Mother Earth News Blogs > Real Food

Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.


If a Chicken Never ...

If a chicken never sees the sun, never gets to hunt for food in thick grass, never gets to take a dirt bath with her friends, never gets to flirt with a rooster, can she lay an egg?

She’ll lay something, but can you call it an egg?

Isn’t it odd that supermarket egg cartons never show pictures of how the chickens laying the eggs live? You might see idyllic pictures of chickens prancing around on green grass, but you never see pictures of chickens crowded five to a cage, or on the so called “free-range“ or “cage-free“ eggs, you never see pictures of tens of thousands of chickens packed into hen houses where they never see the sun or grass, and can’t move an inch without bumping into each other.

Are those things really eggs? I say not. Once you’ve tasted the egg from a chicken who spent the day scratching through grass, brush, and woodland, digging up juicy earthworms, catching bugs in midair, and snagging a field mouse or two, you’ll wonder why you ever considered supermarket eggs as food.

They can be cheap, that’s for sure. But the idea that food can be plentiful and inexpensive is the biggest con game there is.

To lay a decent egg, a chicken needs lots of space, exercise, sunshine, a diet of bugs, earthworms, grubs, frogs, field mice, various grasses, leafy greens, berries, fruits, and flowers. The list goes on and on. It needs to take dirt baths, flirt and make love. Not cheap to provide. Modern agriculture treats these complex birds as simple creatures which need as little feed as possible, as little room as possible, and no nature. Egg like things plop out their behinds, but you wouldn’t want to eat them.

Chick with mother hen

In a similar vein, if a chick never sees its mother, never gets to sleep under its mothers feathers, never is taught by a mother hen how to scratch for bugs, where to go to drink, how to get along with the other chickens, is it still a chicken?

When I look at modern industrial agriculture and see what it has done to chickens, cows, and pigs, it sends chills up and down my spine. If they can treat those complex animals that way, it shows what they think of me. My money is their concern. My well being not their problem. The quality of my food, not even an after thought.

The driving force these days is how everything relates to the economy. But nature isn’t a dollar driven economy. It operates on its own principals, one of which is being generous to a fault. Nature doesn’t charge me for breathing air. It just goes round and round the earth, and I get to suck in as much as I want.

With how much for as how little as possible the determining factor, quality is chucked out the window. Food turns into a commodity. That potato is as good as this potato. That corn is no different than this corn. That pig is the same as every other pig. Without putting on such stifling blinders, the modern food system falls apart. If every pig is not the same as every other pig, the trading of pork futures dies. If every field of corn is not identical to every other field of corn, the basis for the trading and futures market crumbles.

And yet, pigs are different. A pig raised on acres of pasture is nothing like a pig raised in a concentrated animal feeding operation. Pigs are no more commodities than are people.

The powers that be have decided that animals and plants don’t have any intrinsic value. They can be all ground up together, and treated the same. Efficiency and economy are the altars on which all animals and plants, the things we eat, are sacrificed, us included. It doesn’t matter how squalid the conditions are in which food animals are raised. It doesn’t matter how many toxic substances are added to their feed. It doesn’t matter how many poisons are spread on fields. All that matters is: can we drive the cost down.

We end up with aisles of relatively inexpensive food stuffs which don’t nourish us, and when compared to the real thing, can’t satisfy us.

Why did we ever think that it’s OK to put poison on food we are growing? What is backwards is our current organic certification system. If you want to produce and sell food without using synthetic poisons and fertilizers, you need to go through this lengthy certification process and back up your claims with reams of paperwork.

On the other hand, if you want to spray your crops with fungicides and pesticides and herbicides, you’re off scot-free. You don’t need to be certified. You don’t need to stamp your food “Grown with Poisons”. You don’t need to pay a percentage of your sales to support a certification process.

Shouldn’t the farmers who use poisons need to go through a certification process and be required to label their foods as having been produced with poisons? It should be a given that food is grown without the use of poisons, and that those who want to use the chemicals, should have to register and be certified.

So how do we change this? How do we go from a food system which debases life, to one which enhances life? It starts with deciding what we eat ourselves. It starts with becoming more curious about the food we eat. For example, when you think of potatoes, do you ever think of stunning flowers? When potatoes bloom, they put up proud, spectacular blooms.

What about lettuce? When they first pop out of the ground, their first leaves are lush and supple.

Becoming curious about what you are eating and putting into your body, and discovering the wonderfully complex lives of the plants and animals you eat is the start of changing how your food is produced.

Daniel Voran: A man and his hoe


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.