Thursday, September 14, 2006

Chickens today, people tomorrow?

"We have to eat happy eggs from happy chickens."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Apparently, Ben and Jerry's have come around to this sentiment, having now agreed to use humanely-produced eggs in their products.

The Times article also pointed out that Whole Foods Market was making accommodations to make their lobsters "more comfortable in its stores."

Er, before people buy 'em, take them home, and plunk them into pots of boiling water. But I digress.

I'm all for ethical treatment of chickens. But jeez, if only foodies would get as riled up about ethical treatment of humans.

A few years ago I heard then-Dateline NBC producer Andy Court speak at a journalism conference about a story in which he and his camera crew followed a migrant farm worker from Texas as he made his way north with his family for the picking season.

After thousands of miles of travel, long days and weeks of picking, lots of problems with the broken-down van, the family arrived back in Texas, with no more money than they had when they left.

Viewers were so moved by the report, that they sent the network thousands of dollars in donations to help the family.

But that story is the norm in our food production and distribution system. Pick up the book Fast Food Nation and you'll see it also applies to meat production. It was big news last year when Taco Bell increased payments to its tomato pickers by a penny per pound. But this step almost doubled the wage; according to the Washington Post, pickers had to pick two tons of tomatoes to earn $50.

If Americans are willing to send a farm worker a check for 25 or 50 bucks, would they pay an extra quarter for a jar of pickles if they knew that the cucumber pickers had been paid a decent wage?

Why not a Certified Humane label that indicates that the farm and food factory workers are treated at least as well as the chickens?

2 comments:

dhort said...

Same old story. Sinclair Lewis -- The Jungle. Read it in High School and was shocked (tender age) then shocked again to find out that it did nothing to help the meat packers but stirred public outrage over the industry's sanitation and food handling pactices. Laws were passed.

Anonymous said...

migrant farm workers - the poorest of the working poor. all the efforts of the UFW - ('member C Chavez?) and this is still what we have.
yes I say, let's treat the animals kindly. and the people kindly. and me kindly too.
darest I be religious about kindness?
perhaps not. zealotry is after all, zealotry.