Having spent a year in Japan, in an almost insanely foodie-focused city (Kyoto), I've learned some things that change the way I think about these problems. I agree with almost everything that's been said thus far; I'd just like to add a few notes.
1. The most disturbing thing I've seen lately is the official statement that there is no known evidence to suggest that organic or free-range chicken is in any way healthier (w/r/t salmonellas in particular) than ordinary mass-produced. What does this mean, precisely? Well, when you dig down, you find some things:
A. The studies that have been done on a significant scale, with no exceptions that I know of, have simply assumed that everything labeled "organic" or "free-range" was equivalent. This is valid, actually: if you're trying to instruct the consumer, you want him or her to know what that label means. But the real question is not what the label means, it's whether salmonellas and other serious contaminants are increased (in whatever sense) by mass-production practices. And the studies have made no attempt to investigate this. So we have no evidence about the actual question.
B. Which means, of course, that the statement is true: there is no such evidence. Which doesn't mean that mass-production farming is safe or wise or anything of the kind, only that it hasn't been studied.
C. Why hasn't it been studied? Well, who would finance such a study? And what would be the various control groups?
D. And why does this lead to the conclusion, quoted in various places around the web, that salmonella is an intrinsic part of the chicken's physiology and cannot be eradicated in food? Shouldn't the fact that Japan, for example, has essentially eradicated it in the food supply, be indicative here?
E. Since "organic" and "free-range" basically mean nothing consistent, sure, it's quite true that they also mean nothing consistent as regards contaminants. So what? That tells us what we already knew: the terms mean nothing consistent. It tells us nothing about whether better practices might not contain and control these diseases.
F. A truly sick thing is a suggestion, from some federal agency or other (I forget which). The current breeding cycle of chickens, and the breeds from which they started, produce market weights around 4.5 pounds in about 4-6 weeks, as opposed to the old days when you needed twice that time to get 3 pounds. Tasted better, of course, but who cares? Okay, but the problem is that now your chickens come to market with the pores in their bones open, which means that when you roast them the blood is liable to pool at the knuckles, making the joints bloody well above safe temperatures (i.e. well above 170F, even as high as 185F depending on cooking method). So the suggestion? Convince the customers that bloody chicken is a good thing --- it worked with beef, didn't it? I call that sick, I don't know about you.
2. The cutting-board running battle (plastic/rubber vs. wood) really tells us only one thing: hygiene inspectors and the rules they live by are raving b----s--t. Somebody decided that it was just common sense that rubber was better than wood on the hygiene front, and now many jurisdictions ban wooden cutting boards in professional kitchens. The fact that in this case there HAVE been studies, and they have shown precisely the reverse (no, wood is not magic, but it is significantly superior in this regard), has changed nothing. Many jurisdictions also ban wooden handles for knives and other tools. Why? Hygiene. Isn't that obvious? Sure, scientific studies have invalidated this obvious conclusion, but that's no reason to change practices.
3. In Japan, when you see fish labeled "for sashimi" it usually refers to a cut. Sometimes, it means that the fish has not been previously frozen for a long time, if it's a fish that suffers when so treated. It doesn't mean "really, really fresh." Why? Because ALL fish is very, very fresh. That's a given. If it's not fresh, you throw it away: it's not food. (Bear in mind that many fish (e.g. tuna) flash-frozen deeply at sea is fresh: it doesn't suffer a lot from the treatment, and it comes to you pretty much as fresh as at sea.) So how come when you see "sashimi-grade" here, that means "really fresh"? Because most of what you get is not fresh, and in fact not food by Japanese standards. Fair enough, they pay more, right? Well, no. Actually, fish is about 1/2 to 1/3 the US market price, across the board, for good quality. You can go up-market as high as you like, of course, but a $6 whole sea bass (about 1.5 kilos) is impeccably fresh. Good luck finding that in Boston, for example.
So what do we conclude? Americans have learned that fresh doesn't matter. Season doesn't matter. What matters is that what I want for my dinner tonight is available now. Okay, fair enough I guess, but in the 1970s or 80s the trade-off was that you got the stuff cheap. Chicken and fish were cheap, albeit not of great quality. Now it's expensive and of the same or worse quality. The fact that people in many large, industrialized countries are not facing the same situation tells us something: it tells us somebody is making a lot of money on this. Who?
Well, the oil companies, #1. Because in order to make the system work as currently structured, everything has to be shipped back and forth across the country. And there are so many others. We've got a system in which there are zillions of middlemen and everyone at the ends is suffering. But nobody knows this, because we've been well trained to think that if we pay a bit (or a lot) more we get the good stuff and it's wonderful. Frankly, a top-grade organic, free-range chicken from Whole Foods is pretty mediocre. The chicken bars I frequented in Kyoto wouldn't have served that stuff, or at best they'd have apologized a lot. But because it's priced high, and it's got those sexy labels "organic, free-range, cage-free," and because it is in fact better than the dog food Frank Perdue serves up, we think we're getting just as good as it's possible to get in the real world.
So everyone's happy: the rich foodie idiots think they're eating wonderfully; the rich eco-green-types think they're saving the planet by dumping fuel to move "organic" foods around the globe; the rich corporations get richer; the ordinary person can buy anything right now and it's almost affordable so he or she can pretend that this is a wealthy middle-class lifestyle; and the farmer who's willing can buy into a conglomerate and get handouts for maltreating foodstuffs. Who loses? Sure, we all lose, but if we all lose together we just call the glass half-full and like good Americans tell ourselves that it's okay.
But don't worry. If we all listen to Alice Waters, we'll all set up cottage gardens and grow everything ourselves. Sure, we'll have to quit our jobs, but that's fine because we're all wealthy white people anyway and can afford to have poor brown people do the work for us, right?
Okay, rant off....