The following is excerpted from Joel Salatin’s latest book, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer. It appeared originally on the web at Flavor Magazine.
Before industrialism, farms were localized and seasonal. The ebb and flow of production and activity followed a pattern dictated by local economies, weather, and availability of nearby materials…
Compare that to today’s confinement turkey industry, which started just 30 miles north of our farm in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The only reason the industry started there was because an entrepreneur named Charles Wampler began raising turkeys in confinement. Eventually the breeding program at the USDA research farm in Beltsville, Maryland, developed the double-breasted turkey. By that time, the pharmaceutical industry was up and running to supply cheap medications so that the birds could be kept alive in extremely unhealthy and unnatural conditions.
The entire industrial food system was only possible because of antibiotics for animals and pesticides for plants. Without those two things, these anti-nature production models would not exist and humans would still be dependent on multi-speciation, intricate relationships, and indigenous conditions…
Today, this industry completely dominates the local economy and community to the point that most people believe it is the local economy. But it has a tainted underside that is worth examining. First, it requires hundreds and hundreds of farmers to grow these turkeys. In the wisdom of the business model, as a vertical integrator, the turkey company owns the hatchery, the birds, the feed, the processing, and the marketing. The farmer signs a contract that requires him to supply a house and labor.
In many cases, since the farmers don’t have the money to build a $300,000 football-field-sized house, they mortgage the farm to borrow the house construction money. Often, this is borrowed from the turkey company, thereby giving two income streams to the turkey company: interest on mortgage payments, and turkey sales. This arrangement converts the farmers from autonomous decision makers to a completely dependent class of people—dependent on exports, off-farm inputs, and outsourced decisions. . . .
The bottom line is that in my region, to disparage the poultry industry is akin to assaulting America. Good patriots agree: not only is this poultry industry good for our local economy, it is in fact the foundation of our local economy. And to suggest anything else is to hate your neighborhood. If you suggest we may have been better off without it, you’re in favor of massive unemployment, bread lines, and homelessness. In fact, you’re a lunatic who must be silenced. . . .
Continue reading this excerpt at Flavor Magazine.
The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer is available now.