Listening Post QOTD: Price range, free range?

The Chicken Matrix

It’s almost a law: if you spend enough time online, your will find something heinous every day. I think it was Ellen who found the grossest nugget this week: A student at the Royal College of Art was researching the British chicken industry, which in the interest of its bottom line is always trying to find new ways to pack more chickens into less space. Anyone familiar with industrial chicken farming knows the current state of art is already pretty heinous. The student designed a Centre for Unconscious Farming, where chickens have their cortices (and feet) removed, and live tube-fed in an array of racks. The photos couldn’t be more clear–it’s the Matrix, except it’s chickens.

On the other hand we have today’s Photo of the Day from Todd Moe’s little back yard hen house. Animals living an animal life and getting to run around and socialize a little.  As with many other things in life, how we eat is driven by what we’re willing to pay. At Price Chopper in Potsdam this week, whole fryer chickens are on sale at $1.29 per pound. Today’s question of the day is:

How much more per pound would you pay for chicken that was raised “free range?” How much lower would the price have to be before you would buy decorticated chickens grown in a tube-fed “Matrix?”

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16 Comments on “Listening Post QOTD: Price range, free range?”

  1. mollie says:

    No matter what I would or wouldn’t pay per pound, there seems to be a disconnect here. Some people cannot afford to pay the price for chickens that are raised ‘free range’. Some people cannot afford to pay for organic produce. And as long as there are those people – the market for ‘matrix’ chickens and non-organic produce -which is much cheaper – will exist. IN a perfect world….every chickenhouse would be like Todd Moe’s.

  2. John Doty says:

    I always try to buy locally farmed meat so I know who is responsible for the care of the animals.
    How much per pound? I don’t really know what the tipping point might be.
    Here is another version of that discussion from the BBC:

  3. Helene VAnderburgh says:

    I don’t have much income but I choose to pay $4 per pound for local free range chicken.

  4. Price is a concern for a lot of us.
    Annually, I purchase what I estimate to be a year’s worth of free range chickens from a local grower and freeze them.
    If I run out, I do without.
    Same is true for most of my food. (I can or freeze fruits and veggies grown without herbicides/pesticides but are not certified organic…(that’s where the big $’s come in).
    I don’t grow my own food as I live in an apartment and my body no longer likes me to do heavy, physical labor.
    Not a huge issue for me, single and a former vegetarian who never eats red meat.
    More difficult if you have a family to feed.
    This topic is a conundrum. Many facets to your question. Education is part of the answer. Subsidizing small farmers using organic growing methods and/or getting rid of the fees attached to a farmer becoming certified organic are steps in the right direction.
    Gardenshare is a piece of the puzzle. So are community gardens.
    CSA’s are beneficial. Folks living along the coast of Maine can buy into seafood CSA’s. Could we do something similar up here where there is an abundance of fish?
    Creativity, ingenuity and less government interference are ways of keeping food costs down.
    Compared to many countries and times past, we Americans spend a much smaller percentage of our income on food.
    Hope to hear of more thoughts and ideas.

  5. Julie says:

    There is a third alternative — don’t buy chicken at all. That’s what I have been doing ever since I read Michael Pollan. I might occasionally buy free range chicken for a special occasion regardless of the price, but have generally not been buying meat. (I will eat meat if somebody serves it to me or at a potluck, but I won’t buy it — Don’t want to subsidize the commodification of animals.) As long as I know it’s happening, there is no amount you could pay ME to purchase decorticated chickens. I’m also concerned about the treatment of egg-laying hens. How do I know that “cage free” is for real? I would love reliable information.

  6. Ken Hall says:

    I recently discovered Price Chopper is now claiming to be selling prepackaged free range grass fed ground beef at about twice what they sell their regular, highest fat content version of, feed lot beef; I bought 10 pounds to give it a try.

    Back in the 80’s, on my farm in Peru, I raised free range grass fed beef and sold a few of them by the half or quarter to some of my friends, explaining that it was grass fed not grained to finish, to a man they all complained about the flavor. I stopped selling locally and sold to cattle dealers, on the hoof.

    Chickens are definitely maltreated by the giant commercial farms; however, so are pigs, cattle, sheep, …. Take a gander at some of the local 500 to several thousand cow milking farms here about. Cows confined to concrete floor open air barns milked 3 times a day fed a high protein diet and sent off to the fast food market at 4-5 years of age or less. Hell-of-a deal.

    Ask the average school age child where food comes from. Answer, “the grocery store”.

  7. tootightmike says:

    Chicken for $1.29 per pound may challenge my definition of food. If it’s not good for you don’t eat it. Beans are cheaper.

  8. connie says:

    A true gross-out! I seldom buy chicken in any case, and am now totally off veal. Maybe I should revert to being a school-age child, but unfortunately you can’t forget what you know. Local is the answer.

  9. tootightmike says:

    Our household stopped buying commercial meat completely a few years ago. We all remember those recalls of ground beef, and the realization that beef was being processed in million pound batches. There have been stories about the collapse of the commercial fishing resource, and one day I decided that I did not want to be the guy who ate the last shark, cod, or whatever.
    Now every chicken we eat comes from a friend…I can watch them growing. Another friend raises the lamb, and a cousin raises a fine red pig for me. The money I spend doing it this way profits real people…people that I know, right here in the community.
    In addition, there are several local producers at the farmers market, selling grass fed beef, lamb and pork. These folks are bringing chicken, duck, turkey, and maybe even goose to market…fresher, and far more wholesome than the big grocery stores.
    Shop local, profit local. To heck with Sam Walton

  10. Ellen Beberman says:

    The truth is, when chicken is $1.29/lb we are not paying the true cost of producing that chicken. The cost of food, fuel, even waste disposal are paid for, in part, by the taxpayer in direct and indirect subsidies. In addition, a lax regulation climate in the big poultry states allow the industry to violate health and safety laws with impunity.

    Bottom line – cheap food is not cheap. Spend your food dollars wisely, and you will eat well.

  11. Snowflake says:

    How about a directory on this website of providers of free range, grass fed meat providers, CSA’s in the ADK’s by county? One can go to Farmers markets etc but that doesn’t always fit into ones schedule and takes up too much time. I’d rather just email in an order a few times a year and store in my freezer.

  12. I’m with Snowflake. A directory would be great. At least here in the North Country we have some local producers/growers, and the easier it is to connect with them, the better for all of us.

  13. Dale says:

    Hi Snowflake and Judy

    These directories alresdy exist online. try

    Dale Hobson, NCPR

  14. Pat Luppens says:

    I cook a lot of chicken because of its low price. I appreciate the respect for animal life but a happy chicken is not an edible chicken. They,re in really good physical shape (tough and stringy). If you love your chickens feed ’em, pet ’em, let ’em die of old age and put them in little graves if that’s your thing. And by the way, next time you have a pork chop, remember all pigs raised as food die as children. Also, pigs are more intelligent than chickens, or dogs, or cats. If you like to eat free range animals, I recommend squirrels. Pretty tasty stewed. My yard is full of them terrorizing my bird feeders if you’re interested. Bon appetit!

  15. Two Cents says:

    be patient, science is right know growing beef for us out of stem cells.
    bon apetite indeed!

  16. Glad Dale shared the Local Food Guides — I know GardenShare’s updated 2012 version will be out fairly soon.

    I eat meat as a condiment. It’s highly flavorful and has loads of protein, so I use it to flavor my food in small doses.

    Pasture raised meat needs to be cooked differently than commercial meat. One of the seasonal “Nutritious Delicious” cooking seminars that the Local Living Venture ( is developing with a Community Health intern from SUNY Potsdam will address this issue.

    Resource information will be published, alongside the currently existing information on how to cook grains and beans, at The series of six different seasonal cooking seminars will have their respective posts of resource information online at that site by the end of the Spring school term, for those who are interested!

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