Agriculture for the Urban Carnivore

Here, at the NYU Urban Farm Lab, we focus on vegetables.  On our little plot of land, located right on Houston Street, next to the fast cars and amid the hustle and bustle of commuter and city traffic, we experiment with crops so as to learn about gardening in an urban setting.  If we were to live off of our land (and we’re not quite there yet), we would, quite simply, be vegans.

But the rise in popularity of urban agriculture nationwide has taken the idea of farming in cities to a whole different level, which we cannot replicate on Houston St.  Some major cities have set up laws to allow for the raising of animals for agricultural purposes within city limits.

Take San Francisco, for example, where the Health Department allows for “two female goats for family purposes.”  Other cities, such as Portland and Berkelely, have similar rules, allowing residents of the city to be able to provide milk and cheese for themselves.  Heidi Kooy, a resident of San Francisco, keeps two goats in her 1000 sq. ft. backyard.  She milks her goats twice daily, providing her and her family with 1-3 quarts of milk a day.

An influx of urban agriculture nationwide has also led to an increase in the practice of keeping chickens in urban environments.  Raising chickens is quite simple, as they require much less care than other domesticated pets.  UrbanChickens.org is a great source that can help to provide information about where and how urban farmers can raise chickens.  Here in New York, chickens have been a part of the picture for as long as anyone can remember, if you know where to look.  Sneak a peek at this article concerning raising chickens in New York City.  Even though it isn’t happening on our farm, it’s possible! And it’s happening around the city!  On average, chickens lay their eggs twice over three days.  So if you were to keep six hens, you could collect 12 eggs over the course of three days!  That’s a lot of frittata.

Raising animals within city confines can pose a little bit of a challenge.  The process is quite difficult and time consuming.  While chickens are relatively easy to take care of, caring for goats is quite an expensive and time consuming project.  “It doesn’t make any kind of sense on any level except that I now know what all goes into it, and I appreciate where my food comes from a lot more,” claims Keidi Kooy, mentioned above.  Be sure to watch her video, on faircompanies.com where you can see her and her goats in action.

It is also important to take note of how your neighbors feel about raising animals when in such close proximity.  If not cared for properly, animals can smell and be quite loud.  Owen Taylor of Just Food recommends giving eggs to your neighbors to keep them content.

So that covers milk and eggs for home consumption within the city.  But what about meat?  Can animals be raised for consumption within city limits?  It is allowed, although not often encouraged.  There have been recent controversies over the personal slaughter of chickens and rabbits for consumption in cities such as New York and Seattle that have led to this practice being questioned.

So if you’re an extreme locavore who lives in an urban environment and wants to produce all of your own food, it is possible to live an non-vegan lifestyle.  Question is, is it worth it?

Farm animals in New York - who knew?  These cows at the Queens County Farm Museum are for educational purposes only - but in some places, they can be raised for food!
Farm animals in New York – who knew? These cows at the Queens County Farm Museum are for educational purposes only – but in some places, they can be raised for food!

By Amanda Foster

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