This is free range

Turkeys and chickens foraging across the lawn, pastures, under trees and shrubs.  free range.  We know what it looks like when we see it.  The USDA’s definition of free range: 
Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside”.  Hmmm.  We read the definition again and become suspicious with the wording “allowed access”.  No one has verified that the chickens actually made it outside.

As author Michael Pollan writes in ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’: “Since the food and water remain inside the shed, and since the little doors remain shut until the birds are at least five weeks old and well settled into their habits, the chickens apparently see no reason to venture into what must seem for them an unfamiliar and terrifying world.”   It seems quite likely that USDA free range chickens are more confined than we imagined.

So, what is a steward of the earth to do?  Pretend that we do not know the truth about USDA free range?  Compromise on eggs and chicken because we want to eat them cheaply,  frequently, and in larger amounts because they are cheap and readily available?  Maybe not.  When we say it out loud about pretending or ignoring, it doesn’t seem right.

Local farmers’ markets are giving us choices.  We can choose eggs and chicken from pastured poultry. Hens on grass, eating insects. We can choose flavor and nutrition.  We can support local food raised by our neighbors.  We can do this at least some of the time and hope that it becomes habit forming.