I’m working on the website for Honeyhill Farm, a small organic farm in the Fingerlakes region of upstate New York. Fred (the farmer) and I have been working on adding new content to the website, with more information about the farm’s products (garlic, chicken, beef, heirloom tomatoes and other vegetables) as well as new recipes and photos of the farm.
This morning I’m working on the chickens page. They raise organic, pastured chickens. While doing some research on this farming method, I came across this page on the Weathertop Farm website which explains what happens to conventionally grown chickens. I knew some of this — the de-beaking, the cramped quarters, the use of hormones and antibiotics, etc. I prefer not to think about the chicken I eat living in chicken poop, but Berry still poops in diapers and we wipe her off and still think her little bottom is cute, so I can deal with it.
However, then I got to this description:
According to Joel Salatin, the original pastured poultry guru who spent time as an investigative journalist, about 9 percent of the weight on most chickens bought in the grocery store is fecal material or “soup” soaked up from the chill tank where chickens are stored after processing. To deal with this health hazard, the carcasses are given up to 40 chlorine baths as well as treatments such as irradiation.
(Excuse me while I hurl.) Two things: chickens soaking in fecal material soup and chlorine baths. Really? I’m not sure which disgusts me more — the poop soup or the chlorine to get rid of it. We’re a chlorine-free household here. No extra dioxins for us, thanks. I even stopped buying baby carrots after I read they get dipped in chlorine. (Confession: I’m not great at buying non-chlorine-bleached paper products, Kevin is very specific about the thickness of his toilet paper.)
I think I’m done buying conventionally-raised chicken at Wegmans. Which sucks because we like to eat chicken breast and all the locally-grown organic chickens I’ve found all come whole (and often frozen). I’m not a huge fan of playing with raw chicken meat, but I do know how to cut up a bird — which is an option if I can find it fresh, chop it up and freeze it myself.
I have another confession, though, and I feel guilty saying this: it’s going to take some getting used to. I’ve eaten healthy, pasture-raised chicken from Honeyhill Farm and Heiden Valley Farms and it really does taste different than conventionally-raised chicken. And I don’t know if there’s something wrong with my texture-sensor and tastebuds or if I’m just used to eating poop soup marinated chicken, but I kinda like the icky stuff better.
Oh well, I managed to eat all the leeks from the CSA this winter so clearly I can manage to adjust.