Part 4 – The Life and Times of a Chicken
In trying to understand the current food industry and how it works, taking a look a chicken is a good place to start. In broad strokes, the chicken industry does not paint humans in good light. From the time the egg is hatched, to what happens with the meat, there is so much wrong with the picture. The cost for cheap meat is perhaps astronomically high.
It is not news to many of us that broiler houses are chalked full of mad science and animal cruelty. Chickens have been bred so specifically to grow so fast and with such a large amount of breast meat that their bodies cannot take it. The chickens are often sickly, unable to stand (if they even had enough room), and overloaded on growth hormones. Their living conditions are so bad that people living in nearby towns become ill and ridden with parasites. When it comes time for slaughter, it is done is a most cruel and painful manner. I’ll not go into detail here, as that would distract from the point, but a quick internet search can show you could ever want to know. As you can imagine, chickens that grow so quickly and live so unhappily do not have the best nutritional content.
Why are the chickens treated like this? To make more money. The more chickens squeezed into a tiny space, the more rotations of chick to meat, the more money put in the pocket of the big broiler houses. We also do it to save money. You and I go into supermarkets and look at the pieces of chicken fillet being offered. We choose the cheaper option. Many of us do so because that’s all we can afford.
But nothing in life is free. The cost MUST come from somewhere. If you look at the environment around broiler houses you will see that the environment is definitely paying some of the cost. Chicken manure that gets into the water systems can devastate rivers and oceans, destroying rich biodiversities, amongst other problems. In 2005 avian flu was linked directly to “farming methods with crowded numbers of animals not small spaces” – broilers. Some scientists believe that this could lead to a massive outbreak which could kill more than the Spanish flu in 1918. Creating and storing vaccines have already cost the US government $8 billion of taxpayers money. Human lives, $8 billion, the earth that we live on and live off, is our cheap chicken actually cheap? Is it worth it to save a few dollars and line the pockets of those willing to scorch the earth?
And it doesn’t even end there. Once the chicken has been slaughtered, most are sold as parts. This means that we get only the parts of the chickens we want, and the farmers can sell at a higher price. With the popularity of chicken breast, most of the rest of the chicken goes to waste. There are literal mountains of chicken left behind. Some of this is ground up and made into chicken nuggets and the like. A lot of this is sold to fish farms. Which will, of course stunt their nutritional content too.
So all of this cruelty and destruction for meat that doesn’t feed us well, costs us too much, and goes to waste.
What can we do?
I’m not about to become a vegetarian any time soon. I like meat. I like chicken. A good start is to find out what places treat their chickens well. A happy chicken produces eggs with better flavour. The same is true of their meat. The next step is to choose to respect the animal in front of you. We can learn how to use all of the parts of a chicken, much like our grandparents would have. We can even use the bones for stock. It may be a bit of hassle at first, to learn how to do all of this, but with practice, it will become much easier and quicker.
As for myself, my goal over the next few years with this blog is to create resources for those who are interested to be able to eat well and eat ethically. I will do the research on which places act ethically and publish the list here. I will find and make recipes that aid “nose to tail” eating and beyond. I will also make videos etc. that will teach any techniques required to do this. I believe that there is a lot of hope for our future. I want to be part of building towards that.