Fowl Play

So the riddle asks, “which came first the chicken or the egg… or the salmonella?” With the recent out break of fowl nastiness, this bird has attracted a lot of attention in the media. As scientists and doctors try and “crack” this case, let’s have a closer look at the origins and problems with chicken farming in its current state.

Raising chickens and other such poultry has been a common practice throughout history. In its earlier stages, it was more of an individual family activity. Families would take their chickens to market to sell, or use them for eggs, meat, feathers and manure, with very little going to waste.

Mass poultry production evolved somewhat quickly in the USA, circa the mid 1920’s. Live poultry trains were developed to transport large numbers of chickens, with each car holding around 4,600 squawking beaks. Eggs laid on route went to feed the train conductors, and everyone was happy (with maybe the exception of the chickens.) The birds were raised by a wide variety of producers and sold to brokers.

Now, of course, back in those days, even the farms with oodles of chickens on them were low security. These birds could roam, and peck, and riot, and live somewhat of a decent life. But somewhere between prohibition and disco, people decided it would be a much better idea to coop the cocks and check the chicks. Someone figured out that chickens would put out faster, and in greater number, if they were kept inside with lights burning through the night. But, as we know, when you put a bunch of mongoose on an island to get rid of snakes, then you have a mongoose issue. Similarly, when you cram a bunch of chickens together in a confined space, you have to pump them full of drugs, stack them on wire, and chop off their peckers (beaks, don’t have such a dirty mind) to keep them “healthy” and peck-proof.

However, even with these arguably cruel and unfortunate precautions, we still manage to have outbreaks of disease, as with the recent case of salmonella spreading cross the country. An investigation this week found the source of the bacteria in two major farm producers’ chicken feed (that is, the mush they have to feed them because they have freak beaks.)

So, if you don’t want to give up your morning chicken and waffles, or your breaded chicken fillet, or your cake, or your french bread, or your creamy dressings, or your egg muffin sandos, what can you do to at least not be a part of this problem? For starters, you can cut back on your daily dose of our feathered friends and all their by-products. Choose vegan once in a while. And when you get tired of that, or if you just can’t stick to it, support your local farmer, and get farm fresh, free range chicken and eggs. Make sure they haven’t been stuck with all kinds of nasty needles. Nobody likes a chicken with track marks. Remember that as consumers we vote with our dollars, and the more you make wise choices, the less you’ll burden our resources. Don’t be a chicken, go organic!

Song of the day: “People Got a Lotta Nerve” by Neko Case.

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