I recently found myself making small talk with the guy mixing my paint color at Lowe’s. We talked about the weather, which led to talking about our farm, which led to him asking if we grow our own food.
Well, we feed the world, but no, we don’t grow everything our family eats. He seemed surprised to learn that we had chickens and a garden but get our food from the grocery store. Then he said he wanted to live on a farm and grow his own food someday. He’d heard it was healthier.
Healthier? Than what?
So I told him about my experience butchering chickens. I cleaned my “all-natural” chickens on a not-so-steril table covering I purchased in a cardboard box from Sam’s Club after loosening their feathers in the largest canning pot I own. (I’ll need that same pot to make applesauce again this fall, because I don’t have a designated chicken-harvesting pot.) There were flies in my back yard and the plastic gloves I wore did all the work from plucking to freezing.
I’ve been in a meat processing plant and let me tell you, it was so much cleaner. The process was organized by messier to cleaner so the meat wasn’t near the dirt. There were no flies. There were no plastic table clothes.
My chicken tastes great, and no one in my family has gotten food poisoning yet, but again I’ll ask; raising your own food is healthier than what?
My chickens ate local farm-store brand food and whatever scraps we fed them. It’s very photogenic, buy why would the food my children refused be more nutritious than the food created by a veterinarian and a team of scientists like I saw at the animal nutrition company in St. Louis, Missouri?
Why would a grasshopper diet resulting in orange yolks be better than perfectly balanced pellets that make yellow yolks? Orange is more nutritious than yellow?
Is the soil in my garden full of more vitamins than the carefully tended, even tested, soil in my husband’s field three feet away?
Why would his background in construction help him grow healthier food than my family who have dedicated themselves to understanding plant science?
What I’m really saying is the “good old days” are a combination of romanticized feelings and a misunderstanding of health and nutrition. We have grocery stores today because our grandparents understood there were better options than killing your own Sunday dinner.
Sure, there are bad farmers with poor farming practices out there.
But that’s not really what you’re getting at the grocery store. You’re usually getting the labors of a farm family because 97 percent of America’s farms are family owned. And those families, just like mine, are buying their food from the grocery store. You’re getting the crops grown by people who love their work enough to dedicate their lives to what they do. You’re getting food grown with the highest level of technology so your food is nutritious and your grandchildren’s food is plentiful.
So smile and wave at me next time you see me at the grocery store.