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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Chicken: Factory, Pastured, or Organic

There is a great debate about the merits of the three main categories of chicken that are available:
  • Factory Chicken, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation ("CAFO"), or Commercially Produced
  • Pastured Poultry, usually raised by Small Flock Poultry Farmers
  • Organic Chicken (used to be soley available from Small Flockers, but more and more by CAFO commercial chicken factory farms
Click on the image for a full size version.
Many thanks to Murray Stenton, a great graphic artist and cartoonist,
and a friend of Small Flockers everywhere.

CAFO Chicken

The CAFO chicken factory is all about making the maximum possible profit in the shortest possible time, regardless of the consequences.

No Environmental Assessment

 The CAFO chicken factories are easy to spot.  They typically have large chicken factory barns buildings, bigger than football fields, all under one roof.  You will rarely see just one barn on a CAFO farm.  There are usually 6 to 8 barns on each CAFO farm, all the same size, about a football field each.

There is a magical number of chickens that are allowed on a CAFO chicken factory under government regulations.  If you exceed that magical number, you must do an Environmental Assessment before you can build, renovate, or expand that CAFO chicken factory.  Environmental assessments mean public hearings, pesky government technicians who want to ensure the environment isn't damaged, and the alerting of nosy neighbours who always have an opinion on what the CAFO chicken factory should & shouldn't be allowed to do.

Whatever you do, a CAFO chicken factory must avoid an environmental assessment.

That's why the chicken factory will be designed to have 1 chicken less than the magical number of chickens that mandates an environmental assessment.

Air Pollution

There are giant air inlet fans at one end of the chicken factory barns, and exhaust outlets at the other end.  The exhaust air flow runs almost always (24/7/365).  The CAFO chicken factory exhaust air is filled with dust (eg. dry chicken manure particles, bits of feathers, dandruff from 100,000 chickens, toxic and irritating ammonia gas from the chicken's manure decomposition, bacteria, viruses, drug residues, etc.), and lots more.  All of that "crap" is conveniently carried away by the big fans, then the wind; helping make the air inside the chicken factory to be survivable for the birds.

Unfortunately, that dust and vapors can effect people, animals, and the environment who are downwind of that spewing exhaust system.  Studies have shown that everybody downwind in a 10 mile radius (or further) get contaminated with the CAFO crud spewed into the air; possibly or usually including deadly E.coli, Salmonella, Avian Influenza, and other pathogens.  Anybody who lives, works, or passes through that zone of contamination downwind from every CAFO chicken factory may have significant health consequences.

Late Night Dining

The lights inside the barns are kept on for 16 to 18 hrs per day, sometimes longer.  If the lights were turned off, or turned down low, the birds would naturally go to sleep when they became tired.  A sleeping bird isn't eating.  A bird that isn't eating isn't growing as fast as possible.  If the chicken's growth rate is slowed, it takes that much longer for the bird to reach their kill weight, which means the farmer can't raise as many flocks in the year, which costs the farmer lost revenue.

The lights are kept blazing well past the bird's natural bed time.  How do you feel, how do your kids perform when they don't get their proper sleep. It's the same for chickens, except they are forced to do it every day for their entire lives.

Sickness and Death

The animals are all genetically identical, so if one gets ill, likely all of them will quickly get ill from the same germ.  The chickens live 24/7 for their entire lives standing on or laying down on their own filth, unable to escape.  All of that manure is rotting, producing ammonia gas and other by-products that burn their eyes and lungs.

To keep the birds alive and maximize CAFO profits in spite of the terrible CAFO chicken factory conditions, the birds are usually fed a continuous diet of antibiotics, dietary supplements, and secret potions. There are significant consequences for the animals from the chemical soup that is fed to these trapped birds, as well as the meat quality that eventually is produced as human food.  The CAFO witch's brew is added directly to the chicken's feed and/or water, so no chicken can escape being medicated.

Some of the medicines and antibiotics used on CAFO chicken factories are important for human health, and are supposed to be reserved for exclusive use by medical doctors to cure human disease.  Many CAFO chicken factories ignore polite requests to refrain from using antibiotics that are important to humans.  Nobody knows for sure, but some CAFO chicken factories may even use banned or illegal substances if they believe it will put an extra dollar in their pocket.

The antibiotics tend to create Superbugs, bacteria with resistance to 1 or more antibiotics

In spite of (or because of) the toxic tonics fed to the chickens, a significant portion of the birds are sick, disabled, or die from the poor living conditions in the CAFO chicken factory barn.  More birds yet will get condemned at the slaughter plant as being unfit for human food.  The CAFO chicken factory sees these deaths and diseases as a necessary evil, well worth the $ cost and inconvenience, as long as the owners achieve their premium profits.

I'll stop there.  There is a lot more, but I think you get the point.

Pastured Poultry

Pastured poultry are chickens that live most of their lives on live, green, lush grasses growing under the sun, winds, and rain on a real, dirt farm.

Pastured poultry is all about the chickens having a wonderful live each and every day, except the last day (ie. the day they go to slaughter).  All their lives, even on slaughter day, the chickens are treated with dignity, respect, and the best possible care until the very last moment, then they are killed humanely so they can fulfill their life purpose.

Those who practice and/or eat Pastured Poultry believe that birds which are happy and well cared for will have the best health possible, and will subsequently produce the best tasting, most nutritious meats and eggs.

With the sun, wind, and rain the grass grows vigorously, with the bugs, earthworms and others that live in the lucious pasture grasses will supply the chickens with 40% of their nutrition.  The balance of the feed is normal commercial chicken feed.

Every morning the cages that protect the chickens from predators are moved forward onto clean, fresh grass; similar to changing the diapers on each chicken.  This provides fresh food source and a clean environment, thereby minimizing the risk of disease or malnutrition.

If the feed and the grasses are so certified, this same system can be used to produce organic chicken.

Organic Chicken

More and more each month, Big Ag. and Big Food seize tighter and tighter control over the organic standard, rules, enforcement, auditing, interpretations, and usage.  Slow but sure, this designation is being turned and twisted before our eyes into another mechanism to control the people's food, and provide higher profits and lower risk to those who manipulate and hide behind the organic designation.

This propaganda and mirage of good and wholesome foods has become a symbol for elitism, high food prices, and unaffordability.  Those who tirelessly struggled for decades, slaving for the ideals behind organic food have been swept away by corporate expediency, mutation, and an organic coup d'├ętat.

Still some worship at the organic alter, unaware of the insidious changes and slight of hand that have occurred.  Hopefully they will soon come to realize that they and the organic movement have been highjacked and compromised.

Until that day arrives, we have a hollowed out concept that hardly lives up to the original ideals.

In spite of this, some aspects of organic are still better that the CAFO chicken factories.

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