Book Review: Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal

War Stories From The Local Food Front

This book is Joel Salatin's story of his battles with federal, state and local laws that make it difficult for a small, natural farmer to make a living.  He really ties the strings together to show that "big agra" controls the law makers, the code enforcement, and the researchers.

It's amazing how seemingly arbitrary rules and regulations can have such a far reaching effect.  For instance...  if you own a cow, and take it to a "custom" slaughterhouse, they can butcher it, package it up, and deliver it back to you to eat, share with friends, whatever you want to do.  No federal inspections are necessary.  Alternatively, you can butcher your own cow on your own property, and eat it or give it away.  But let's say you have enough beef in the freezer...  You have an extra cow and could use some extra money.  Can you butcher it on your own property to sell?  Not under any circumstances.  Can you take it to the uninspected "custom" slaughterhouse to have it packaged for sale?  Nope.  Can you get it slaughtered and butchered at an inspected slaughterhouse along with 1,000 other cows from parts unknown?  Yep.  But then can you sell it at your front yard produce stand?  Nope.  It's a manufactured item and you're zoned agricultural and you can only sell items produced on your farm.  If it is truly a concern for food safety, why is anyone aloud to eat uninspected beef?  In reality, the purpose is to make it difficult and expensive to avoid mass produced, feedlot finished beef from the major suppliers.

How about this...  It's unsafe for children to operate machinery, so there are child labor laws to address it.  You can't hire your neighbor's 14 year old kid to gut and butcher your chickens because it is dangerous.  But that same kid can stalk the woods with a 12 gauge shotgun and gut and butcher his own deer.  Or you can pay your own kid to do the chickens... so is it too dangerous for a 14 year old kid or not?  What about that kid's older brother?  The 16 year old neighbor's kid can get a driver's license and drive a car on the interstate at 70 miles an hour in heavy traffic with hundreds of other cars also going 70 miles an hour.  But you can't hire him to drive your old farm truck at 5 miles an hour towing a hay trailer.  It's too dangerous they say.  But you can hire your own kid to do it.  See how ridiculous it is?

Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal should be required reading for every elected office holder.  I have to believe that most of them truly think they are doing the right thing, but they just don't have any context or common sense with which to compare.  If you are at all interested in natural or "alternative" foods, it is worth it for you to read as well.  Joel is a good story teller and mixes humor in with the facts to keep it flowing.


  1. Thanks for the great review!! Happy New Year! :)

  2. Sheri, thanks for all the work that your family is doing! I hope to get out to the farm and take a look around this spring.

  3. Thanks for all you do. Happy New Year and may 2012 be your best year ever!


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