Monday, September 13, 2010

Chicken Advice

If I have a question that Google isn't helping me answer, I sometimes just throw it out to people I know, on Facebook or my blog. This one gets too many people upset for me to put it on Facebook, where a couple hundred acquaintances could give me answers that don't interest me (like why I should just be a vegan.)

In general, I try to eat pretty healthily, and right now I'm trying to combine this with saving some money. My agricultural school education taught me a little bit about reading between the lines of labels such as "organic," "free-range," "cage-free," and "natural." As far as I understand, "natural" isn't really regulated and can often be a bunch of crap. Frequently I default to "organic," simply because if I'm going to pay more money for my food, at least I know I'm getting non-chemical-laden environment-trashing food for my money.

My agricultural school education also let me know just how bad non-organic food can be, so I experience horrible grocery-store guilt.

However, I am kind of poor.

Anyway, in my own sense of grocery-buying morals, it's more important to shop green when buying animal products, because "organic" and similar agriculture tends to be less cruel to the animals. However, this is really confusing! "Organic" animal products don't always mean that the animals have access to pasture, enough space to breathe, or aren't being mutilated. "Cage free" doesn't mean the animals ever get to go outside. "Free range" sometimes means the animals get to roam around something like a parking lot, not actual pasture. One of the ways to be absolutely sure you're buying from nice farms with happy animals is to buy direct from the small farms at the local markets. But I don't think I can afford to do that all the time. For example, at the market yesterday I saw whole chickens for about $5/lb. The organic free-range chicken I bought from Trader Joe's a few weeks ago was $2.69/lb. Their "natural" chickens from a Northwest farm (I forget which) is $1.29/lb. Today, I caved and bought the latter, because at least it's from the Northwest and the organic chicken was twice as expensive!

Some people might think this is kind of a bougie problem to have. For me, it's more like, I just don't think I'm poor enough to fund animal torture. I can afford to buy less cruel meat, and then eat lentils or tofu the rest of the week. All attempts I've made to not eat any meat have resulted in me getting sick, so cutting it out isn't an option.

So here's my question. Do any of my readers have suggestions for less cruel animal products? (Northwest brands or national brands) Or how to read the labels? I'm not concerned about it being all "organic." I'm more concerned with the chickens not being de-beaked or in cages so small their feet grow attached to the bars.

Thanks in advance!

1 comment:

ellen said...

man....i don't have any advice (why would i?!), just to comment that it's going be HARD to come back to the states. i'm buying food from people like those small farmers you describe, only it's cheap in addition to being good. for 30 eggs (still with bits of feather and dirt stuck all over them) i pay between 150 and 200 denars, 3 and 4 bucks. i like not having to deal with labels here - you just see the guys driving their produce or their chickens or whatever around on their tractors, and all this stuff is from family farms.

so, the only suggestion i can offer to you is to move to a developing country that hasn't got factory farming.