The 'Ethics' of Food
"Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is , its blood." Genesis 9: 3-4
For a long time that was the only 'food ethics' I considered. If it moves or brings forth seed we are allowed to eat it. I grew up in the country, cattle country; there was a chicken farm right next to the local school, and I was in a state where almost everything is local to within a couple hundred miles, if not a couple dozen.
The horror stories of factory farms and mistreated animals were PETA propaganda that would be laughable if so many people didn't believe them. The meat of the animal is the muscel, and you don't get muscel if you raise the animal in standing room only. Unhealthy, uncared for animals will only get you unpalatable, unsellable product. No one is going to mistreat their meat animals, it's distroys one's livelihood. Besides, I'd personaly seen beef, pork, chicken, and even turkey ranches/farms. The animals were content and well cared for and slaughtered humanely.
Where I grew up the local store bought almost all the 4-H animals, and even labled which packages of meat came from the blue ribbon winners. And the farthest you could expect produce from was oranges from Florida when the local ones were out of season. (Well, I guess bananas were imported from wherever it is that they grow) There is almost nothing that isn't grown of raised in the Northwest, and that dwindles even further when you add in some citrus and tropical fruits from California.
I rolled my eyes at the 'animal rights' crowd and felt sorry for the people that actually believed that crap. And, having seen the difference between crops grown with and without insecticides, I washed my produce and ignored that overpriced 'organic' section. Only earth first freaks or those that were gulible enough to believe them bought a 97 cent apple for $3.
Then I moved.
I went to the local store and couldn't find the chicken. Oh, they have these little game hen things they insist on calling chickens, all 'plumped with up to 12%' who knows what. But there was no CHICKEN. And they wanted almost a $1 more a pound (on average) for these chicken-esque things than the normal ones back home. Ok...no chicken, where's the beef.
The 'fresh' beef had clearly been frozen. Isn't 'never been frozen' the definition of 'fresh'? How old was this stuff? And why was it so bloody expensive. And...what? 'Injected with up to 12%' what the *bleep*? I had known that some chicken, the really cheap stuff used by like questionable diners and roadside lunch trucks used chicken that had been 'plumped' but beef? I didn't even know you plumped beef! Ok...where's the pork?
The clearly 3rd rate pork they were passing off as 'fresh' was frozen too. And since when were pork chops that small? Ok...fish?
"Fresh trout: farmed in the UK, dyed to improve color" EXCUSE ME?
I broke down and bought some overpriced, injected, and frozen 'fresh' beef. And off to make dinner. Fast forward a few hours.
Wait, what happened to my meat? The 2 lb roast looks more like a 1 lb roast, that's not enough to feed us! And..oh bleck! That's not beef! What did they do to this?
Took me about 2 months of eating weird tasting beef for me to figure out what they had done to it... In Oregon people raise cattle on grass and hay (or alphalfa if it's really good beef) and fatten it on rolled oats and other grains. Over here they feed them corn. Corn! You don't feed a cow corn! They can't digest it properly, they get all bloated and don't develope the muscel and fat correctly. You feed cracked corn to chickens, not cows! No wonder this beef sucks.
The undersized chicken is tasteless and stringy. The pork IS 3rd rate, undersized, and tastes old to-boot. Never have gotten up enough courage to try the so called fish.
And then there is the produce. The apples are hit and miss at best. The rest is barely eatible at best. And it's all so old as to be almost pointless. Apples go bad in a week. Bananas are lucky to last 3 days, and that assumes you buy them green. Pears are worse then pointless, they're rock solid in the store and go directly from unripe to rotten, the pulms, nectorines, and peaches follow suit. The citrus might last a couple of weeks, but it's all tart and sour anyway so why bother? And the vegetables are rarely better.
Peppers start rotting almost immediately. Lettuce is limp from the store. My potatoes rotted under the cupboard in a week. ROTTED! Potatoes don't rot, they sprout! What in God's green earth do you have to do to a root vegetable to make it rot as opposed to sprout? What they do? Irradiate them then store them for 3 months before putting them out for sale?
2 years ago I would have flatly refuted the existance of wide-spread animal cruelty or poor living situations in the food market. Now I'm not so sure. I'm not sure there is another explaination for what passes as 'food' in the Midwest. I still think the organic section is just overpriced malarky, but when I'm staring at plums from Chile, pears from China, or Peruvian peaches, that overpriced, wormy produce is starting to look better and better, especially since it might taste like something other than gasoline and cardboard.
The dairy is right there too. Growing up the milk came from local, family owned farms and went from cow to shelf in 48 hours or less. It all says 'hormone free'. The first time I tasted milk over here I thought I'd got a gallon that had gone bad. More than a year later the milk still tastes funny (I'm going to guess they feed their milk cows corn too) and the cheese tastes more like colored plastic than cheese, that is, when it tastes like anything at all.
Oh, and they don't even sell 'grade AA' eggs. And everything in the stores is pasturized! Where's the raw apple cider? Even the farmer's market meat is frozen and liquid/cheese is pasturized. I actually had a meat seller at the farmer's market try to tell me there was no difference between fresh or frozen meat. (Even more unbelievable that meat defrosted in the microwave tasted no different than never frozen meat). THIS is what people who grew up here really think meat is supposed to taste like?
I still try to cook from scratch but I've got to wonder if, given what I have to work with if my home cooking is any better than store bought stuff?
And now I hear the FDA is holding hearings on the safety of food dyes (in pretty much any packaged food).
So what's my point? I'm not sure really, because I haven't made any decisions yet. But what I do know is that I've been confronted with a reality that is quite a bit different than what I thought was a universal (that and a strong urge to open a chicken farm to sell real chickens locally).
What's the food like where you live? Are you aware it's different elsewhere? What do you think about the ethics of food?