Friday, February 11, 2011

WWMPD? (Translation: What Would Michael Pollan Do?)

Are These Mary's Free Range Chickens?

Or Are These?
I'm curious now, and eating less chicken these days. Reading The Omnivore's Dilemma enlightens in ways that sometimes are inconvenient, like the inconvenience of no longer being able to ignorantly purchase "industrial organic" chicken. My local butcher, The Northcoast Co-op, apparently does not have a source of local free range organic chicken because it only offers industrially grown chickens. Well maybe, but I am suspicious none-the-less.

Last year they swapped out Rocky and Rosie chickens for Mary's because they felt they were better. After reading the chapter in Omnivore's Dilemma entitled "Meet Rosie, The Organic Free-Range Chicken" I have a better understanding. These fowl are raised under similar conditions as conventional chickens, sardined into housing, but offered a small 15 foot swath of grassy land to "free range" on. Knowing how my chooks quickly scratch the living daylights out of their once-grassy pen, it is highly suspicious that 20,000 birds haven't completely degraded the grass within the first hour of having it offered to them. Thing is, they don't use it. They don't get the generous offer of pecking grass, grubs, and other crawlies until they are 5 weeks old and quite settled in their ways. The grass is, as Pollan terms it, "ritual space".

Now my butcher offers Mary's Chickens. Mary's website does a darn good job of giving you that down-home small farm feeling. They provide a sweet video of interviews with the farmers who raise the birds with cute little chicks running around at their feet. But alarms go off in my head when I see them advertising a "vegetarian" diet. Since when are bugs a part of a vegetarian diet? But I want to hear from Michael Pollan if Mary's birds are truly free-range fowl that spend their days feeding on good grass or if most of their time is devoted to being stuffed into housing with way too many others, eating "organic vegetarian" grain. Michael, what say you? Meanwhile, until Pollan weighs in, here's Mary's website for you to make your own decision to eat or not to eat...that is the question:

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