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I am not one to use the word conspiracy. I prefer calling it a fraternity of ideas. But in the end, I believe that America’s food companies, for all their advertising to the contrary, could not care less about health. The be-all and end-all is about taste manipulation, shelf life, and cheaper product. Cheaper usually means you take out the good stuff and substitute with junk.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A farmer’s advice for happier hens, healthier people, and a better world 
(Center Street, 2011)

Author: Joel Salatin

When I ran into a reference to Folks, This Ain’t Normal, I realized with a bit of a start that though I’d certainly seen Joel Salatin’s name a lot in articles and books dealing with sustainable agriculture, I’d still never read anything by him. Then I remembered that our library doesn’t have a copy of The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer. Nor does it have Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal. So it was nice to discover that I could get my hands on a copy of this book.

“Normal” for most Americans is a house in the suburb surrounded with lawn; trips to the grocery store to buy eggs trucked in from who-knows-where and frozen dinners to pop in the microwave; lettuce grown in California and shipped across the country; “feeding the planet” by exporting grain; and government regulations that ensure that cows don’t eat grass, chickens don’t have beaks, pigs don’t feel stress (because they can’t), and if Monsanto’s GMO tomato cross-pollinates with a farmer’s non-GMO tomato, Monsanto can sue the farmer. Salatin takes each of these in turn (and quite a few other things we take for granted) and informs us that “Folks, this ain’t normal.”

One of the blurbs on the back cover says, “Chances are slim you’ll agree with everything in this wonderfully cranky book,” and that thought circled through my head as I was reading. It’s not a book designed to make one self-righteously complacent. Quite the opposite – it’s meant to poke, prod, nip, and sting into thought and action, whether you’re a Democrat or Libertarian, greenie or “climate denier,” vegan or Big-Mac-ophile, on everything from barcoded food, local tomatoes, and kitchen-scrap-eating chickens, to inheritance taxes and the role (and existence!) of the USDA.

A taste of the book:

Surrounding every morsel of food with a government-mandated protocol and infrastructure is unprecedented in human history. If we fear what we don’t know, it’s no wonder that most Americans are paranoid about food. They don’t know where it comes from, how it grows, who handled it, or how to prepare it. As this fear of the unknown grows, we try to protect ourselves under a phalanx of food regulations. We demand the government protect us from them, from those people, not realizing that the government is them, and those people. And that in the final analysis, it’s just us. (p. 328)

Links to other reviews of the book:

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