Jailhouse Grub

Could you feed your family a wholesome meal of breaded chicken thigh-meat nuggets for 15 cents a portion? You could if they were all in prison.

Slate Video’s Conventional Wisdom report this week visits a trade show for the prison-food industry. It’s an eye-opening look at some of the people and companies that feed our community’s inmates.

It doesn’t seem so easy to break into the business. Besides providing inexpensive food that can be prepared for hundreds of inmates at once, your products can’t have the ability to be made into weapons. So no aluminum trays, no open deep-fryers, and, above all, no sticks in your corn dogs.

Now, we knew that inmates weren’t eating fresh, local, sustainable cuisine. It’s probably no suprise that by using grade-B ingredients—increasingly from China because, as one convention exhibitor informs us, “the labor cost is next to nothing, you know”—administrators feed prisoners on less than $3 per day.

Still, inmates may be eating better than our kids according to another participant, who says, “The prison system’s nutritional requirements are a lot higher than our school systems’.”

But the real question is, when do they put the saltpeter in, at the prison or at the manufacturer? Or is that a myth?