Chicken is one of the world’s most popular sources of animal protein. With its versatility for being served hot or cold and adapted to thousands of different recipes, chicken is a diet staple around the world. In my world however, it’s shrinking fast. Last night we barbecued some boneless, skinless chicken breasts from a premium brand of so-called organic chicken and after I had two or three bites, I couldn’t eat any more. It’s now common practice for poultry producers to enhance their products with saline injections to plump up and moisten their products. The result is a mushy white substance that is easily separated with a fork, looks like a bread roll and leaks more liquid than the gash in the Titanic. Not appetizing.
I realize that as we Boomers age, our taste buds aren’t as sensitive as when we were young. Perhaps that’s why everything from fresh carrots to watermelon doesn’t seem to have the same intensity of taste we remember as kids. Our farming methods, genetically altered foods, chemical fertilizers and depleted soil conditions contribute to this but overall the makeup of our food chain is vastly different from what we grew up with. Combine this with the increased consumption of fats, sugars and salt in the food we buy, our pallets are challenged every day to appreciate the taste of natural foods.
A nice juicy steak no longer appeals to me. Chicken is becoming a less frequent menu choice. Fish is a tricky item to buy because we need to carefully research whether it is wild or farmed, local or from Asia, real or fake. Even traditional seafood supposedly caught and processed in the Maritimes is often farmed in Asia and processed in Canada which makes it a scary choice. Product labeling about the sources of our food can be misleading which often makes our food choices a crap shoot.
Canadians love their local farmers’ markets. We pig-out (sorry for that analogy) on corn on the cob every summer when it’s in season (despite the fact corn is the most genetically altered food we consume); eat strawberries until we get hives and asparagus until no one will follow us into the bathroom. Tomatoes are now in season, soon to be followed by squash and all the lovely autumn root vegetables. There’s nothing better than combining a pot of fresh ingredients into a wonderful soup. But we’re still at the mercy of the farmers to use ethical methods and the retailers to offer quality local produce in season. I don’t object to genetically combining a plum and a peach to create a nectarine; what concerns me is the genetic tampering with our agricultural products to enable them to withstand high levels of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Is it coincidental that cancer now strikes one in five people at a time when our food chain is so manipulated by the big agribusinesses? The answer is beyond my simple brain, but I do know that I’m becoming increasingly more disillusioned with the meat and chicken that lands on my plate. I did splurge once for a grass-fed certified organic steak at Whole Foods but at $39.95 a pound I can’t make that part of my regular diet. I must say, though, the taste was amazing and far superior to our regular corn-fed supermarket variety.
Where’s the stringy, dry, overcooked, lean turkey and chicken I grew up with? It tasted like chicken; it looked like chicken and before my mother put it in the oven, it even clucked like a real chicken. Salt, sugar and other additives have hooked consumers on certain food choices but I’m becoming increasingly put off. There’s a lot of pressure on food producers to get back to the basics but I’m not optimistic I’ll see certified organic natural chicken, pork, fish or steak offered in my local supermarket at a reasonable price any time soon. In the meantime, while I still can, I’ll load up on the beans, beets and potatoes my Dad grew in his back yard, fertilized with his home-made compost. After that, who knows what we’re eating? But I do know that it sure doesn’t taste like it should. Buyer beware.