Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Eating Responsibly

I've been thinking about eating lately. It is not just the enticing presence of Halloween candy in the house. Thanksgiving looms large in my culinary imagination.

A friend of ours who hunts dropped off not only Nilgai sausage, but also Hungarian Pheasant and Quail he'd recently killed, field dressed and frozen. I am thinking of ditching the ubiquitous turkey this year altogether and featuring these local Birdlets instead.

You see, I've been thinking more about eating responsibly lately as well.

This found me doing some really fun reading about CSA- Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are typically small farms where the harvest is divided and consumed by folks who pay for a "share" each week, every other week, at whatever interval the farm can reliably produce.

This has also found me doing some really not so fun reading, about some of the problems encountered by relying on huge agribusiness concerns to provide safe and conscientiously raised/harvested/slaughtered products for grocery store chains.

It is discouraging. Disgusting, actually. Many of the national companies that used to exist independently (and thus be subject to the pressures of a market asking for safe food and positive practices as an employer) are now merely subsidiaries of a few giant conglomerates.

ConAgra is one example. ConAgra is the bottom line beneath lots of the food companies I think of independently. Like Peter Pan. Hunt. Or Butterball.

ConAgra and other FrankenConglomerates are so large they are seemingly beyond having to answer complaints or follow the rules and regulations most of us naively seem to think are effectively protecting us, and the food we eat, from abusive practices.

That Butterball Hotline you might have seen as such a friendly way to help novice cooks get that bird on the table minus heaped criticism from the in-laws? Turns out it could reasonably serve double duty as a sexual abuse hotline for the BIRDS THEMSELVES.Yeah. You read that right. A little over a year ago, PETA filed complaints about Butterball/ConAgra employees at one plant not only kicking live birds, but sexually abusing them.

I don't want to think about what anybody would want to do of a sexual nature with a live turkey or what kind of a factory setting or workplace philosophy would allow that to happen.

I do know I can't in good conscience buy a product from a company tolerating such behaviors until outsiders stepped in and complained.

I might not be a vegetarian yet, but a few more reports about the gross (and I mean that in EVERY sense of the word) abuses regularly tolerated in agribusiness may force me there, albeit reluctantly.

Is there any way to keep eating and avoid participating unknowingly in such fantastic disrespect for life?

Think local. In my area, Johnson's Backyard Garden is one option. Think small. Tears of Joy Salsas on 6th Street fit that bill. Think organic. Think Fair Trade. Whenever possible, know the people who raised your food, or at the very least know the company behind the products you are buying. With an internet connection (and a strong stomach) you can investigate on your own. Some sites do a lot of the legwork for you.

Co-Op America for one. Their Responsible Shopper can help you determine if a company deserves your support.
The days of living and harvesting our own food for our families may be behind most of us. That does not mean we have no choice over what we prepare and serve our families.

The arrogance of a corporation so large it feels it can ignore baseline decency for factory conditions and employee requirements is not what I want to support with my food budget. How about you?

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