21 April 2008

Playing chicken with my conscience

Rebekah’s post on her new, green-glam shopping bag sparked some sort of reaction in the random firing of neurons that passes for postpartum thought, resulting in me recalling a statement from Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons:

“Cheap chicken is not worth a compromised conscience.”

Obviously, he was stumping for chicken rights: Buy free-range, organic chickens, preferably purchased from local farmers, rather than the ones that lived what were undoubtedly nasty, brutish, short, and unnatural lives before ending up in Hy-Vee’s cooler case.

Now, it’s been awhile since I read the book, but I recall it as compelling. Life-changing, even. But some of his arguments caused me significant angst, which I could not resolve to my satisfaction and therefore dealt with through the ever-healthy psychological technique of repression. Well, not quite. But it’s true that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with some of the information, and with cheap chicken hanging on my conscience, I thought maybe y’all could help me out here.

More particularly, the crunchy lifestyle Dreher so passionately and (to me) convincingly advocates seems inevitably to collide with the CSPP gig, particularly for those of us raising families on one more-or-less fixed income. I can’t speak definitively about his position on this, but the gist as I perceived it was that although humans are indeed foremost among God’s creation, stewardship means that concern for creation might limit family size to the point where you can afford to live in a responsibly crunchy way. So: what’s a good response to this?

Again, I’m remembering this through a haze of time and hormones (postpartum as well as those ingested from all the nonorganic food I’ve consumed), so I can’t recall precisely why I found this so compelling—but he makes a good case, and I think there is a tension here.

But for now, if you see a store advertising the 79-cents-a-pound sale on chicken, you'll find me there, buying one for the week and one for the freezer.

I know this general topic has more or less been kicked around on this blog before, and I’m resigned to, as usual, doing what we can with what we’ve got. But that cheap chicken suddenly got heavy around my neck again when I recalled the Dreher quote…

God save thee, ancient Mariner,
From the fiends that plague thee thus! -
Why look'st thou so?' -"With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.


He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.


Pr. H. R. said...

The problem with you Iowans is that you are too darn nice :) Take three hours of Rush Limbaugh and a year's subscription to National Review and call me in the morning if you don't feel better.

The green machine is a bizarre guilt complex of post-Christian Western civilization. With no faith left, they still feel a need for sin and salvation. The sin is wasting the planet, or some such, and the salvation is saving the planet. They even have indulgences: i.e., "carbon credits." Mr. Gore, this is Rev. Tetzel; Rev. Tetzel, Mr. Gore.

The bottom line is: cheap chicken saves lives, human ones. Just 100 years ago, a pre-mechanized food industry could only feed 1.75 billion folk. Today we have about 7 billion, and never have we had a smaller percentage starving. We have those all those folk in such a good overall condition because of genetically engineered rice, cows injected with antibiotics, and giant Tyson chicken farms.

There is a reason that the green activists also always state "over population" as the "root problem." They are, in the heart of their philosophy-religion anti-human.

So count me one happy capitalist. Still sin inherent in the system? Yep. Things we could improve on? Yep. But it beats an environmentalist's neo-Commie 5 year plan for how to heal the world any day of the week and twice on Sunday. For all it's flaws, the free market is where it's at: most likely to feed the world and to lead to more humane treatment through market pressure: which is exactly what's happening today.

But the eco-commies are causing havoc. To save the planet they force ethanol on us: which turns out to use more energy to produce that to burn and ends up driving up world food prices (EVERYTHING eats corn. . . ). People in Mexico are literally starving so that rich Americans can cleanse their consciences with E85 gas.

Now, where did I put my copy of Ayn Rand's collected works. . .


Lauren said...

Here's a dirty little secret from a fellow Iowan . . .

The standards for range free are so loose that an animal could be in a confinement all day, only to be let out for 10 minutes a day, and that product is labeled range free because, for 10 minutes, they were free to roam.

Same with antibiotic free. A pig has to be free of antibiotics 90 days before slaughter, so there is no trace of antibiotics in its system at the time of slaughter. So essentially every pig going to slaughter is antibiotic free.

So, buy the cheap chicken and don't feel bad. And anytime you're ready for a field trip, I'm sure my family would let you visit their hog confinements.

Rebekah said...

The second to last time I checked in with Dreher he was a hard core papist with one kid comfortably old enough for at least one sibling. The last time he had gone Orthodox, garnering all associated freedoms of conscience relating to procreation (ie, roughly comparable to Lutherans--remember the Torodes?). I'd say your integrity is in at least as good shape as his.

I guess at the end of the day, I feel better about having contributed healthy children to the world than happy chickens. In the meantime, my husband is out working to give a happy, healthy turkey a quick and humane death, so come on over and eat it with us.

Kelly said...

While I enjoyed much of Dreher's book and agreed with quite a bit of what he had to say, the neo-commie angst got to me too. If I recall he was also a proponent of global warming, which if any thorough reading on the subject is done, will bring one to the conclusion that it is based on really bad science. Seems to me we can only aim to do the best with what we have. With the fast approaching loss of income in this household, I'm in line right behind you for the cheap chicken. And Lauren is absolutely right. So many companies are slapping "organic" or "all natural" on any given thing that it truly takes time and research to tell in many cases what actually adheres to the standards from purely attractive packaging. I've even seen "All Natural Cheetos" in the store. Sorry folks, there is nothing natural about a cheeto! :D

Kelly said...

Pr. H.R - Good call on the ethanol. We've got family in Mexico struggling with the effects of the rise in corn prices.

Reb. Mary said...

HRC: As a onetime/longtime Wisconsinite, I can only observe that Flatlanders (of the Illinois variety) have never been noted for their niceness, or for their driving skills, ha ha. I guess you'll try to claim a pass for being transplanted.
(Likewise, doubt I've been in Iowa long enough to be as nice as most of our neighbors here, ha.)

But thanks for the review of what I kind of know but tend to forget when I see those video clips of the scandalously abused cows or start thinking about all those poor chickens who've never felt the free wind blow through their feathers....(and thanks Lauren for the useful info on the sneaky definitions of "organic" and "free range").

Ethanol...sigh. Since we're now Iowegans (I've been informed that's the official term) and about half our congregation is involved in corn production, I'd best not comment beyond saying, uh, yeah, some real problems there.

I think Rebekah's got the corner on the market in pithy summaries of the situation: healthy babies over happy chickens. And from the comment she left over at Kelly's place today--a pretty green household, motivated by cheapness and First Article adherence. For CSPP, that's about as good as it gets! Which I think is, in this case, not resigned concession, but worthy achievement.

Gauntlets said...

I emerge from the sludge to say but one thing: Cheap chicken is not an albatross. Albatross are predatory. Cheap chicken is prey. Be an albatross, Reb. Mary. Be an albatross.

Rebekah said...

Gauntlets, I was just about to come in after you. What's with the sludge?

Pr. H. R. said...

This isn't albatross soup. . .

Gauntlets said...

That's right, it's sludge. And not one shipmate was destroyed in its making. ;)

I think the sludge may be dishwater, but it's so hard to tell from down here . . .