The International Poultry Traffic Ii

Misgivings about an international plot to deflavor the foodstuffs of the world were expressed on this page two months ago, after the disclosure that American poultry was being shipped in large quantities to European markets. During the interval, corroboration has come to hand from two sources. The situation, it transpires, is worse than we had surmised and is still deteriorating.

The first source was the Executive Office of the President, which forwarded a copy of a letter. The Executive Office is nothing if not circumspect in this as in all matters, and it obviously feels that a gross breach of protocol, not to say regulations, would occur if the letterwriter’s name and address were divulged. Investigations and resignations would follow, one gathers, and hopes of an honorable retirement on pension would be blasted. So, with regrets for the anonymity but admiration for the content, we append the letter without amendment:

In reading the local paper I see you plan to force the American Aliance of NATO states to except our sick chickens. Why not send them to the North Korean Communists, or to Hong Kong. They don’t like us anyway. Our chicken farmers are giving us such poor chickens, we haven’t dared to cook one for 6 months. I don’t see why you want to make enemies of the NATO states by trying to force them to eat them. If you look at the joints of the bones you will see how full of arthritis the chicken is. Their circulation is so poor they cannot bleed right away when they are butchered. Our farmers must let their chickens get out and scratch for their food and gravel before they are fit to use.
p.s. What is our meat inspectors doing along this line. Soon our beef will have the same trouble if they allow too much feed lot feeding of beef. Chickens must wear off their toe nails to be good eating.

The other corroboration of our findings in the November Atlantic came in a New York Times interview by its correspondent Henry Kamm, in Saulieu, France, with François Minot, the new chef-manager of the Hotel de la Côte-d’Or, whose restaurant has long been regarded as one of the world’s best.

“Mr. Minot believes firmly in using only the choicest ingredients,” wrote Mr. Kamm. “Cuisine, he feels, must be regional and seasonal, Like Mr. Dumaine [his predecessor], he counts on the growers, hunters and fishermen of the region to bring him their finest and freshest. He is saddened by a decline in quality of such staples as beef and poultry. ‘Now we use only chickens from the Bresse district,’ he said. ‘But they, too, are now being mass-produced, and Mr. Dumaine and I agree that we may some day have to remove chickens from the menu.’ ”

The last poulet de Bresse I tried was in 1959, and it seemed to me much the same product one finds in the ordinary supermarket — plump and tasteless. Feed lot beef, today, is even less attractive than when J. Frank Dobie denounced it in these pages in September, 1960. This all brings me once again to lamb.

How long will lamb continue to preserve its good natural flavor? I believe it will do so indefinitely, and for a very simple reason: it’s an animal that can scrounge and forage for its proper diet so economically, so cheaply, that not even the most energetic adulterator could make a profit by meddling with it. The feedlot shippers and battery chicken breeders would like to have us believe that we are losing our own sense of taste with the passing years. But the fact remains that a slice of lamb is still just as flavorsome to me as it was when I was ten years old.