Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Omnivore's Dilemma, Part 2

Continuing on with Michael Pollan's provocative book about the food chains available to the human species, let's look at what he calls "Big Organic." This food chain markets the word "organic" to consumers with a conscience -- but it is still Agri-biz and monoculture-focused.

An example would be Rose the organic chicken, advertised as free of antibiotics and artificial hormones who are raised with "access to the outdoors," one of federal organic rules. The chickens are raised in long low sheds that have open doors that lead to a grassy yard. The only thing is, the chickens never venture outside even though the doors are open. For their first five weeks, they are kept inside, so they only know being fed and watered indoors. By the time they are five weeks old, their habits are formed and they would be terrified to go out into some strange outdoor environment. And by the way, after 7 weeks -- the chickens are slaughtered. So much for the happy free-range lifestyle for chickens.

Pollan gives us the scoop on the giant organic farm businesses in California, including Earthbound, a brand I used to purchase at the Mustard Seed. I've been very leary though, since the E.coli contaminated spinach was identified as coming from Earthbound. Wild pigs were reported as the E.coli carriers along with

"Samples taken from a wild pig, as well as from stream water and cattle on the ranch, have tested positive for the same strain of E. coli implicated in the outbreak, said Dr. Kevin Reilly of the California Department of Health Services."

It doesn't matter how organic and holistic one's farming practices are -- if the neighboring acreage is supporting unsanitary practices with its animals, the ground water is easily contaminated and wild animals help spread disease as well.

So now I am leary of vegetables grown on monoculture fields whether organic or not! I found an indoor lettuce grower online, but wow -- it is pricey. I'd like to figure out a way to make something out of recycled materials. Anybody have any ideas?

At least I have the egg problem solved. My mom sends along a picture of an actual free roaming and apparently happy chicken from someone who is raising chickens to sell their eggs. I won't be fooled by the organic advertising any more!

1 comment:

microdot said...

How much room do you have for a lettuce growing operation? If you pick the right varieties like Sugar Loaf, you could build a small greenhouse structure out of plastic sheeting and a wood frame. Quite a few varieties will take freezing temperatures and the inside of a greenhouse gets positively tropical on a sunny day in January. If you position it right to take advantage of a wall or some other micro climate, you shouldn't have any problem growing lettuce outdoors using no energy for heat all winter.
Admittedly, my climate is a little warmer than the brutal midwest. I have a variety of lemon tree in a large container by the front door of the house covered with lemons (very festive for the holidays) which I cover only when it looks like it will go below 20 farenheit.
I had a friend in Toledo who had a plastic sheeting greenhouse in his back yard and he had lettuces all winter long. Snow actually makes good insulation!