Agriculture began with humans saving and planting seeds and keeping animals. Communities selected traits over generations based on the needs of the culture and landscape. These animals and plants were passed down through generations, continuously improving as mutual dependence between the culture and food deepened.
In this way food is cultural legacy – future generation’s inheritance, kept and passed on.
Merriam-Webster defines Heirloom and Heritage:
1: a piece of property that descends to the heir as an inseparable part of an inheritance of real property
2: something of special value handed on from one generation to another
3: a horticultural variety that has survived for several generations usually due to the efforts of private individuals
1: property that descends to an heir
2a: something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor : legacy, inheritance;
3: something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth : birthright <the nation’s heritage of tolerance>
How The Livestock Conservancy defines heritage breed:
Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern agriculture.
Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency – fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites.
Heritage animals once roamed the pastures of America’s pastoral landscape, but today these breeds are in danger of extinction. Modern agriculture has changed, causing many of these breeds to fall out of favor. Heritage breeds store a wealth of genetic resources that are important for our future and the future of our agricultural food system.
Seed saving and genetic selection has changed drastically over the past several decades. So fast that law, morality, and popular discourse are struggling to keep up with the pace of these changes. One aspect of these debates that Heritage Foods USA feels strongly about is sustaining lines of genetic diversity within the food system.
We believe these heritage breeds of livestock are a key to a more sustainable food system and as we say, we must “Eat them to save them”.