When you pick vegetables out of your own garden or slaughter a turkey that grew up in your back yard, you know where that food is coming from. It’s transparent.
Hidden from the view of Americans is where a lot of grocery store and restaurant food gets its start. That de-boned chicken breast was at one point part of a chicken; it was not born in the cooler of your neighborhood Walmart. Similarly, your ground beef patty was (hopefully) part of a real cow in the not too distant past.
An opaque veil obscures the origin of food in an industry effort to commoditize it. Huge, cost-efficient factory farms want consumers to believe that there’s no difference between a chicken confined to a 60 cubic inch pen for the duration of its short life and a chicken raised on a pasture, free to peck away at grubs and revitalize the soil.
Yeah, there’s a big difference, and if you don’t know where to look it can be REALLY hard to find an alternative. Heck, I spent six weeks going vegetarian while sorting through my options.
There are two easy places to start:
- A local food co-operative (the kind that sells mostly organic products and has a few employees who could easily be described as “new age-y”).
- Farmers markets (just open the coolers scattered around).
But be ready to pay a little more! Prices at co-ops and farmers markets tend to run about 50-200% higher than grocery store meat.
For me, it’s a huge comfort to meet the farmer who raised my hamburger patty and know the kind of environment the originating cow grew up in. Also, it tastes WAY better.