Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A rural-urban comparison of the chickens-in-the-backyard boomlet

See William Neuman's story in today's New York Times, "Keeping Their Eggs in Their Backyard Nests." It's about the chicken-keeping trend, as manifest in both urban and rural places, and at some points Neuman (or those he interviews for the story) stumbles onto an implicit rural-urban comparison.

One man interviewed is Lloyd Romriell, of Annis, Idaho. Annis, not even a census designated place, is near Rigby, population 2,998, so Romriell represents the rural end of the spectrum. Romriell, who owns a feed store, explains his recent decision to start keeping chickens:
It’s because times are tough. You never know what’s going to happen. ... If you lose your job tomorrow, you’ve still got food. ... I’m not into that organic stuff ... I think people in bigger cities want to see where their food comes from, whereas us out here in the West and in small towns, we know the concept of losing jobs and want to be able to be self-sustained. That’s why I do it.
Another Westerner, Jasmin Middlebos of Spokane, expresses similar motivations for her chicken keeping: desire for self-reliance and an unsettling economic picture.

In Brooklyn, on the other hand, Declan Walsh, 41, has been raising laying hens for several years and he has just invested several hundred dollars to begin raising 49 broilers. As Neuman observes, "[f]or some, especially in cities, where raising chickens has become an emblem of extreme foodie street cred, the interest is spurred by a preference for organic and locally grown foods." Walsh says the broiler hens will cost about $8 each to raise--about four times what a fully prepared chicken costs at some restaurants. Walsh nevertheless defends his decision, noting that while costly, his chickens are sure to taste better.

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