Thinking about Chickens

So, we are driving down the road. On our way home from a holiday at the parents' house in western Missouri. Lovely countryside, those Ozarks!

Ok, so we are tooling along I-44, and we pass two semi trucks. They are both hauling chickens. Imagine this: A semi truck, stacked as high as it can be, with crates of chickens. Each chicken crate is about an inch bigger than each chicken. Wire. One could see right in.

These were freak of nature genetically bred oversized birds, too. OK, You know the size of a chicken breast at a restaurant? Think how big that is. Now, think about the last time you were on a farm and saw a real live chicken. Those are NOT the chickens that will yield the big chicken breast that's on your plate. No, in order to get one like that you need genetic mutation chickens. Like the ones in the truck.

These chickens were sick. Patches of featherless skin. Ripped and raw red, pink. White feathers flying at our windshield in the wind. Were the ones on the outside edge going 65 mph the lucky ones, or the ones stacked in the middle, in the dark, with barely enough air to survive the trip to the slaughter house? For that is surely where these poor animals were going. I couldn't decide which birds had it worse. But the all looked so bad.

And I cried, and the kids cried. Yes, I know. There is human suffering in the world, and we all need to be aware of it and do what we can to alleviate it in all its various forms. But part of being human is also treating the animals that are in our care in a humane way.

And after I cried, I thought: Eeeeeeeew! I eat that????? Imagine the stress those birds are under. Does stress leak into their flesh? Does sickness leak into their flesh? Does eating stress and illness cause stress and illness? Can this sort of thing really be good for US?

I've already been working hard on changing my shopping habits. Simpler, more from scratch. As much local and organic as I can manage within my budget. Fresh eggs, that sort of thing.

It will mean less chicken, but suddenly locally farmed free range chickens that have been treated well is very important to me.

There is so much broken with this world, and I can't fix it. But I've got a house full of sick kids here, and the least I can do is ask myself if feeding sick animals to sick kids is going to get us any healthier.

I think I know the answer to that one.


elizabeth said…
Yeah... this is a challenge.

And it can be hard, as the best food for us (organic, local) is often the most expensive.

That said, of course it is better; and for your children, the best.
Paula said…
I agree, the chicken trucks could be better. Especially when the birds are exposed to highway speed winds. But, at least here in Canada, sick birds/animals are NOT taken to the packing plant. They are inspected here at the farm, then inspected again before entering the plant and then random pieces of meat are inspected as it travels through the plant. I know with pigs, the inspectors won't even allow a pig to be "processed" unless it walks in under it's own power, i.e., a sore leg can disqualify it.

I'm all for buying local, it's what keeps our farm going. But one has to be careful making assumptions that the animals are sick. Also, you don't have to be strictly organic -especially if you have a small budget. Talk with your local farmers, even us non-organic ones probably aren't as bad as you may think. There's been a lot of bad press (and PETA lies) and non-organic people get painted with the same brush.

Talk to a farmer, you'd might be surprised how much they care too :)
Amber said…
Stuff like this is why we want our own little farm with animals. Of course, we may become vegitarians at that point, because I can't imagine killing something that I've raised! I'm such a soft touch when it comes to animals.
Veiled Glory said…
Wow, Alana, what a moment! I was eating a chicken thigh while reading that...but it came from a happier chicken, as far as I know.
Paula said…
I forgot to mention that chickens vary in size quite a bit. It depends on what kind they are. I have some in the freezer right now (non-genetically modified) that are the size of small turkeys. It depends on their age and if they are meat birds or just layers.

I don't know about the States, but gmo meat isn't allowed in Canada.
Anonymous said…

Don't know if there is anything near you or not. . . .
Dollymama said…
Have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? I think you would appreciate it.

I know that when we had our back yard chickens and I saw how they thrived on the space, their little community, etc. and also how much personality they had, it really made me sad to think of animals like them being squished up in a smelly chicken barn for their entire lives. All living creatures deserve a humane existence.
Jasmine said…
The sheer horror!That makes me want to go all out halal, in the purest sense of the word!
Anonymous said…
If you want to eat good chicken, raise your own and kill it properly. When killed properly, the meat tastes better. Knock it out and drain the blood.

People are too immune to what it takes to eat their meat these days. If you aren't able to kill your own meat, or the thought of animals dying for you to eat them upsets you, then you likely shouldn't be eating it.
Alana said…
the thought of animals dying for me to eat them doesn't upset me in the least.

What bothers me is animals being mistreated while they live, just because they are destined for the slaughterhouse.

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