My wife left me flabbergasted when she told me about the latest questions concerning organic chicken.. She works in the food industry. Her job deals with regulations and certifying the foods that her company makes. Three of the issues many companies face are “organic” foods, Chinese imports and Genetically Modified foods. Many companies do not want Chinese-made products or GMOs. As for organic, well….
One of the customers wants its foods made from free-range chickens. Seeing as my grandfather raised chickens up the country, I think I know something of this. His chickens were “free range.” A mixed batch with some that were scrawny and rather unappealing insofar as chickens go. Two issues my wife had to resolve recently involve the free-rangedness of chickens.
First was a company that bought chicken broth. They wanted to know if the broth were made from “spent hens.” What? Well, spent hens are those that are no longer laying eggs. They tend to be tough when cooked, and thus are best fricasseed (boiled in water). However, that has nothing to do with the broth. Old hens, new hens or cranky old roosters, broth is pretty much the same.
The next was even more bizarre. A customer had asked how many hours a day that the free-range chickens were allowed to range outside. In other words, how much can the chickens play outside the coop? I wonder: do these people think that roaming an outdoor pen enhances their food quality? Or is it a matter of happy birds? Do you want your food to be happy before it is killed and cooked? Are you opposed to eating unhappy birds? And if someone cared that much about the happiness and mental / emotional health of the birds, why eat them at all. You would think anyone that concerned over the chickens’ consciousness would never be able to eat one.
My wife said there is not an organic rating for fish because they cannot control a fish’s diet. That is, wild fish. Farmed fish could be controlled, but the fans of “organic” cuisine frown on eating fish from a fish-farm. I can imagine how the organic people might react to fish. “How were they caught? I don’t want them caught with a hook because that is inhumane!”
“What kind of net do they use? Is it a humane net? Do the fish have room to swim? Is it made of rope that abrades the fish or is it nice and soft to avoid ruffling their scales?”
“Have they eaten a natural diet? I don’t want a fish that got hooked because the metal may alter the fish’s body chemistry….”
“Can you guarantee that the fluke has not ingested tuna turds? I am afraid of mercury poisoning….”
Get a grip, people!
Along with having been around free-range chickens, I also worked in a fish house some years ago. That was when people feared medical waste. The thing back then, as now, is that the fish are caught so far offshore that waste never gets near them. Most of the fishing occurs tens to hundreds of miles out. Nonetheless, people work themselves into a frenzy.
If you ask me, the “organic” thing is a racket. Food designated organic costs more, but is not much different from that without the rating. Besides, how is food not organic? Are there chickens, pigs and fish made of plastic? Are we in danger if ingesting a cyborg tuna? Get a grip, folks. Standards for an organic rating might surprise you.
Over thirty years ago, a very wise man said, “People pay for bullshit.” I am seeing evidence of this all the time. The organic food thing is a prime example. People are told that things are issues when, in fact, they do not matter at all. How many hours your chickens play in a yard or fussing over how your fish was caught is a waste of mental energy and your money.
We no longer thrive on necessities. Manufacturers, marketers and food producers make their money selling folks things they do not need. Advertising created a need in people’s minds. But do we need them? Are we being sold bullshit?
These days, it is not the thing, but the ideas around the thing that are selling points. People pay more for ideas than the item itself. For example, it is not the soap, but the idea that the soap feels like Springtime in County Cork, Ireland, or has a scent that will make you smell like some dysfunctional move star. For all you know, County Cork may smell like a load of hog farms and that movie star may be the closest thing to the village idiot of Hollywood. Look at the things you buy and ask yourself why you prefer a certain brand or item. You might find yourself paying for bullshit more often than you think.
There are people living in dire poverty in this country. There are people who do awful things to one another. They seem to be ignored, but folks will make a fuss over the happiness of chickens and the suffering of hooked fish. A little perspective is in order.
So long as people will pay significantly more, someone will let the chickens run loose in the yard. The more people pay, the bigger the yard and the more hens to run in it. Do not be surprised to see someone selling “non-hooked fish” or “caught in humane nets” in the near future. If there is someone willing to fork over more money, there is someone willing to sell them what they want, no matter how ridiculous it is. P.T. Barnum was right. And for every sucker there is a handful of marketers looking to sell him overpriced goods that he does not need.