Thursday, August 18, 2011

Will there ever be an end to the horrors of our food industry?

Let me start this post on a positive note because it won't end that way.

First, we really enjoyed seeing everyone at the Market this past Saturday.  It seems like we haven't been there in ages, and it was nice to be back.  I have missed the patrons and the other vendors.  Not to mention, we had a glorious rain the night before and it had continued into the morning.  It delayed our arrival, but the change in the weather was amazing.  There is nothing like the smell of a nice rain, cleaning up the outdoors and leaving everything fresh.  Add the cooler temperatures, and I can't think of a nicer break from our day-to-day in the extreme heat.

I also have to share with you the sweetest moment that we witnessed between a Mother and her son.  We were still experiencing a light mist, and the parking lot was full of puddles.  It was still early, and the duo removed their shoes, rolled up their pants legs, and proceeded to stomp through the water.  The little guy was only about two years old, and he was a little skeptical to follow his Mom, but she made it look like so much fun that he couldn't resist.  I wish I had a picture to share because it was so perfect.  If you have little ones, take a play from her playbook because it was something that he really enjoyed.  It didn't take him long and he was jumping and giggling as he realized he could make a really big splash in those puddles.  It was just too cute for words.

Back to the point of the post.  I had a nice couple interested in fresh eggs.  They came up to our booth, and were involved in a pretty serious conversation.  After asking how they were doing, we learned that he is not a big egg eater, and really not interested in eating chicken at all.  His major concern was one that we have never been asked about before.  I will admit that it stumped me at first because I didn't really understand where he was coming from. 

He wanted to know about the hatchery that our chickens came from.  I thought he was interested in having a few chickens of his own, and freely shared what I know about the hatchery that we used, along with another one that I know of, and the local feed stores that sell chicks.  He quickly stopped me, and explained that he didn't want to buy chicks at all.  I am sure at this point I was looking pretty confused.  He then explained his concern was more for how the hatchery handles the rooster chicks as they are hatched?

When we ordered our chicks, we ordered hens only.  Chicks are purchased in lots of 25, and you can order hens only or straight run.  Straight run means that they ship them in the order that they are hatched, and they aren't sexed prior to shipment.  We did not want this because I did not want to deal with roosters.  They did throw in a few extra chicks with our order, and two of them were roosters.  This was a little irritating to me, because at about four months of age, they started crowing.  I then found homes for my guys, and they were nice beautiful birds. 

At this time, my thought process went like this...Either you keep them, and you have fertilized eggs, or I felt like most of these guys end up on the plate.  In my mind, this is the plight of the rooster.  He either gets a flock of hens or the plate.  This seemed like a reasonable thought process to me.  I prefer to have chicken that has been raised in a natural, healthy manner that includes good animal husbandry.  To me, this makes for a healthier chicken. Although, I am not willing to process my own birds, and that left this option out for me.  Therefore, I found them their own flocks, and you can read about that experience here:

Tale of two Roosters 

This gentleman shared some gruesome information that he had seen regarding male chicks the day they are hatched in the big commercial hatcheries.  I was shocked by his statements, but as with most things I have discovered in our nations food industry, I didn't doubt what he was saying.  This week, I spent some time doing a little research on the subject.  I am not including links here because it is pretty horrific.  If you are interested, just ask Google the question, and get ready for the answers. 

There are a number of organizations that have information posted regarding this topic.  There are also a lot of under-cover videos available on YouTube, if you are brave enough.  I will say that most of what I saw seem to be chicks used in commercial egg production.  You know, the cute yellow ones that are all fluffy and sweet.  These would be your Leghorn variety.  They are the hens that lay the white eggs, and they are not meant for meat at all.  These chickens are light weight and all about eggs.  I never really thought about the Leghorn rooster.  These guys are lucky if they get a flock of their own and they would never end up on the plate.  Not to be rude, but there is not enough there for a meal.

I hope Lola is not reading this.

The commercial fryer industry is not really included in this because those birds are brought to weight so fast and in such horrific conditions, that sex doesn't matter.  Male or female, it is all about the weight and the size of the breasts with these guys.  These producers are calculating in days from hatch to processing.

I am not really sure where to go from here with this bit of information.  There are those that feel that the answer to these practices, is to boycott the whole industry.  No eggs and no chicken.  I have met a number of vegans at market, and I commend them for the stand that they take on animal rights.  This is an individual decision, and in numbers will create an impact.  Likewise, in numbers, those that choose to eat eggs and meat can also create an impact by choosing to spend their money wisely.  The food industry, as a whole, could do a much better job of keeping these animals healthier by providing better living conditions and better processing practices.

I also have to look at the other side of the coin.  There are millions and millions of people to be fed in this country.  If I try really hard, I can see the thought processes that went into changing the way we grow and raise our food.  We used to have people starving in large numbers.  Our Agriculture Department wanted more food, cheaper.  No one hungry is a noble cause, but what has the cost been?  Not only the quality of food we consume, but also our health.  With a lack of food, this country would experience dire conditions that none of us want to see.

It is obvious that we need to see changes, and I think that there are a number of ways to promote that.  The first step is education.  We tend to think that our food comes from the nearest grocery store or restaurant, and most of us don't think past that.  With that knowledge, then comes the responsibility of the consumer to make individual changes.  That is left to each of us to decide.

Guy - who ever you are...thank you for the information.  I would love to talk with you more, and hope to see you at Market again.

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