and variety in the animals which as indicator of health.
Bio-diversity is one of the biggest markers of a healthy eco-system. Keeping breeds from becoming so completely domesticated or hybridized or inbred by maintaining variety from heritage stock is an essential part of balance and sustainability. To ignore heritage breeds or allow them to become extinct is to ignore the value of diverse DNA.
Heritage breeds are typically breeds that are native to particular landscapes and have been there for generations. To be considered a heritage breed, an animal has to have unique genetic traits and be raised on an organic and sustainable farm. In essence, they should be recognizable to our forefathers. Heritage breeds are typically more rugged and adapted to their diverse environments. They tend to be heartier and also provide more nutrient density due to their more natural dietary requirements and foraging habits.
Examples of heritage breeds are: Gloucestershire Old Spot Pig, Navajo-Churro Sheep, and a Welsh Black Cow. The next time you’re in the market and see the Heritage label, give it a try. Trust me, not only are you purchasing a superior product but also you’re doing your part to increase the balance and sustainability of our food culture. The reality of supply and demand is one thing that keeps these heritage breeds in circulation.