Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Keeping up with corporate America

When people ask why we moved out here in 2002, I say that we wanted to grow our own food, because we prefer eating organic. Often, someone will respond that there is a lot more organic food available in the stores than there used to be, and I'll agree. There was a time, a couple years ago, when I wondered if we would have made the move more recently. It seems possible when you look on grocery store shelves that one could live in suburbia and eat mostly organic foods, including humanely raised meats. But once I started doing a little research, I realized that things have not changed that much.

Once corporate America realized there were big bucks to be made on conscientious consumers, they started marketing to those consumers ... and as they say in marketing, "The truth is irrelevant -- what's important is what people think!" It doesn't really matter if your products are organic or humanely raised, as long as people believe it and buy your product. The latest corporation to fall prey to this is Niman meats. For years, that label meant humanely raised, but apparently after Bill Niman became a corporation, his board of directors saw only $$$ and didn't really care about the lives of the cattle and pigs before they became meat. I find this sad because I'm sure that most Niman customers don't know that the company has changed leadership and philosophy. How is a conscientious consumer supposed to keep up? The New York Times recently did a story on Niman's new adventure.

He is once again a sole proprietor -- this time raising goats for meat! And I'm happy to say that he has seen the light and is raising his goats on grass. The one thing I never liked about Niman meats is that they were grain finished, although I applauded every other aspect of their business. His new meat is available under the label "BN Ranch" because he is not allowed to use his own name -- Niman -- to sell his products since leaving the company that he started in the 70s.

When I was growing up in a small town in Texas, my parents would buy meat from local ranchers. My dad would go out there, shoot the calf or the pig, and bring it home to butcher in our garage. Of course, I was completely insensed by this and complained, "Why can't we just buy our meat at the store like normal people?" And my mother replied, "Because you don't know how it was raised." I always wondered what in the world that meant -- who cares how they're raised? But as a young mother myself in 1988, I read an article about factory-raised chickens and became a vegetarian, a diet that my entire family would follow for 14 years before we moved out here. So, even though there is a lot more so-called organic and humanely-raised food available in the supermarket today, I'm glad we live out here. I know exactly what our animals eat, how they live, and how they die. More than ever, I won't touch commercially-grown meats, regardless of what the label says, because as my mama used to say, "You don't know how it was raised."

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