I'm not normally a complainer. I've been pretty lucky in life, and, even if I hadn't, I figure "what's the point." I don't like annexation of rural property by burgeoning metro areas, I'm not a fan of seemingly monopolistic "ag service" companies forcing products upon small producers, and I hate to see small towns and Rural America (where I grew up) suffering. I added another frustration to my list today....but first, let me back up and set the stage for you....
Have you ever noticed that when you try cooking those nice looking, easy to cook, CHEAP, boneless skinless chicken breasts, your pan fills up with weird looking liquid? And then you end up with about 1/2 the size of meat you started with? Oh, and lest I forget, they taste like a wad of wet paper? Hence began my desire to raise chicken that tastes like chicken. Hell, pretty soon we won't even understand the old adage "tastes like chicken" because we won't even remember that chicken used to have A TASTE!
So, when we decided to buy a farm and start raising food, one of our goals that excited us the most was growing pastured broiler chickens, chickens that taste like chicken. They would be started inside, in a very controlled environment, then put outside in a bottomless pen which is moved each day, allowing the birds to supplement their diet with green grass and bugs. Most of today's chickens still need supplemental feed, so we have to purchase feed for the chicks. Here is where my issue lies.
Yesterday I had planned on buying my first chicks of the season, so my two year old and I headed to the farm store that was holding "chick days," intending to come home with our first 50 chicks of the season (we will raise an additional 200 or so throughout the spring and summer). Luckily, having had problems in the past, I decided to buy our feed prior to buying the chicks. However, after going to two feed stores and calling four others, all we could find was chicken feed medicated with antibiotics. I have raised chickens for years without medicated feed, and growing up we had chickens every year, none of which were fed any medication. In today's world however, we've apparently taken the view that without the miracle of antibiotics, we cannot even grow what nature has grown forever without us. I'm all for free markets, and if someone can find a way to build a business and make some money, go for it. But please, keep it out of my food!
Personally, I can find ways around the medicated feed. There are (thankfully) a few small custom feed mills left that will grind feed to meet my specs, and actually I am happy to support their local business instead of the agri-giants pouring medication on feed bound for food. What really struck a nerve for me was all the other folks buying a handful of chicks to raise on their own, who didn't really stop to think about the antibiotic laden feed they were purchasing for their chicks. I'm sure they are all there with good intentions, growing their own meat, "free" from all of the negatives associated with confined poultry. But there they were, nonetheless, wheeling out bags of medicated feed, medication that will remain in their birds after slaughter and be served up next to the mashed potatoes and fresh green beans. Raising these birds is a lot of work, as is growing the potatoes and green beans that go on the plate with them...too bad it is getting harder not to get a side of antibiotics along with it.