Why is it important for Joel Salatin to process his chickens at his farm?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is important for Joel Salatin to process his chickens at his own farm because of his conviction that invasive government oversight is a threat to sustainability and the clean food movement. Joel's reasons are 'economic, ecological, political, ethical, and even spiritual.' He sees himself as a food crusader, a sort of modern day Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of a Wittenberg Church in 1517. In fact, Joel hypothesizes that many independent-minded farmers will continue to emerge as part of an alternative food system that challenges the behemoth food production industry.

Joel is convicted that the continued growth of an alternative food industry will lead to a 'diversified food economy.' A diversified food economy will certainly strengthen the integrity of the food production industry; therefore, any shock resulting from famines, droughts, and livestock diseases can be absorbed quickly and easily without an undue interruption to food supply.

In processing his own chickens, Joel feels that he can do his part in sustaining the local economy. For example, he sometimes hires his own neighbors to help process his chickens. The local participation leads to greater education for the community about humane slaughtering practices, organic farming, and clean food. Because Joel does not raise chickens on a large scale, he and his neighbors do not have to work six days a week to process the poultry. The multinational food producers, on the other hand, hire migrant workers who are required to work back-breaking hours for low pay.

Because Joel only has to process a few times a month (rather than every day), he and his workers have time to reflect on the job they are doing and to be as 'careful and humane as possible.' By processing his own chickens and selling them to customers straight from his farm, Joel believes that he is preserving the integrity of his operation. With this transparency, customers can see with their own eyes whether the chickens are being processed humanely or not. Unfortunately, because of government regulations, Joel must process his beef and pork at state-approved facilities.

In processing his own chickens, Joel is also fighting back against the USDA, which he believes is being used by the 'global-corporate complex to impede the clean food movement.' In his eyes, 'centralized production, centralized processing, and long-distance transportation of food' is responsible for 'an epidemic of food-borne illness' in the United States, and he aims to do his part to put a stop to it.

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