Which leads us to the genre you call "supermarket pastoral." What is it exactly?
Well count me in as totally bummed. I purchase free-range eggs because I thought these eggs were laid by hens that were running about free; you know, eating butterflies, worms and such.
"Walking through Whole Foods, I joke in the book, is a literary experience. You need to be a pretty good literary critic, in other words, to figure out what's really being said on these labels. They're written in what I call supermarket pastoral, which is a very persuasive form. I read a lot of labels and I'm still a sucker for it. Free-range chicken, for instance, can mean nothing more than a 20,000-bird shed with a tiny little lawn and a little door that's opened two weeks before the hens are slaughtered. These little yards are purely symbolic. Chickens don't use them because they're too careful. They've never been outside before; there's not enough room for all of them and they're a flock animal. So it's a conceit to appeal to the consumer. When you see "free-range," it's not happening, but if you see "pastured" chicken, which you sometimes will at a farmers market, that's real. And pastured eggs, by the way, are a superior product in every way. I know a farmer in California who grows them. They're $6 a dozen and I consider them worth it."
It's always buged me that most the free range egg cartons are labeled 'vegetarian diet'. How can a chicken run free and not eat bugs? I want the chickens I eat and that lay the eggs I eat on Sunday morning to know the joy of swallowing a a grasshopper. But no... the poor things are caged, i.e, emprisoned. I was fed a crap story what chickens do in their free time. I am so very pissed.