Okay, so I don't do much plugging, but here's a plug.
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You get a handy excerpt, which is chosen from a variety of genres, e-mailed to you ever day. They generally look something like this:
In today's excerpt--organic, as it is used on food labels, while it still means chemical-pesticide-free, doesn't mean quite what it used to. And then there's the so-called free range chicken:
"Shopping at Whole Foods is a literary experience. That's not to take anything away from the food, which is generally of high quality, much of it 'certified organic' or 'humanely raised' or 'free range.' But right there, that's the point: It's the evocative prose as much as anything else that makes this food really special. ...
"With the growth of organics and mounting concerns about the wholesomeness of industrial food, ... it is Whole Foods that consistently offers the most cutting-edge grocery 'lit.' On a recent visit I filled my shopping cart with eggs 'from cage-free vegetarian hens,' milk from cows that live 'free from unnecessary fear and distress,' wild salmon caught by Native Americans in Yakutat, Alaska (population 833), and heirloom tomatoes from Capay Farm (S4.99 a pound), 'one of the early pioneers of the .' The organic broiler I picked up even had a name: Rosie, who turned out to be a 'sustainably farmed' 'free-range chicken' from Petaluma Poultry. ...
"The organic movement, as it was once called, has come a remarkably long way in the last thirty years, to the point where it now looks considerably less like a movement than a big business. Lining the walls above the sumptuously stocked produce section in my Whole Foods are full-color photographs of local organic farmers accompanied by text blocks setting forth their farming philosophies. A handful of these farms still sell their produce to Whole Foods, but most are long gone from the produce bins, if not yet the walls. That's because Whole Foods in recent years has adopted the grocery industry's standard regional distribution system, which makes supporting small farms impractical. Tremendous warehouses buy produce for dozens of stores at a time, which forces them to deal exclusively with [huge] farms. ...
"The question is, ... just how well does [today's organic] hold up under close reading and journalistic scrutiny? [Not that well]. At least that's what I discovered when I traced a few of the items in my Whole Foods cart back to the farms where they were grown. I learned, for example, that some (certainly not all) organic milk comes from , where thousands of Holsteins that never encounter a blade of grass spend their days confined to a fenced 'dry lot,' eating (certified organic) grain and tethered to milking machines three times a day. ...
"I also visited Rosie the organic chicken at her farm in Petaluma, which turns out to be more animal factory than farm. She lives in a shed with twenty thousand other Rosies, who, aside from their certified organic feed, live lives little different from that of any other industrial chicken. Ah, but what about the 'free-range' lifestyle promised on the label? True, there's a little door in the shed leading out to a narrow grassy yard. But the free-range story seems a bit of a stretch when you discover that the door remains firmly shut until the birds are at least five or six weeks old--for fear they'll catch something outside--and the chickens are slaughtered only two weeks later."
, Omnivore's Dilemma, Penguin, Copyright 2006 by Michael Pollan, pp. 134-140.
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