Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Harvest Dilemma: Can You Taste “Fresh and Local” or “Organic?”

farmers_market

I’m not terribly environmentally conscious, so several years ago when I could no longer create chicken and dumplings that made my guests moan with pleasure, I thought I had forgotten something.  I added more pepper and poultry seasoning and even herbs du provence.  No luck.  That was when I discovered that there was a HUGE difference between the chicken I was buying at the grocery store in those shiny packages and real chickens that had spent their lives running around, being chickens.  Happy, healthy chickens taste better.  Even if you’re not an animal lover who cares about the conditions in which animals are raised, any discerning cook has to be dismayed.

The documentary film FOOD, INC., made me sick. People like to pretend the filmed scenes of corporate farms and feed lots weren’t accurate.  Those people don’t drive around the country much, or they would see for themselves they’re wrong.  Who wants to eat animals that have spent time in squalor and pain?  As people are learning to pay attention to what they’re doing to their bodies, what happens to animal bodies matters, too.  Cattle that are traumatized before slaughter result in tougher meat than animals that are slaughtered humanely.  The disregard for life apparent in corporate farms extends to the consumer when greed inspires dangerous shortcuts.  The way in which animal carcasses are handled before they’re packaged has made us tremble to eat anything rare.  We’re afraid of our own food.  Sloppy processing kills people.

I became proficient at spotting the “free range” label on chicken packages, but the corporations are a jump ahead.  Recently, I read an article that said the factory farms have found a way to label their chickens “free range” by opening a door to the hellhole in which the chickens are raised.  So now we have to know a farmer personally to identify tasty, healthy chickens?  I’m no kind of activist, but I understand the almost religious fervor of the vegetarians and vegans.  The problem is, fruits and vegetables (also living things) are not treated much better.  Have you tasted the difference between most grocery store tomatoes and one fresh from a garden?  Not much comparison.  From engineered seeds to picture-perfect fruit or vegetables, the whole idea is to deliver a product that looks wonderful and doesn’t rot before it can be sold.  The consumer may not be able to taste the chemicals and artificial manipulation that prevent the product from being “organic,” but some researchers have identified a difference in the nutritional value to a human being.  No one can name the effects of chemical manipulation on consumers over time, but people aren’t getting healthier.

Those who believe the push for local and organic produce is only a fad aren’t chefs.  Any great chef knows a dish is only as good as its ingredients.  Many chefs commission private gardens or purchase their meats from specific ranchers.  Likewise, any real farmer knows automation is only as good as the farmer who commands the equipment.  Corporations that have taken over farming and ranching need to be reminded that food is the cycle of life.  People are a part of the cycle, and we don’t want to become food for the planet any sooner than necessary.  We know the cycle deserves respect and attention.  We need to demand accuracy and truth in labeling.

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