“It’s chicken,” he said. “It’s just chicken!” He looked at me mutely, asking for confirmation that he wasn’t losing his mind.
“As if they’re doing us a favor. That we’re too dumb to know we’re being robbed,” I replied, trying but failing to comfort him. We stood, shoulder to shoulder, once strangers, now bonded in indignation, staring into the sale meat bin at our supermarket.
The object of our disgust was the cheery sign proclaiming “SALE! Chicken Breasts $3.99 per lb.!” We were being offered this fantastic deal because the chicken, like the other sale meat items, was close to its pull date.
It was not the range free, all natural, organic chicken—which was $10.59 per lb. and has a much nicer, shinier refrigerator bin on the organic food aisle—no, this chicken had led a very hard life on a factory farm and it was a day away from being too old to sell.
I’m assuming the geniuses in marketing and PR for this nation-wide supermarket chain think that when my new buddy and I compare the prices of the “good organic” chicken to the “good enough for the likes of you” chicken we will be awed by their generous mark down and fight each other to the death for the last growth-hormone-filled drumstick.
We did not. We are not the kind of people for whom the organic food aisle was designed. We have jobs, not careers. Forget chicken—the organic apples are $3.99 a pound!
Okay, I’ll admit I do peruse the organic food aisle or I wouldn’t know the price of the “good” chicken and the “healthy” apples. Peruse, as in window shop. Everything is so pretty. You admire it but know you’re not taking anything home.
I have only my own health to gamble with so I buy the cheaper, chemically-laden food that I can afford. I see mothers buying the expensive, good stuff who may or may not be able to afford it, may be running into debt, but who won’t gamble on the health of their children.
Organic anything seems beyond the reach of my compadre and me, like the $2,000 pizza with edible gold flakes selling on Wall Street last winter. The paychecks of most people who work for a living are hopelessly outpaced by skyrocketing prices for housing, utilities, gas and, of course, food.
In just 15 years the price of meat has more than doubled, and the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has tripled and quadrupled over that same period. Those are the prices for the factory farm produce with all the pesticides legally permitted—piled higher and deeper with His Trumpiness’ new EPA “let the peasants eat nerve gas” rules.
You could go screaming in fright after looking at a list of what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows in food these days. Phthalates. That’s not a creepy crawler. It’s a chemical linked to birth defects and other problems. A recent study found phthalates in high concentrations in boxed macaroni and cheese — the type that kids love to eat. But don’t worry, it’s classified as an indirect food additive by the FDA.
Where, oh where is all this money I am shelling out for old, mutant chicken and nerve gas cabbage going? It’s not in the wages of the farm workers, or the food packers in warehouses, or the truckers or grocery store clerks.
Now the CEOs and executives of the agribusiness and biofuel industries are a different story — and class. They are doing very well, thank you. So are the owners of the big food stores like Wal-Mart’s Walton family or Whole Foods’ John Mackey, judging by their ever-rising net worth.
As a socialist I am often told that the world I am fighting for is unrealistic and unattainable. That we malcontents by the for-sale meat bin should pay for the tainted chicken and be thankful we have our low-paid jobs. But as a socialist I also know that worlds can change when working people decide to change them. Once upon a time we had kings who ate off golden plates while the children of peasants starved. This royal nonsense went on for centuries until the masses put a stop to it.
It is not the chicken that is too expensive, it’s the economic system. The working class simply can’t afford to work ourselves to death so the blue bloods can piss $2,000 away on a pizza. Capitalism is past its “sell-by” date and it’s time to put this rotting, stinking system in the garbage. The whole abused planet, including the factory-raised chickens, will thank us.
Bernadette Kelly writes for the Freedom Socialist. She is a working-class feminist and the first in her family to go to college. She has lived in Seattle and the Northwest for thirty years.