Photo by yassan-yukky.

Most Americans wouldn’t consider eating a burger made of chopped-up, unidentified meat that could include, say, monkey or mountain lion. But dorm rooms, group houses, and respectable living rooms across the country are furnished with the wood-based equivalent of mystery meat: dirt-cheap dressers, desks, tables, and cabinets made from chopped-up wood of indeterminate, and potentially troubling, origin.

Particleboard might not be as physically off-putting as pink slime, but the source of its contents can be as hard to trace as the source of an E. coli outbreak. And while the materials in an Ikea dresser won’t make consumers physically sick, the purchaser of these products might well feel queasy. Right now, there’s no way of knowing whether or not that chest of drawers or flimsy bookshelf contains wood from old-growth or illegally logged forests — in other words, whether the product is implicated in deforestation, climate change, and drug smuggling.