Friday, February 12, 2010

I buy factory chickens

I'll admit it. I buy battery farmed, factory raised chickens. I know Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fernley Whittingstall would be horrified. I've watched both of their shows about the issue. And while I can see why they are passionate about their cause, I can't always share their enthusiasm for shelling out more money to ensure that the bird I am eating got to feel grass under its feet.

Last night I stood at the meat case in the store, looking at an organic chicken (which wasn't even necessarily raised "free range") and a conventional one. For nearly $4 less, I got a bird at least a third larger. That's a good bit more meat that I can use for a second or even third meal, for less money.

It got me thinking. I'd love to buy only organic, free range meat for my family. But financially it's not a reality. We're not going to shift to part time vegetarianism to support an organic meat habit. We aren't interested in eating meatless 3 or 4 times a week. Yes, that is a choice, so I suppose we *could* afford more organic meat if we made some serious sacrifices in our diet. Fine, I'll accept that.

But thinking about Mr. Oliver and especially Mr. Whittingstall, and then looking at what I had in my cart, I realized that I could still feel good about what I was buying. Is it "cruelty free?" Probably not. But each package of meat represented one or more meals that I would be making from scratch for my family. Each piece is a piece of real food that I am feeding my husband and children. Not frozen, pre-package garbage. Not denatured, unhealthy "ready meals." It may not be free range, organic. But it is honest food, made by me for my family because I love them.

Will I never buy organic, free range meat again? I'm looking into options even as I type this. But I will not be consumed by eco animal welfare guilt over buying a chicken that didn't see daylight or touch grass. I am doing well by my family, and taking care of them.

Our children know that meat comes from actual animals, and that fruits and veggies grow in gardens. They will not be ignorant about where their food comes from. I have no fear of that. And I won't shield them from the truth about how it gets to them, whatever the source. They will also know that I am doing the best I can for them with what we have, and that when I can choose a better option, I will do so. But that at least I will always strive to provide them with a childhood built on real food as much as possible.


  1. I agree with what you said. It would be a lovey luxury to be able to afford free range organic chicken, but when you are raising a family on one income, it makes it less of an option. I would like to be able to find a local farmer who would sell chicken like that directly to the buyer.

  2. Hey

    You shouldn't feel bad for stretching a dollar. Eating "ethically" is about doing the best you can, not making people feel guilty. I'm a vegetarian because I'm a bleeding heart when it comes to animals but I don't judge people who eat meat. That's for sure. One thing that is a concern for me about factory raised chickens is what they might be pumping them full of to get them so big so fast. I worry as much about the effects of that on human health as I do about the bird itself.

    Anyway, never be afraid to voice an opinion.

  3. Thanks Tiffany. I appreciate that. And I do worry about the junk that factory birds are given. I prefer to buy chickens that aren't given antibiotics and such, though there's no guarantee they aren't factory farmed.

  4. awesome viewpoint! Love your blog so far and I'll bookmark it to come back and read more in the future. I dont' know if my blog will ever be "featured" on the foodie blogroll so if you get a chance, you can take a peek at it here: Happy blogging!!

  5. I couldn't have said it better. Economically it is just not a possibility for our family right now. In the future, who knows? Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Welcome to the Foodie Blogroll!

    Very well stated and I agree with your position. I'll start eating free range chicken when it's free! :)

  7. ok, i've been here for about 5 minutes and I already love your blog. what a refreshing approach! I found you through the foodieblogroll and i'll definitely be back. you make me smile, and I agree with you and you are a good writer! So glad I found your blog :)

  8. Yep. We're in the same place here! My family is healthier eating a good bit of animal protein and it's not cheap! No way we can afford organic/free range. But I do get my ground beef somewhere that grinds it fresh with no added chemicals, I buy "natural" chicken, etc.