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Reason: You’re known to sometimes tell an audience something they might not want to hear. You told me a couple years ago about the message on the drug war you delivered to students at a conservative, religious university law school. What was your message, why did you deliver it to those particular students, and what was their reaction?
Salatin: It was the law school at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s school in Lynchburg, and now run by his sons. The reason I went out on that limb there was partly penance for my two great aunts who devoted their lives to the Women’s Temperance Union and certainly played a part in creating Prohibition nearly a century ago. They are both deceased now, but I think it’s important to realize that their religious outrage over alcohol created the legal precedent to allow the federal government to come between my lips and my throat. In essence, to tell me what I could and could not ingest.
That such a precedent would morph in our day into illegal raw milk, homemade pickles, and home cured charcuterie certainly never crossed their minds. But this is why we must be very careful when we ask for the government to remedy our outrage. Outrageous behavior, also known as the lunatic fringe, is the seed bed of innovation and creativity. A government that can take away alcohol can also take away heritage food.
The drug war in the America is precisely like prohibition. I’ve never taken drugs and don’t intend to, but I absolutely defend the right of someone to take them if they want. By the same token, I don’t eat McDonald’s food, but I vehemently defend the right of people to eat it. As soon as the government becomes the arbiter, by edict, of what we can and cannot ingest, the frenzy in the marketplace to gain concessionary privileges never ceases. Indeed, the incessant cry to demonize one thing over another, criminalize one food over another, thunders in the ears of politicians as businesses jockey for favors and indulgences from legislative priests.
The moment the government determines that you do not own yourself, that society owns your body, you give up all personal choice and autonomy. You are no longer a citizen, but a slave. Not a person, but a pawn.
Reason: What’s a typical dinner at the Salatin household look like? What’s your favorite meal?
Salatin: We all eat together around a table laden with Teresa’s [Joel's wife] finest. We ask a blessing, pass bowls and platters, and converse on topics of interest. We eat at an appointed time every day to respect Teresa’s time and gift. Most of our food is grown right here on the farm. These are not complex meals, but simple and basic with world-class home grown ingredients.
Perhaps my favorite meal is honey baked chicken, home made applesauce, sweet potato casserole (or butternut squash casserole), sweet pickles, and fresh-picked lettuce with Teresa’s cooked dressing. Yum, yum.
Pork tenderloin, battered and fried, with all the above side dishes, is also great.
All that said, my favorite meal is breakfast. Sausage, eggs, apple juice, raw milk. It doesn’t get any better than that unless you throw in a slice of warm buttered zucchini bread. Yum, yum.
Reason: Have you ever eaten a fast food meal? If so, where? How’d you (dis)like it? Did you ever take your kids to a fast food restaurant? If so, how did they like it?
Salatin: I’ve eaten at Arby’s and Wendy’s, but not McDonald’s or Burger King—at least not in any recent decades of memory. About the only place we’ll go for fast food now is Chipotle or Five Guys Burgers and Fries. You evolve over time. I can tell you that when I’m traveling (which is now a third of the time) I routinely go a day or more without eating. Oh, of course everyone likes fast food. It’s engineered to please our taste buds, kind of like teen sex and inhaling.
Reason: What’s the worst food law in America right now? I know there are many from which to choose.
Salatin: The prohibition on raw milk specifically and direct producer-eater food commerce generally. If I could do one thing and only one thing legislatively for the food system, it would be to create a Constitutional Amendment called the Food Choice Emancipation Proclamation which would guarantee every citizen the inalienable, fundamental right to consume any product of their choice and legalizing the direct unregulated commerce between consenting adults of said product. Right now, farmers can give away raw milk and home made pickles; the prohibition is on sales. What is it about taking money for something that suddenly turns it from a wonderful charitable product into a hazardous substance?
Everywhere I go I meet thousands of farmers ready to grow and process homemade food items for their neighbors and fellow church members. But they can’t due to these prohibitions, epitomized by raw dairy regulations. If this country allowed an opt-out spot for consenting adults to take personal responsibility for the food ingestion, it would unleash an entrepreneurial cottage-based localized tsunami on the marketplace. Wal-Mart would never know what hit it. If the foodies and greenies could only imagine what bottom-up freedom could create, they’d forget their demands for more inspections, more regulations, and more food police and instead campaign for true free markets. We haven’t had free markets in America certainly since Abraham Lincoln started the USDA, but maybe not ever.