If there’s one book you should read this year, make it “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. One of the most interesting points he makes in the book is just how far we’ve strayed from our natural eating habits as omnivores. Although walking through a modern supermarket makes one gape in amazement at the assortment and bounty of food available, in reality, Pollan writes, we’re eating soy and corn. These two ingredients are added to all sorts of foods, from soups to cereal to sports bars. And they’re fed to the chickens, pigs and cows we consume, much to the detriment of the animals’ health.
But there are a few farms out there that are breaking the mold. In the book, Pollan lauds Polyface Farm, run by Joel Salatin, as the model of the way a farm should be run. Instead of force-feeding corn to weakened, antibiotic-pumped cows, they graze on grass. Chickens run outside, rather than being cooped up in cages.
It’s a lovely, bucolic scene. But is it feasible to run farms like this and feed the masses? I didn’t think it was possible, until I read this article in the Washington Post by Jane Black. According to Black, Chipotle (I know! Of all places!) is buying pork from Polyface Farm for its Charlottesville branch. Previously, they’d bought all of their pork from Niman Ranch, known for its sustainable, high-quality meat. I was impressed by the chain’s commitment to purchasing meat that is more sustainable, even though it is more expensive. My sense is that your average Chipotle burrito eater has no idea that the pork being consumed had a happier life than its counterpart at Denny’s, let’s say, so it can’t be just for PR reasons that Chipotle is doing this. It’s about time we treated food as more than something we shove in our stomachs.