Sustainable food movement has a class problem

The flavor of fairness: When a recent UC Santa Cruz study asked grocery shoppers on California's Central Coast to rank their concerns about the food system, respondents prioritized animal welfare above the treatment of human workers on the farms. This is but one example, says Bay Guardian reporter Caitlin Donohue, of cognitive dissonance in a food movement that touts sustainability -- but only certain kinds, and only for certain people.

While short on concrete solutions--probably because they have yet to be created--Donohue's piece jumps from a Slow Food city potluck to Florida tomato fields to the halls of San Francisco public school dining halls to drive home her point: good-food folks need to start thinking seriously about equity. And while some pioneers, among them the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and foodservice company Bon Appetit Management Co., are leading the charge, there's much work ahead if farm laborers, low-income eaters, and other traditionally "invisible" groups are to take their seat at the healthy, local table. (San Francisco Bay Guardian)

20 Responsesto “Sustainable food movement has a class problem”

  1. thm says:

    With just an ordinal ranking, it's hard to determine  just how much more concerned the respondents were about the animals than the workers. But it shouldn't be terribly surprising that concern for the animals edges out concern for the workers, because however dire the situation of the workers is, the workers do have infinitely more choice about whether to be there than the animals do.

  2. Matt says:

    I don't know about that, I think it shows a disconnect from reality whenever someone puts the comfort of animals ahead of that of humans.

  3. "because however dire the situation of the workers is, the workers do have infinitely more choice about whether to be there than the animals do."
    I think my irony meter just exploded. This statement is itself a social class problem. It is easier to ignore societal structure when it does not hinder yourself as much as those who you are discussing. </chastise>
    The article didn't mention one curious aspect of Californian Agriculture that I, as a California native who grew up around farm laborers could not stomach. Hand weeding was banned from California Agriculture in 2004 because it is an inhumane farming practice to impose on laborers - it destroys your back. The ban was put in place because of a loophole in a 1975 ban of short-handled hoes brought about by the actions of Cesar Chavez. The 1975 ban dictated the use of long-handled hoes, but did not say they couldn't hand-weed.

    But organic groups lobbied hard for an exemption - in essence, their specific philosophy was more important to them and their buyers than the backs of poor Latinos. And they got the exemption.

    Alternative food movements that want to cease being alternative and be the mainstream need to be applicable for the mainstream. The assumption may be, once the wealthier people have their niche food then the price will come down and the poorer folks will get to eat some. But in order for that to happen, the growers have to accept less money for the niche crop that they got into because of the higher prices that the wealthy were able to pay.

    P.S. Just discovered your blog, Matt. Happy to see you included Biofortified! Bookmarked.

  4. This highlights another issue of the inequity of wealth in this country.   It's very sad, but fully understandable, why low-income families feed their children McDonalds for dinner.  Faced with the choices, they can feed the family for under $10, saving money now, but assuring poor health into the future.  Wholesome ingredients are expensive compared to a happy meal.

  5. farmboy says:

    A good article, well researched and thought through.  Another illustration that organic certification never should be the sole criterion for purchasing food.  Too many people have invested all their hopes, dreams, desires and expectations into organic certification and the process is not intended, designed or capable of providing that range of information.  Organic certification is a useful criterion, but not a sufficient one.  Not even necessary really, but useful. 

    Two factual misrepresentations buried deep within the details of the story.  Notice that Marty Mesh is quoted in the introductory comments about farmworker rights in organic standards, but the conclusion of this section is in the author's voice.  The author leaves the impression that there was a mandate to incorporate worker protection standards in the federal regulation and that it was the USDA that left them "on the cutting room floor".  False - no organic certification standard operating in the United States ever, to my knowledge, included worker protection provisions so there was absolutely no precedent (or statutory basis, for that matter) for USDA to put  them into the federal regulation.  Organic farmers that I speak to about this issue tend to respond similarly - "Guarantee me a living wage and pleasant working conditions, and I'll guarantee that for my crew."  In addition, IFOAM does not have an "organic label" because it does not operate a certification program.  The Basic Standards are guidelines that are not enforceable.  How would you certify a Principle as subjective as “organic agriculture should provide everyone involved with a good quality of life and contribute to ... reduction of poverty.”?  Bottom line is that organic certification is and always has been about the production process itself and never has meaningfully incorporated any standards for worker protection.  Do not point a finger at the USDA for this oversight.  I think the author was perhaps inadvertently disingenuous about using Marty Mesh's comments to reach her "cutting room floor" conclusion.

    Second factual mistake - Describing California as the "birthplace of the organic food movement" is inaccurate.  The author must have heard about Rodale Farm in Pennsylvania which began operating on and advocating organic principles during the 1940s.  The same is true of Malabar Farms in Ohio during the same period.  The first and longest continually operating organic certification program in the country is the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, beginning a year before CCOF. The organic agricultural movement in America is a truly national phenomenon with contributions from farmers in every corner.  And please don't reserve all the credit for the back to the land hippie types - there were many, many traditional farmers who never got on the agricultural treadmill during the 1940s and 1950s and preserved their traditional diversified operations based on compost, crop rotation and cover crops.  These farms - Arrowhead Mills in Texas and the Lundbergs in  California are good examples - were the very traditional (pure sense of the word) organic farmers  producing the high quality whole grains and brown rice going into the food cooperative movement of the 1960s. No doubt that California provided and continues to provide a lot of energy to the organic movement, but at best it stands as first among equals and does not deserve the "birthplace" characterization.

    Please don't think I'm nitpicking - excellent story, very well done - just a few tiny but not so tiny details that shouldn't be overlooked!

  6. It is really no surprise. We almost never eat at the wonderful restaurants that buy meat from our farm. It's to expensive. We don't even eat the cuts they buy when we are at home. We eat what is left over - the head, the hocks, the feet, the long ribs, the soup bones, the back fat, some ground, packages that weren't sealed properly, etc. We joke that it is the Farmer's Dinner.

    This is always the way it has been. There is no particular reason it should be any differently. Free markets are generally pretty good at producing the goods. They aren't all good and they aren't all free. I would rather live here than in a totalitarian place.

  7. I don't think we need discussion of class struggles or major political theories to understand the responses. Being concerned about helpless animals makes one feel warm and fuzzy. Being concerned about impoverished workers makes one feel uncomfortable and guilty. Beyond that, wealthy celebrities feel good about pouring money into animal welfare issues, that gets big publicity, so that becomes the popular thing to talk about. Humane treatment of farm workers? That will get you called "bleeding heart liberal" - as if that were a bad thing.

  8. Of course Inoculated Mind would talk about hand weeding, because he would prefer that we all use Roundup to deal with our weeds than the centuries old technology of hoes and hands.  Yes, organic farmers did not want OSHA handing them fines for requiring their workers to do some handweeding.  What is interesting though is that studies on organic farms show that the variety of physical work (because of the more common diversity of crops, on-farm packing, etc.) means that farm labor do not get the frequency or severity of repetitive use injuries that are seen on larger, conventional, monocrop farms.  So yes, the farmer and his/her crew may do some handweeding, but they also do a lot of other tasks from picking, planting, washing, packing, driving, etc.
    I continue to make the same argument that it is not the job of farmers to make sure that everyone can afford their food.  That is about income distribution, entitlement programs, wage laws, etc. that should even the playing field, not telling farmers to loose even more money every year so that they can feed the masses.  We don't ask doctors to lower their prices to make healthcare more affordable, instead we talk about government policies and entitlement programs.  The same needs to be said for food.  Studies consistently point out that food stamp programs are a win-win and should only be expanded.  It is actually a much more just and redistributive way to subsidize agriculture than direct crop payments.  In addition, farmers can't pay their workers better wages unless they have price parity in the marketplace.

  9. "Of course Inoculated Mind would talk about hand weeding, because he would prefer that we all use Roundup to deal with our weeds than the centuries old technology of hoes and hands."

    Apparently I've been typecast. Although I wasn't talking about using Roundup, those who see in pure black-and-white distinctions can only see the alternative to organic being Monstersanto GMOs. (I think that organic growing practices and genetic engineering are more natural allies than enemies, personally.) Organic philosophy, however, is rife with grandfather clauses, evidence-free claims, and incoherence. Many of the practices, however, are good and needed.

    "What is interesting though is that studies on organic farms show that the variety of physical work (because of the more common diversity of crops, on-farm packing, etc.) means that farm labor do not get the frequency or severity of repetitive use injuries that are seen on larger, conventional, monocrop farms."

    Show me the studies! No seriously, I want to read them.

    By the way, there is nothing about Organic that says that it cannot be a large farm.  If hand weeding on small diverse farms is ok, then why an exemption based upon the farms being organic and not based upon being small and diverse? There are a bunch of Big Organic farms in California. Michael Pollan discusses them in The Omnivore's Dilemma, for instance. There are also small and diverse farms that are not organic.

    To channel commentary from my sociology-educated spouse, hands up everyone defending the classism who is not from a higher socioeconomic class than those who are missing out? Bueller?

  10. farmboy says:

    I'm with Inoculated Mind on this part - if you are going to reference "studies", please acknowledge them.  I doubt very much that a study could meaningfully differentiate between organic and non-organic farms for the same reasons that one cannot go to a grocery store, pull an organic and a non-organic apple off the shelf and expect to detect differences quantitatively.  There are too many variables and too many unknowns.  It is foolish to expect organic certification or any other type of certification system to provide one stop shopping for all the health, environmental, animal welfare and social justice issues that are relevant to the choices we make with our food purchases.  C'mon people, it's not that hard - get to know your farmers! Start at LocalHarvest.org.  If you can't get face to face, get to know the people who know the farmers - food cooperatives and local NGOs.  Don't ever expect the corporations or the government to serve your interests because they are very busy serving their own.

    Sorry, IM, our kinship is brief.  Genetic engineering and organic agriculture are not "more natural enemies than allies".  I don't think in those terms because, as they say in Washington, there are no permanent enemies or allies, only permanent interests. Organic agriculture is predicated on the understanding that Mother Nature is the first and most perfect farmer; genetic engineering believes that She needs to be put out of business.  I don't need to think much past my gut on this one; splicing DNA from one species and jamming it into another is definitely not an extension of traditional breeding practices.  I know that Mother Nature has some pretty funky borders smudging tricks that accommodate a (very) small grey area regarding my somewhat static depiction of reproduction and gene flow, but please don't pretend that germ free laboratory housed gene guns fall into that category.  Please.

    No doubt you will be delighted to know that genetically modified organisms are currently being used in organic agriculture and that the standards setting authority - the National Organic Standards Board - is moving to acknowledge and authorize these uses.  It involves a host of livestock vaccines that are made with what the USDA National Organic Program calls excluded methods but what we recognize as gmos.  These vaccines are on the market, they are cheap and effective and they are being routinely used on certified organic operations.  Led by a no-nonsense veterinarian who knows that the first principle of livestock production is animal welfare, the NOSB has voted to allow such vaccines when no non-gmo alternative exists.  And guess what - the sun rose the next day!!!

    I know my posts are too long, but I want to point out that organic agriculture and organic certification are two different things.  Organic certification is a marketing campaign (Really, it is housed in USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service) that tries to twist and turn the standards to achieve a temporary compromise that allows those whose economic interests are affected by said standards to keep talking to each other.  Really, the organic hippies never want anybody to go away mad and they've learned to live with and love the corporate types and even the government types who have been interested ever since the money got good.  That is what organic certification is all about.  A perfect description of organic agriculture, in the words of Sir Albert Howard, is pasted below.  The type of agriculture that he articulated and advocated is our best and in fact only hope for sustaining human life on Earth, which seems like a pretty selfish thing to do considering all the trouble we've put the rest of creation through, but I doubt very much that we'll stop trying.
     
    The main characteristic of Nature's farming can therefore be summed up in a few words.  Mother earth never attempts to farm without live stock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; ample provision is made to maintain large reserves of fertility; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.

    Finally, don't hold out for anyone not from a "higher socioeconomic class" to respond to your hands up request.  Not because they don't favor fresh, tasty reasonably produced whole foods shared with one's kin - do you know anybody who doesn't relish that?  It's just that you won't find economically disadvantaged folks cruising the Ethicurian on their copious free time, as you and I have the luxury to do.
     
     

  11. Thanks for your thoughtful response, farmboy.

    "It's just that you won't find economically disadvantaged folks cruising the Ethicurian on their copious free time, as you and I have the luxury to do."

    You took the wordss out of my mouth! :)

    Although it is off-topic, I would like to respond to what you said about Organic vs Genetic Engineering. In particular, the false distinction you draw between the tools of each:
    "Organic agriculture is predicated on the understanding that Mother Nature is the first and most perfect farmer; genetic engineering believes that She needs to be put out of business."
    No genetic engineer I have talked to considers Nature as something (or someone) who needs to be put out of business, in fact, the widely held view is that they are helping nature along. But besides your caricature of GE, you also gloss over the details of Organic Ag that do not fit the philosophical distinctions that you make.

    Genetic engineering is as much an extension of more 'traditional' plant genetic modifications as tractors are an extension of a horse-drawn plow. Like a tractor, a biolistics "gene gun" is not living, yet we use it as a tool to affect the living. Organic Agriculture makes a lot of use of tractors, sometimes too much as heavy tilling and mechanical weeding are one of the main methods of weed control (to tie it in to the previous discussion) in organic systems. Sure, nature digs up some dirt here and there, but not on the order of tractor-driven plows and mower decks. Why is the artificial tractor allowable in organic agriculture, but the gene gun is not?

    "I know that Mother Nature has some pretty funky borders smudging tricks that accommodate a (very) small grey area regarding my somewhat static depiction of reproduction and gene flow, but please don't pretend that germ free laboratory housed gene guns fall into that category."

    What I find fascinating about your response is that you actually give evidence against your position but don't put it together. Indeed, there is a tendency amongst critics of genetic engineering to say that nature and evolution are too limited to produce anything as complex of a change that a genetic engineer might. But this view is not consistent with what we know about evolution at all. There's lateral gene transfer, which is a movement of genes between species, organisms actively inserting DNA in plants, and even large chunks of DNA coming together in one organism via polyploidization. For example, I just ate a sandwich with bread made from mostly wheat which is three species combined into one - which is itself a grand feat of genetic modification. Think about tens of thousands of genes from one species being combined with tens of thousands of genes from another species. Now add tens of thousands of genes from a third species and you have bread wheat!

    There is even a species of parasitic plants that inserts DNA into its host. The bacterium Agrobacterium naturally inserts DNA into plants, and that is one of the tools used by genetic engineers to insert DNA into plant cells.

    Furthermore, parts of genes are shuffled around all the time within genomes, from "jumping gene" transposons that dance around the genome to plain ol' "exon shuffling" that generates new genes from old ones.

    All of this aside, arguing from what Nature (with a capital N) can do to determine what humans should do is a very tenuous moral argument. Since Nature doesn't use tractors, then if Nature is the perfect farmer then it follows logically that you should never use a tractor. And there are a lot of things that nature does that we should probably not do!

    However, if what you mean by organic is farming according to how nature does it, but not with precisely what tools nature uses, then genetic engineering can fit in just as well as selective breeding. For example, here's a recent case where some researchers used genetic engineering to make corn roots 'call out' to nematodes that eat the Western Corn Rootworm beetle larvae. By using a gene from Oregano, they effectively strengthened a natural biological control for the rootworm pests. Check it out. Unfortunately, I'm not done with my writeup for Biofortified about the paper so unless you have institutional access you won't be able to see all the cool details. Suffice to say, this is exactly the kind of GE trait that would fit in an organic agricultural system and fit in under the general organic growing philosophy.

    Once you get past the philosophical stumbling block often erected around change:

    "I don't need to think much past my gut on this one."

    That is precisely the problem here.

  12. "It's just that you won't find economically disadvantaged folks cruising the Ethicurian on their copious free time, as you and I have the luxury to do."

    Wow. There is a sanctimonious class based stereotype statement. Careful of absolute generalizations. They are almost invariably wrong.

  13. Studies that I refer to are not comprehensive, in that they focus primarily on the California situation.  Nonetheless, check out the 2008 CIRS study called "Farm Labor Conditions on Organic Farms in California" (www.cirsinc.org) as well as Shreck, Getz, & Feenstra 2006 article titled "Social Sustainability, Farm Labor, and Organic Agriculture".  Of course, just because a farm is certified organic does not mean all things are hunky-dory for farm workers.  However, the CIRS study showed that wages tended to be higher on organic farms and that they employ a variety of practices to reduce workplace injury and illness.

  14. Rebecca, thanks for the references. But they don't exactly support what you are saying. I'll address the second one first, Shreck et al. From the abstract:

    "Our findings suggest that, at best, lukewarm support for social certification within organic agriculture exists among certified organic farmers in California. They also question expectations that organic agriculture necessarily fosters social or even economic sustainability for most of the farmers and farmworkers involved."

    They go on to explain that there are notable exceptions to this rule - but as these are exceptions and not the norm, they are not representative of the whole of the Organic sector. Given that the study did not compare organic to comparable conventional systems, it does not give us a means of comparing the two to see which one fares better. It may be that farmers are getting into it for more monetary reasons than others, if you'll take a look at this chuckle-worthy US map comparison at the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog: http://agro.biodiver.se/2009/05/organic-farms-mapped/

    The body of the paper explains this in more detail, including a large number of organic farmers who believe strongly that their labor practices should be exempt from consideration.

    And the first paper you link to supports my interpretation of the second paper:

    "Despite the fact that farm labor conditions are an integral component of organic certification
    internationally (IFOAM, nd),2 that is not the case in the U.S. and there has been heated debate as
    to whether that should change. A recent survey of organic farmers in California (Shreck et al
    2006) found that the majority of growers oppose the inclusion of social standards as part of
    USDA organic certification. Many noted that while they would like to offer improved benefits, a
    requirement to do so would negatively affect their economic viability.
    "

    On to the meat of the first paper, Strochlic et al.  We were talking about organic vs conventional in the context of labor practices, particularly hand-weeding. Also, the issue of small vs large farms came up. Interestingly, this paper points out that the larger the farm, the more likely it is to provide greater health coverage to its farmworkers:
    Given the expensive nature of health insurance, it is not surprising that the provision of that
    benefit increases with farm size. Farms with annual revenues of over $1 million are in fact more
    than five times as likely to offer health insurance (66%) than farms with revenues of under
    $100,000 (13%). Several respondents noted that while they are unable to provide health
    insurance, they pay all or part of their workers’ medical bills. This may be a more cost-effective
    strategy for providing access to health care than purchasing health insurance.
    Among respondents not offering health insurance, several noted that they have offered that in the
    past, but could no longer afford to do so. Several also claimed that they had offered their
    employees health insurance, but their employees elected to receive higher pay instead.

    That some smaller farms offer to pay for medical bills is promising, however, it seems to me that having full health insurance coverage would be better for the employees.
    Next, there is the issue of labor practices related to hand-weeding. You mentioned that organic farms mix things up to keep their workers from getting repetitive injuries.

    However, you did not mention that only a half of the farms, roughly equal for large and small farms, do this at all. And only a third of the farms surveyed limit the number of hours spent hand-weeding. The other two thirds do not limit the number of hours spent hand weeding. Although there is a difference between the number of small farms and large farms (39% and 27% respectively) that limit the number of hand-weeding hours, on the whole the organic sector in California (of those who responded to the survey) only does this 34% of the time. This information is contained in Exhibit 18 in the paper.
    An important quote:
    "Higher reliance on handweeding in organic agriculture can also increase the likelihood of musculoskeletal injuries associated with stoop labor."

    According to Exhibit 26, they do make a comparison between conventional and organic farms, and while organic wins out on employee wages, it loses out on employee health insurance. This seems to be a consistent trade-off demonstrated by the paper. But add the lower health insurance rates to the increase in stooping from hand-weeding, it still doesn't look better. Moreover, as you mentioned the issue of monocropping farms vs diverse farms, most of the organic farms surveyed were monocropping, and the majority of the remainder only had a handful of different crops.

    Finally, 57% of the farmers surveyed, although they would like to improve the working conditions for their workers, cannot afford to do so. It may be that the financial constraint that compelled the organic sector to lobby for the hand-weeding exemption also keeps them from doing more about working conditions.

    In summary, these two papers don't seem to support the notion IMHO that organic certification as it currently stands can be a useful proxy for labor conditions, particularly given the practice of hand-weeding and the lack of limits on hand-weeding labor hours in the majority of organic farms. Add this labor to the lower incidence of health insurance coverage, I offer my conclusion that organic farms may not be doing enough to mitigate the harmful consequences of hand weeding.

    Note: There were a bunch of other things, good and otherwise, mentioned in the reports. I just talked about the information relevant to our discussion. One of the things missing from this is a good comparison of conventional and organic ag (aggregate level and individual examples) with regard to labor practices including hand-weeding. And just to reiterate for the record, I'm not an opponent of organic ag, I'm an opponent of bad ag - which we find all over . Hand-weeding on a garden scale is no problem, but it seems to me that when it reaches the farm scale it can be a human health issue.

    Rebecca indicated above that she would rather use the "centuries old technology of hoes and hands." I only ask that the farmers shell out the sheckles to buy their workers hoes so they don't have to crawl on their hands. This is particularly poignant in a discussion about class issues in agriculture - disrespect for the 'lower' social classes is a centuries-old practice, too. If we are to progress through the centuries, we need to first recognize that not everything done in the past is right and true.

    Oy, this comment was way too long!

  15. Yes your (Innoculated Mind) comment is too long, but at least you took the time to read the studies thoroughly.  However, there are certain crops that can't be weeded with hoes (strawberries, and this is because of the plastic mulch), certain weeds that must be pulled out completely (bermuda grass for example, any rhizomes left behind will take root) and certain times within a weeds life cycle in which they can't be eradicated with hoes (usually when it gets too big).  Many smaller scale farms with limited equipment options or diversified farms in which they have 1-2 rows planted of any one crop, find it very difficult to rely much on mechanical weeding.  This usually leaves hoeing or hand-weeding.  All organic farmers I know would love to never handweed again, nor pay labor to arduously (& slowly) handweed.  Most are working to create situations in which there is less of a weed seed bank and in which they kill the weeds when they are small and tender.  Anyways, if you farmed for a living, you might understand the seasons, conditions, and crops that necessitate small amounts of periodic hand weeding.


  16. "All organic farmers I know would love to never handweed again, nor pay labor to arduously (& slowly) handweed.  Most are working to create situations in which there is less of a weed seed bank and in which they kill the weeds when they are small and tender."

    Rebecca, you've got that ever so right. What we do is mob graze our larger livestock on a garden in the winter and then in the spring we set the chickens in that area for a few weeks. The birds turn over and smooth the soil as well as eliminating any weeds. Timing is key. Later in the season with some crops I'll run the chickens and ducks through again when the plants are big enough as needed.

    We grow organically although we do not sell crops, not in the vegetable form - meat is value added veggies, pasture and sunshine. These large gardens are our sacrificial paddocks for the winter and mud time to protect the pastures. This takes poor mountain soil and turns it into rich garden loam. We grow above ground crops like broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc for ourselves plus the animals as well as growing root crops like mangles, turnips, beets and such for late fall and winter for the livestock. Then the following winter we put the livestock back in those areas and they eat the crops left for them which carries them into the winter for feed after the pastures are gone.

    This cycling makes for ever improving soil, captures valuable nutrients, have excellent gardens and makes it so we do virtually no weeding at all - we've got other things to do. There are some things like the strawberries which don't work with this kind of cycle but we just grow them in deep much or on rock walls. I don't grow large volumes of strawberries so I haven't worked on figuring out how to integrate them into such a system.

    Eliminating the seed bank and timing can be very useful tools to avoiding the chore of weeding.

    Cheers

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    Save 30% off Pastured Pork with free processing: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
    Read about our on-farm butcher shop project: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

  17. Tasterspoon says:

    Just wanted to thank everyone for the thoughtful and thought-provoking commentary - a reminder to me that the "right" choices are not necessarily obvious or uncomplicated and that I should get off my high horse when I'm feeling judgy.  I am in no position to weigh in on any of the science or the politics, so I won't.

    FWIW, my main reasons for reaching for an organic version of something are 1) limiting the exposure of farmworkers to pesticides and 2) preservation of a more natural environment (keeping chemicals out of the water, etc.).  I admit that I have sort of assumed that better conditions for farmworkers and animals generally were *more likely* in things with an "organic" label, because I assume that the hippies are keeping a closer eye on producers claiming virtue.  A string of assumptions there I realize, but this is the thought process of one woman with a shopping basket. 

    I wasn't previously aware of the whole weeding debate, but think the chicken s0lution is kind of rad.  Anyway, thanks again.

  18. Rebecita says:

    FYI, the old link is broken. Here is a current link to the full article:
    http://www.sfbg.com/2009/12/02/out-reach

  19. Rob says:

    Thanks Rebecca, great article.

  20. Chad says:

    I've worked at a pretty well known Bay Area sustainable meat company for about four years now and I have never once been asked a single question about worker conditions in the company (which are excellent). I have been questioned on every bit of minutiae concerning the land, the cows (are they happy?), and the locality of the product.  I have been asked what the effect of Lunar cycles is on the animals several times.

    Even people who have seen Food, Inc., which does a good job of highlighting some of the issues faced by workers, never ask anything.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm stoked people are asking questions beyond the price, but there is certainly some room to grow.