Thursday, December 18, 2008

dirty chickens

Well, the Europeans don't want to eat them, and, you know, I can't much blame them either. The idea, once you sit down and think about it is, well, its not very appetizing. In fact its sort of repugnant, repellent, maybe even nauseating.

However, I think there's a saying that covers it. Maybe its 'out of sight, out of mind' or is that, the less I know, the better it seems.' or maybe. 'to the ignorant all things are good.' (you know I'm just making these up). but apparently someone in our government (or is that our food industry?), must think this is the best policy because there's not much discussion going on.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

I'm talking about, of course, chickens.

The chickens we eat. We're talking about dirty chickens. Filthy chickens.

And anyone that's been around a chicken knows that chickens aren’t real big on personal hygiene. In fact, it takes special effort to keep this bird with its long time symbiotic relationship with people, clean.

As someone who has several hundred chickens on his farm, I know. Chickens aren’t concerned about keeping their living quarters clean. To them their is no difference between were they eat, sleep, drink or use the facilities. To them, the facilities are just whereever they might be standing when the urge strikes.

And from there they will reach down and peck and scratch and eat some more. Walking from one end of their available space to the other. Stomping through the 'chicken litter’ (that’s what the industry calls it). They don’t seem to notice if they are knee deep in it. If its encrusted on their feet, their legs. From one end of their what are considered delicious bodies to the other.

This means, if you haven't figured it out by now, that its up to the human part of the chicken/human partnership to do the cleaning.

And if they don’t, if people don't worry about cleaning chicken houses or for that matter, the chickens as they are being butchered in preparation to being made in to food. Well, well it just isn't very nice.

In other words if the humans fall down on their end cut back on the cleaning there is quickly a sanitation problem. A problem of sloth and neglect.

Dirty chickens.

And in a corporate setting, where ultimately everything is decided by the bottom line.

Where hiring extra help to wash and clean means more costs.

Meaning less profits.

Where the concern is eliminating human labor, not adding it. Well, I'm sure you get the idea.

And that’s where we came in.

It seems the American food industry has a solution that the European public doesn't much approve of.

The American food industry has decided that, instead of keeping the chickens we're going to eat really, really clean (which means hiring more help, which means spending more money, which means raising costs, which means reducing profits) they’ve decided its ok, its hunkydory to slack on the cleaning end of the equation if they are willing to come in on the chemical end

In other words, its just fine if the birds are dirty if we soak them in chemicals or nuke them with irradiation and by doing so, kill off the disease causing organisms.

Another way of saying this, Instead of keeping our friends and companions and meal ticket the chickens very clean. Instead of scrubbing the chickens down and removing the chicken feces that can't help but naturally get between their toes, Instead of hiring people to clean up these birds that we're getting ready to eat what we do is

after taking the chickens out of their tightly filled cages once we ship them to the killing factory where they are quickly killed, and the feathers ripped off the body, and once the carcass has been cut opened and butchered.

Then, that's when their bodies are dumped in a vat of chlorine solution.

And left to sit there until the bacteria and germs have been killed (and in the process the chicken flesh has absorbed this cleaning, sanitizing chemical).

Then the chickens are removed from this vat of poison and the chicken is turned into those famous nuggets or cut into parts or packaged whole and shipped off to your neighborhood grocery store.

And that’s where the American public comes in. They get their chicken maybe a little contaminated by puss and feces. but its safe puss and feces. Because of the Chloride the pathogens are dead.

And that’s where the Europeans come in.

Our chicken raising corporations would like to sell their chickens to Europe. But the Europeans don’t want to buy it.

They don't like their food soaking in chlorine. In fact, they have decided that serving chicken soaked chlorine is illegal.

If you want to sell chickens in Europe, they say, you have to raise them in a clean habitat. And when they are butchered there has to be an inspector to make sure the meat is clean. No puss, no disease, no feces.

Their answer:, keep the chickens clean, and keeping the butcher shop clean. And have inspectors there to make sure the public doesn’t get tainted meat.

Simple enough?

Well, the American chicken industry says ‘not really.’

It means instead of huge, huge, food producing factories (let's don't call those things farms). where the eggs are hatched in monster incubators and the day old chicks are trucked out to massive chicken raising houses. And fed a antibiotic laced formula (when you stuff chickens in tight together without there mothers or enough living space where they get regular exercise they need a regular dose of antibiotics just to make it through their short lives.

And here's a side fact. Just how short are the lives of those chickens that go into making the chicken pieces (very few chickens are cooked whole these days) you see in the grocery store?

I bet you don't believe the answer!

Four weeks. From the time the chick hatches from her egg until the time she is being quickly run though the conveyor belt at some chicken processing factory is four weeks.

From hatched egg to almost full grown in just four weeks.

So, naturally our food industry doesn't want you to come down with some horrible disease from eating their dirty product.

And their answer?

Dunk it in Chlorine.

And the Europeans?

They say "We don't want to eat dirty chickens, we don't want to eat chicken feces even if the germs in it have been killed.

'Our solution." they say. "let's don't raise dirty chickens. Let's keep our chickens clean. Let's keep the places we kill and butcher our food clean.

"Let's hire people to inspect the farms and butchers and slaughter yards.

"Yes, we know this means that we can run our farms like factories. And we have to slow down the process of killing and cutting up the birds.

"but our food is worth it."

And you know, I think my food is worth it too.

In fact, I do mind.

I don't like the idea of eating puss and feces even if the bacteria in it has been killed by dunking it in a cleaning agent. the idea of eating dirty (but safe) food is repugnant.

jeeez! you'd think that would be just common sense.

And you know, the same goes for irradiating my food.

Why don't we just solve this problem, not with some alleged scientific quick fix. Why don't we just go for the common sense solution.

slow down and keep our chickens clean, keep the places we raise our chickens clean. And when it comes time to take the chicken's life so we can eat their bodies, lets do it in a clean, sanitary place.

And let's hire some inspectors to make sure all of this happens.

I vote for clean food.