I want to buy my chicken from Hiatt's Pork and Poultry at the Farmer's Market but I stopped. It is free range and naturally raised, it tastes GREAT, but I wouldn't buy it. At one point I was not so sure I could keep buying my eggs and cheese there either...this is why:
A few weeks ago I went to the market and bought cheese from the Hiatt's booth. The gentleman who waited on me was very pleasant, patient and courteous. This man gave excellent customer service with one exception: his dirty hands. He took my cheese out of the plastic bag to cut it in half per my request without washing his hands. Also without washing he took my money, gave me change and handed me back the cheese. I worked in a deli a jillion years ago but I would imagine food safety processes are all the same...money and food should not be handled with the same bare (or gloved) hands. I almost didn't buy the cheese, but I figured I could pop it in the freezer overnight to kill any extra bacteria. I realized that everything in the case could have been handled and packaged like this- that not seeing it didn't mean it was done differently.
I used to buy their chicken- big gorgeous chicken breasts, deliciously succulent chicken apple sausage and Thanksgiving turkeys. I stopped buying them after watching several times as a variety of employees handled my chicken barehanded, then my money, then the outside of the chicken bag all without washing or using gloves, wax tissues or anything at all. I was grossed out by the dirty slimy scales with a variety of chicken juice marinating there all day long.
I was too 'chicken' to confront them then, but I did call them to discuss it today. The lady told me to call back after six o'clock when someone would be there. I wish they had an email address or some way for me to all during the day to encourage them to tighten up their food handling practices. I want to buy from them-- I want to buy more chicken, cheese and eggs from them because what they are doing well is so important and special!
I know salmonella and chicken love each other. I work really hard at home to respect bacteria and not give it a good place to hang out. I plate my meat in the fridge so juices don't wander over something else. I wipe down my counters with bleach, I do not use my main cutting board for raw meat and I wash my hands well before touching anything else after handling meat and poultry.
Hiatt's, please tidy up for me, even just for me! I love what you do and want to encourage you. I want to give you my money and support the free range,all natural and hormone free work you do that so so special. Will you help me help you help me eat more chicken?
UPDATE: I talked to Catherine at the Hiatt's counter yesterday. She was very helpful and said someone else had complained too. She said they had been overhauling their food safety and she was now trained and training the other employees. She said she even had a title "Food Safety Manager". I talked with her openly about Cheese Man and the scales. Catherine was wonderfully through in explaining to me what they were doing now and what she was teaching to everyone else. The wipe their hands with a bleach rag. They are using more care in retrieving items from the case and bagging them. I felt a lot more confident and even bought their ridiculously good chicken apple sausage. I love being able to touch the person who made the food...and knowing they are always improving how they do business. Thank you Hiatt's, for helping me buy more chicken from you...keep up the clean and tidy work!