Column Date 2006-06-28
The organic chicken’s story
Time for cold beer, burgers on the grill, SPF 30 on the beach, and weekend escapes with the convertible top down.
Farmer’s Markets have bloomed everywhere, filled with organic foods by the bushel.
But have you noticed that organic foods seem a little different this summer?
Suddenly, it’s no longer enough just to be labeled “organic”. Now everything organic – from produce to meats – seems to come with a little story.
From leaf lettuce "carefully tended by dedicated gourmet vegetarian monks," to beef cattle "pampered by sensitive cowboys on isolated ranches in Wyoming," the stories get more and more creative.
Organic foods now compete with other organic foods for the best “back story,” to use the Hollywood screenwriter’s favorite word.
So here’s the story of an organic chicken. We’ll call her Melinda.
Melinda was hatched into a wonderful, loving family, as you might expect.
And she was raised properly on a farm in Utopia, Vermont. That is, she grew up pecking away at organic corn and nine other natural grains, and she greatly enjoyed listening to Mozart’s beautiful Piano Concerto in G Major, K. 453, which was piped into her coop.
The occasional yoga class kept her flexible, fit and in a harmonious relationship with her barnyard world.
A good-natured, sociable chicken, Melinda learned the art of meditation from her mother, one of the first Buddhist chickens in the coop. She learned that if she led a good life, she might eventually attain chicken nirvana.
But also being a down-to-earth bird, so to speak, Melinda knew that she would probably come back to earth several times in various incarnations. For her next life, she hoped to return as a golden retriever, after enviously watching several on the farm who seemed to be eternally happy and filled with joy at the sight of something as simple as a small yellow ball.
Melinda was, of course, a free-range chicken, which gave her the comforting illusion that she could around wander without care for the rest of her natural life. She loved the wholesome grain, the gentle breeze, the sun on her beak, the stars at night and the 15,000 other young chickens with whom she shared her home.
All in all, Melinda was the ideal organic chicken – with the perfect credentials to wind up in our local Farmer’s Market the other day:
free-range, grain-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, relaxed, at peace with herself, and looking forward to a happy after-life.
Melinda was priced at $7.49 a pound. (Good stories don’t come cheap.)
It’s a big, organic world out there -- $11 billion dollars worth of organic food is now sold every year. So whether you buy chemically-free, or non-GMO, or naturally-sedated or whatever, as the Cockneys say in London, “you pays your money and you takes your choice”.
It’s just a question of whose story you believe.
©2006 Peter Tannen