March 19, 2011 by Leah
I’ve been on a quest for pastured chicken in Long Beach since last fall. I’ve found pastured chickens that don’t eat soy, but they are sold a 45 minute (at best) drive from our house, in three or five pound sizes, and for somewhere around $5 per pound. I’ve found chickens at Whole Foods that are “Step 3” on their animal welfare rating scale, meaning they have “enhanced access to the outdoors” but aren’t actually pastured, I don’t know what they eat, they’re almost all five pound birds (which is a lot of bird) and cost $3.79 a pound. Today, I decided to go to the farmers’ market in Cerritos when I usually go to the one at the Marina on Sunday, since we were out of onions. A little research beforehand led me to discover that chicken meat is sold at this market, as well as eggs. Could it be? The elusive, REALLY free range chicken that doesn’t eat soy is sold by the farmer only 20 minutes from our house?
I hopped in the car, got lost, and eventually got to the market. It was a good thing I’d looked at the booth map before leaving because this market doesn’t have a lot of signage. If I hadn’t known to ask the man selling eggs near the north end of the market whether he sold chicken meat, I might have figured it out when he pulled out a bag of chicken organs for the lady in front of me, saying, “I saved these for you!” But, I’m shy, and even that probably wouldn’t have been enough to induce me to ask. So, ask I did. He said yes, they have chicken meat. I (and I’m very proud of this) asked what they eat. He said something like “whatever they find on the farm and there is no soy in their feed.” I said I’d take one. He asked if I wanted an intact chicken or one cut into pieces. I said whole, for roasting. And then I bought a whole chicken for $11.85! ($3.99 per pound, so it was a little under three pounds.)
I brought the chicken home and was untying the knot on the plastic bag, planning to rub salt and pepper under the skin and into the cavity so the seasoning could soak in for a day or two before I roasted it. Just as I got the bag open, I noticed the chicken’s head was still attached to its body. Then I looked for the feet. They were tucked into the cavity, but sure enough, when I tugged on a leg, a foot popped out.
I put the chicken back into its bag, reeling a little, telling myself I was saving it to show Aaron when he came home for lunch. Then I gave myself a pep talk about how this is really just the next step in our “real food” evolution. It’s too easy to think that chicken and beef come on nice little Styrofoam trays at the supermarket and to forget that we are willingly eating other (formerly) living creatures. To pass the time, I looked up how to remove chicken heads, necks, and feet. Pretty simple, and easily done with a sharp knife.
So, after lunch, I pulled out the chicken again. Being psychologically prepared, it was easier this time, and once I touched the head and neck it didn’t seem so bad. It was just a dead chicken.
That’s when I saw something moving on the chicken. I said, “oh, huh, a little worm,” and pointed it out to Aaron. He said, “that’s a maggot.” We looked at each other. Sniffed the chicken (it didn’t smell like anything). We couldn’t go there.
I opened a big trash bag and Aaron dumped the maggoty chicken in, only touching the handle of the cutting board. The poor chicken’s final destination will be a landfill. It’s a sad waste of a chicken’s life, but there are some lines I just won’t cross.