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No Soup Today

Went to the market where Haanover Farms sells fine items of piggy economy yesterday and picked up some knackwurst. Going to have that with my homemade sauerkraut and mustard today. I'm a lucky boy.

It's a new sausage maker; Brian Quinn's Meats, which seems to be doing nearly all of the small-holder abattoir and butchery for a hundred klicks around. Haanover used to have theirs done at Windmill, but there was a combination of Windmill over-expanding, then failing inspection on their new expansion, then not being able to afford to continue in these hard times (or at least that's what I understand happened).

So the best sausage-maker in the area went under because they couldn't get slack from either their bank or the Ontario government to keep operations going. And this is an operation that lives just on the margin on top of what meat they handle. Chinese pork is flooding the market, making the factory farms cut corners even more, so smallholders are having to sell pork at a 5-15 cent loss on the pound. If it weren't for the farmer's markets, a benign, traditional pig-farmer like the Haan family would be out of business and the only people who could afford to raise pigs are the factory farms. That means generations of German know-how on pig raising would be lost.

I suppose I could give up meat, but that would mean that the people who get hurt are the smallholders. There will always be room for the factory farms. Eventually, people would forget how real pork tastes, and accept this massively-overgrown, brine-cured, cruelly-raised, hardly-better-than-tofu crap you can get at Costco as the "real" pork. Like they accepted these massive paper-mâche turds that pass for apples in supermarkets, and these baby-louie oversized chicks that pass for chickens. The puritan attitude of refusing to take part in the world has the actual effect of making the world not a place you want to take part in. Clever, eh? One of those life lessons it takes years to understand. Or at least it did for me.

But back to the point. It all comes down to the hidden hand of the economy. If all you care about is lowest price, you will get what you pay for. But Mr. Adam Smith, what you left off was how when EVERYBODY goes for the lowest price, it changes the playing field. Quality is first compromised, then abandoned, then it disappears from the world forever as the only people who remember it die off. It is no longer a personal transaction, it's a mass movement, and it is in control of people's behaviour, in control of where the marketplace goes. And what is in control? Increasingly, corporations. A corporation: a pile of cash and assets, a set of rules, and a set of people who sacrifice their personal judgement for the increase of the asset. The bigger the corporation, the more removed from personal judgement.

But that's the rub. How do you define personal? A corporation is a person, by legal rights. When we gave these things rights to property and contractual obligations, we created a monster, a thing that takes away choice. And now, in the States, they have just earned both the right to political participation and will soon have a right to privacy. Where does that end? A right to life, labour, pursuit of happiness? I'd say vote, but influencing the airwaves is much more powerful than voting, right Mr. Murdoch?

But the opposite, the return to the Agora, is a personal choice. I will keep going to the farmer's market. And I will get my sausages. And they will be good.

So I remain very lucky. But for how long? I worry.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
kmarkhoover
Nov. 18th, 2010 12:44 pm (UTC)
"There will always be room for the factory farms. Eventually, people would forget how real pork tastes, and accept this massively-overgrown, brine-cured, cruelly-raised, hardly-better-than-tofu crap you can get at Costco as the "real" pork. Like they accepted these massive paper-mâche turds that pass for apples in supermarkets, and these baby-louie oversized chicks that pass for chickens."

You just described all American food. It's a real shame, I agree.
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