Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thoughts on Meat, Money and the Market

As My October Eat Local Challenge has got me thinking even more about what I eat than usual I realize that a lot has changed in our eating habits over the last year and a half. My husband ( a former "Meat Tribe" member in his younger days) always insisted upon meat as part of every meal. Now, however, he is often accepting of 3 or more meals a week meat free.

Good thing, considering the prices we pay for farmer's market meats. We payed $17 for a 4lb chicken at Faith Farm yesterday, and $11 for a 2.2Lb chicken at CCL. We agonize over this. I think to myself, okay we get one main meal. Even the little bird leaves a thigh and a leg for lunch the next day, and then all that remains makes an excellent stock for a soup that will be another dinner and multiple lunches. Still, I thought, can I really do this forever.... what are we going without to pay for this?

I am a former vegetarian. I believe that ALL of God's creatures should be treated with respect, even reverence, especially if we are taking their life to feed our own. For me eating pastured poultry, and buying pastured beef for my husband is as much about the life of the animal as it is about all the nutritional benefits or lack of antibiotics etc. Still, at $17 for a chicken I start to feel self indulgent.
Then last night my husband and I watched this film called BARAKA. It is a beautiful film, an artistic vision of a documentary perhaps, made entirely of footage of our beautiful natural world juxtaposed with footage of our man made world. One portion of this starts with adorable little fluffy yellow chicks riding down a conveyor belt. "What is this?" I thought apprehensively... "Where are they going?"
These little chicks are piled on top of one another, tiny eyes looking around trying to grasp their surroundings are shot with some force down a shoot, dropping distances that seem 'unsafe', falling in piles on top of one another, trying to find a way to upright themselves before they are shot through more shoots slamming into stainless steel plates, bouncing off again and down another shoot. I think surely by now they must be dead. Then you see a woman grabbing the chicks up one by one, performing some task in quick motion, and thoughtlessly (because how else could you do this and preserve your mental health) tossing each limp, but living little body by it's tiny wing into another stainless steal plate to bounce off and down another shoot to be grabbed by another woman who holds it by its neck and forces its tiny beak up against a hot metal that burns the end of it's beak off, the little bird gasping, before its tossed back onto the pile, stuffed in a cage and left to sit out the rest of it's life in a putrid laying house.

My husband and I looked at one another and nodded. This is why we spend $17 for a chicken, even if it means chicken is only once every 7-10 days and not lunch and dinner nearly everyday as it is for most Americans. The other 'unnecessaries' we go with out...cable t.v., a land line phone, far fewer dinners out, or ordering food in. It's worth it.


  1. My husband and I had this same conversation today. I shared your movie experience with him - conversation ended! We will continue to pay and arm and a leg for chicken! I almost cried reading your post .... how absolutely horrendous! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Hi, and thank you for your nice comment. I am very wary of creating "price wars" between our meat farmers. I do not know enough about the cost and profits involved and so take it in good faith that certain vendors I am buying from are not taking advantage. That being said, I have found a couple of vendors who do have more affordable birds and am looking into them as another possible option. I also will be making my first metropolitan buying club bulk meat purchase this week. Best of luck to you and thanks again.