Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Bird

Does anyone else find chicken frightening? I'm talking here about the plastic-wrapped, Styrofoam plates of chicken in your grocery store. I find them somewhat terrifying. While I can admire a slab of beef, check out a chop of lamb, and adore cuts of fresh fish (truly fresh fish smells wonderful, in my opinion), raw chicken looks repulsive. 

The sad fact of the matter is that it looks gross because it kind of is gross. Almost all the chicken found at typical grocery stores comes from factory farms. The farms are truly horrific. I know that most people don't want to think of where their meat comes from. We like to maintain that cognitive disconnect. I understand. I struggle with it too.  I am not going to preach against factory farming chicken (or that lovely lamb and beef I once complimented) here. You can go check out the documentary Food Inc. streaming on Netflix or Amazon (it's scary-there is your warning). Let's just leave it at this statement: grocery store chicken is a travesty.

Okay, okay, I know I sound dramatic and I will admit that I have eaten grocery store chicken with the rest of them. I just have this visceral reaction to it now. I seem to have encountered some kind of mental barrier now that I am doing my own shopping and cooking. I know where grocery chicken comes from (it's bad-Alicia Silverstone would pass out) and I hate how that is represented by the sterile looking plastic packaging. Food shouldn't come in so much non biodegradable wrapping. There is absolutely no connection between the animal on the farm and the meat on the foam. My attitude towards farm vs. factory has been well-entrenched since childhood (check out my mother's awesome farm blog here) and is only refreshed when I dabble in Michael Pollan or watch episodes of Escape to River Cottage (seriously, go check it out-you will become ADDICTED!).

Besides the moral value of factory chicken, don't even get me started on the taste! Grocery store chicken is like tofu, a bland protein base. On my parents' farm, my mother has kept chickens for over 15 years now. It started off with just four Rhode Island Reds living in a converted farm outhouse and pecking around the yard. Now we have many different breeds. Some are for eggs, and some are for meat.

The roosting coop at my parents' farm. Picture from my mother's blog

My dad notoriously disliked chicken. He thought it was tasteless, boring, and dry. Then! He tried some farm raised chicken. It's amazing what a little nutritional variety and sunshine will do for a meat. He was amazed. You see, really good chicken doesn't need tons of buffalo sauce, taco seasoning, or ranch. It can stand on its own with some butter, herbs, and vegetables.

The chicks in their rotational grazing pen. It gets moved every day so they have fresh grass and new bugs. The pipe across is actually a waterer that is cleaner and easier than a bowl/bucket. This picture is also from my mother's blog.
I recently threw out a boneless, skinless Perdue chicken breast that had been sitting in my refrigerator. I was so upset about it. I didn't want to cook it because it grossed me out, but I hated to waste it. It felt like such a failed endeavor to finally toss it when it went bad, stewed in my ambivalence. I realized then, however, that I have a choice about what I eat and where it is from. Some people may like the distance of a plastic package, but I know I'm eating meat and that it was once a live animal. I want to make sure that animal didn't have a terrible life.

This rooster slightly frightens me in real life. I think he know this. Picture from my mother's blog. 
 It is time to reduce the guilt here. I'm not going to become a vegetarian. I eat meat a couple times a week. I still love beans and tofu and nut butters so I have my proteins covered. But I'm not interested in cutting meat out entirely. I want to eat meat, but I want to eat it conscientiously. I want my meat to have been raised well with lots of nutritional variety, movement, freedom of space, and sunlight.

This means giving up grocery store chicken. This means putting in more effort when it comes to shopping and sometimes a little more money. Do you know that in many European countries, it is normal that people spend over 50% of their income on food. Tally that in your head quickly. Do you spend that much? I know my weekly grocery budget is a lot lower than 50%. Americans want cheap food, but it comes at a hidden high price of poor quality, poorly produced meat. I'm not going all the way up to 50% for my food budget (Sallie Mae would probably wonder where their loan repayments went). However, I am resolved to focus more on the quality of what I am eating.

Not everything, of course, is going to be tutti-frutti, hot-patotti organic, free-range fancy pants around here. I love Jiffy cornbread and I'm not going to go find some Annie's version of it. I'm also not some dummy consumer that thinks that just because it says "all natural" on the packaging that it is somehow good. An organic pop-tart is still a pop-tart.

When it comes to some of the essentials, however, I am fixin' on making some changes. Turkey and chicken from a local farm that is about 15 minutes from my apartment (Landis Poultry Farm). My parent's food when I can get it (wink). Eggs from the same local farm (I could write an entire post why I despise grocery store eggs [Have you seen the color of a free-range egg yolk? Once you go there, you can't go back]). I am still throwing around the thought of raw milk as well. Whoa. Raw milk? You crazy, girl?

Probably, but that's a post for another day.

(Now she get's political? When it was election time she wrote an ode to undies, but a Perdue chicken makes her protest? Where are this girl's values?  In my kitchen.)

*Post Note: A mom recently explained why she buys organic pop-tarts. She knows that they aren't a health food. However, her kids really love pop-tarts and so she provides them in the most healthy way possible, without any artificial flavorings or colors. This makes sense. I get it.

1 comment:

  1. There is absolutely no connection between the animal on the farm and the meat on the foam.-I love this line. So glad you heard me in spite of the mud on my boots. Nicely said and definitely warrants a few packages of beef. Mom