Last week, Publix had boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale. I wrote it down on my list, but when I got to the store, I stood looking at
it for a long time, trying to decide. It was the labeling on the package that made me pause: USDA, Grade A, Inspected, etc. etc.
I had just finished reading a book called Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal, by Joel Salatin. He is an organic farmer in Virginia. Michael Pollan talked extensively about him in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Mr. Salatin’s book talked about all the difficulty he has in producing organic, grass-fed beef and pastured chicken on a relatively small scale, due to regulations from both the State of Virginia and the US Department of Agriculture. He has had inspectors at his door many, many times trying to shut down part of his operation. He also gave many instances where insiders have told him about the less desirable practices that go on inside a large-scale, factory food institution. Needless to say, some of the practices that are “USDA Inspected” and passed would make your stomach turn.
So I stood there for a few minutes looking at the chicken, knowing the USDA sticker really didn’t mean much in terms of safety, and wondering what had happened to these particular birds on their journey to the grocery store cooler. I ended up buying a package so that I could have chicken breast in the freezer. I don’t know when my CSA farmer slaughters his chickens, but I’m going to get a couple of those and make them last as long as I can.
If you are interested in the problems that face small farmers, and the threats to our food system, you should definitely read Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. I found it at my local library.