Little A Versus the Most Expensive Chicken in the World

"You're dead meat," she said.  And she meant it. 
        In a desire to expand Little A's food repertoire, Z and I recently decided to add chicken to her diet.  A combination of factors including Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, guilt over my inability to breastfeed, an episode of Oprah I saw years ago, and our continuing quest to treat Little A like she's the kid in The Golden Child contributed to our decision that the chicken we fed her had to be blessed by the Dalai Lama or--in the event that he was unavailable--be purchased from the Mount Zion of healthy eating:

Image borrowed from

        I am not sure how widespread Whole Foods is.  I could check, but I just don't feel like it.  If you do not have this grocery store near you, it is the love child an organic farm and a yoga studio would make if that child was a store.  It makes Trader Joe's look like the Wal-Mart of conscious consumerism.  It is basically everything pretentious about food that you can possibly gather under one roof.  For just three monthly installments of a gazillion dollars and the price of your first-born child, you can purchase vegan banana muffins, locally grown kale, stainless steel baby bottles, and two days' worth of groceries.   

        Don't get me wrong: I love the products and mission of Whole foods.  I admire the hand-lettered signs and the fact that the produce department utilizes better interior decorating than my entire house.  During my pre-baby glory days when I had a steady income, a sense of style, and the time to read up on what parabens are, I stopped in on occasion and bought a half pound of organic, gluten-free, quinoa and lentil something-or-other from the deli and savored every last lentil.

        These days, however, Z and I feel like homeless people in a Chanel store whenever we walk through the doors of our local Whole Foods.  This is because five out of seven days of the week we eat frozen food for dinner.  Frozen chicken breasts, frozen pasta, frozen vegetables, frozen rice...anything that fits into my three-step meal preparation strategy will do:

           Step One: Open box or bag of pre-prepared food.

        Step Two: Heat pre-prepared food.

        Step Three: Serve.

The other two days of the week are a.) Chipotle and b.) leftovers from Chipotle.  Chipotle may actually be the closest we get to Whole Foods caliber these days because they are a somewhat socially conscious fast food restaurant.

        "If you are willing to eat flash-frozen food despite its sodium and plastic packaging and ingredients with more than fifteen letters, why does the baby get Whole Foods chicken?" you may wonder.  Because there is still hope for her.  We may be addicted to carcinogenic entrees, but the baby has a fighting chance at a diet intended for human beings, and we would like to nurture that.

       So back to this chicken.

       We planned our Saturday afternoon around a trip to Whole Foods, which I had determined to be the Holy Grail of poultry.  Of course, the instant we parked the car in front of the store, Little A wanted to be fed.  That poses a sticky situation for me because she is a bottle-fed baby.  For reasons outlined in a previous post, I am always timid about feeding Little A in public.  There is a lot of judgement out there when it comes to what and how you feed your baby. Combine that with a store that sells thirty dollar organic cotton onesies and customers who stroll around with babies snuggled in flowing wrap-around slings like the ones women in remote Andes villages wear but actually cost more than a semester at a community college...and you have a very uncomfortable experience.

Image borrowed from

        I suggested we feed the baby in the car and then go inside.  "Feeding her a bottle of formula in that store is like sitting on a stationary bike in a 24 Hour Fitness and smoking a cigar," I explained.  "There is bound to be at least one woman in there who would argue it's worse."

        "How do they know what's in that bottle?  For all they know, it's breast milk," my husband pointed out.

        "They don't just judge the food; they judge the delivery system."

        "Pull your shirt over her head and feed her a bottle underneath," he countered.  We both paused to consider the logistics of doing that.  "Or," he continued, "how about we feed our baby however we damn well please, and if anyone says anything, we --"

        "--tell them to go to Hell?" I interjected, eyebrow raised.  This was pretty aggressive for Z.  I was impressed.

        "--tell them it is breast milk we purchased from a temple of lactating mothers on top of a mountain somewhere far away.  It can only be obtained by a sherpa who makes the trek up the mountain daily and then Fed Exes it to families overnight."

        "That's even better," I nodded.  "And the baby is adopted.  If you drop that one on them, it just messes with their entire mainframe.  They don't know what to do.  She's far better looking than either of us, so it's believable."


        We shook on it, mixed up a bottle, and headed inside.

        The meat department was in the back of the store.  Standing before the gleaming refrigerated glass, we studied an array of meats laid out like diamond rings at Tiffany's.  As customers contemplated engagements with slabs of beef and poultry, the butcher behind the glass moved patiently between them, answering their questions, gathering intimate details about their culinary habits, and wrapping their packages with care.

        "Where did this chicken come from?" a woman wearing what can best be described as a bathing suit cover-up and a large, floppy sun hat asked while pointing to a breast of chicken that looked remarkably similar to every other breast of chicken in the refrigerated case.  "This one, here," she elaborated, tapping a manicured fingernail on the glass.

        And this was where we were completely blown away: The butcher had an answer.  And it wasn't like a "That is a Foster Farms chicken, Ma'am.  It comes from Foster Farms.  Have you seen the commercials?"  It was more like "That chicken comes from a small organic farm in Modesto, California, population 203,547.  He was fed mixed greens salad, sunflower seeds, lentils, and fairy dust every day.  On Sundays he liked to play shuffleboard.  He lived a happy life."  Okay, maybe that's taking it a little far, but I swear it was close.  It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from the show Portlandia.  Except it was really happening in front of me.

        "Which one should we get?" Z asked me, scanning the glass case.

        Whole Foods uses a 1-5 rating system for its meat.  It's all a blur for me now, but it went something like this:

Chicken Chart

        Those of you who have a child or at least a prized pet will probably understand the thinking that follows.  For any baby product imaginable, there are always at least five different brands/versions available on the market.  I remember the day Z and I went to the store to register for our baby shower and spent a half an hour just standing in the diaper aisle of Babies R Us, mouths agape, completely incapable of making a decision on which box of diapers to scan.  A nice man shopping with his toddler came over, gently removed the scanner from my hand, and zapped a few boxes for us.

         What we learned that day was the Goldilocks Rule for Baby Products.  You will want to buy the cheapest version of a baby product with all of your soul, but you will not buy it because you are afraid that it may kill your baby or at the least get you reported for child neglect.  However, you also never buy the most expensive version of a baby product because that's just ostentatious and will likely cause your baby to lose friends.  The best choice always lies somewhere in between. 

        So we bought three breasts of number three.

        We figured after all of the effort, everyone deserved to eat some of this miraculous poultry.  I won't tell you what we paid for it because it is just plain embarrassing.

        When we got home, I referred to my baby cookbook to determine the best way to prepare chicken puree for Little A.  I'll spare you the details.  Let's just say it exceeded my three-step program by a notch or two.  And just ask me what Little A did with her chicken.  Just ask.

       While I was typing this, the baby ate a ball of lint and a chunk of styrofoam with relish.        

         Instead of taking this personally, I will close with a visual that best explains what I have surmised about Little A's eating preferences.  My data reveals that our best course of action is to get Chipotle and drop parts of it on the floor for the baby.  Everybody wins.  

Want to watch that hilarious clip from Portlandia I referenced?  Here it is.  :)

Z and I are actually very impressed with the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards Whole Foods uses in its meat department.  You can read the details about this healthy and humane program here:

Finally, if you are interested in the directions for making your own chicken puree so that your baby can gag out of disgust and spit it all out, here is an excellent source.  To be fair, this blog has fantastic recipes for all sorts of ingredients.


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