Sustainable

Sustainable is a term used frequently to describe farming techniques implemented to assure that farming will enhance or at least not damage the immediate as well as the larger environment, be that soil, air or water. But as we plumb more deeply into sustainability, we find it has application to many techniques utilized by the modern food system that dominates our dietary lives.

Let's jump to chicken and how we eat it today, contrasting that with the presentation less than 60 years ago. I am old enough to remember grocery shopping with my mother and seeing nothing but whole chickens, with the giblets stuffed in the cavity, as the only way to buy chicken. Mom was expert at dissembling the chicken into pieces if she was going to fry it, or leaving it whole if she would roast it. The giblets would make a wonderful gravy using the neck, gizzard and heart, and the liver would be eaten either fried or as a pate' on bread. The only part of the chicken not consumed, I suppose, were the feet and head. My supposition is that those parts were sent to the pet food factory. Feathers? Who knows? Pillows and mattresses perhaps. My recollection of price was in the neighborhood of 29 cents a pound. So a three pound fryer cost less than a dollar. And nothing was wasted. The sustenance gained by eating that whole chicken was far superior to today's most popular choice, the skinless, boneless breast. You all know what kind of price that cut commands - because the producer has to sell the rest of the chicken at a discounted price somewhere else in an effort to recoup his costs of production. Legs, thighs, wings, neck, skin, liver, gizzard, heart. In other words, the bulk of the remaining chicken.

So where does it go? I understand that much of it goes to the Asian countries and other cultures that understand that the superior sustenance in a chicken is found in those lesser parts. We should refer to that as the sustainable sustenance of a chicken. So we Americans spend ship or jet fuel in huge quantities trying to get rid of the parts that Americans won't eat based on the misguided belief that the chicken breast will sustain us.

Does that strike you as sustainable sustenance?

JVF