The principle of this so-called animal science is derived from the industrial version of efficiency. The designers of animal factories appear to have had in mind the example of concentration camps or prisons, the aim of which is to house and feed the greatest numbers in the smallest space at the least expense of money, labor, and attention. To subject innocent creatures to such treatment has long been recognized as heartless. Animal factories make an economic virtue of heartlessness toward domestic animals, to which we humans owe instead a large debt of respect and gratitude.
—Wendell Berry, Stupidity in Concentration
The factory farmed poultry industry is worse off than any other CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) in America. 7 billion chickens are processed for consumption every year in the United States alone. At any given time, up to 40,000 birds are crammed tightly into a single shed resulting in disease, increased susceptibility to infection, immobility, sleep deprivation, and frustration.
These chickens are pumped full of grains (never getting the chance to enjoy their natural diet of bugs and grass) for their entire lives and grow so abnormally large that their legs often give out and break under the extreme load. They’re fed a constant stream of preventative antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection and are kept in artificially lighted sheds for 20 hours each day to keep them awake and eating for unnatural amounts of time.
But wait – it gets worse.
The USDA will soon allow for chickens to be shipped to China to be processed (killed, gutted, and prepared for human consumption) – and then shipped back to the states to be sold to you and your family in stores. According to this article from Nation of Change,
This arrangement is especially disturbing given China’s subpar food safety record and the fact that there are no plans to station on-site USDA inspectors at Chinese plants. Also, American consumers won’t know which brands of chicken are processed in China because there’s no requirement to label it as such.
As horrific and hazardous as it is, this news really isn’t all that surprising. For decades, we as a nation have turned a blind eye to the way that chickens are “farmed” right here in the United States. And we’re about to do the same in regards to how they’re prepared for us to consume.
So How Does This Affect Me?
If the conditions described above weren’t enough to convince you of just how terrible the chicken industry really is, please continue on.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, chicken has caused more food borne illness outbreaks, hospitalizations, and deaths between 1998 and 2010 than any other meat in the American food supply.
In addition, the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms is contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are becoming increasingly difficult to treat in humans. According to the CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations,
Many of the bacteria found on livestock (such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter) can cause food-borne disease in humans. Furthermore, recent evidence strongly suggests that some methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and uropathogenic E. coli infections may also be caused by animal sources. These pathogens collectively cause tens of millions of infections and many thousands of hospitalizations and deaths every year.
What Am I Supposed To Do? Become a Vegetarian?
When I first learned the truth about how chickens (and other meats) are raised and produced, my first instinct was to become a vegetarian. So about 6 years ago, I did just that – for 6 (long) months. It obviously didn’t work for me (I’ll try to get a post out soon about my experience with vegetarianism and why I started eating meat again).
Personal anecdotes aside, there are many reasons why I don’t believe that vegetarianism is the answer to this widespread problem. Here’s a few of them:
- The majority of people are not going to stop eating meat (no matter how many scare tactics PETA throws at us).
- Meat is an excellent source of protein, rich in a multitude of vitamins and minerals.
- There is a better way. More on this below!
The solution, rotational grazing for pastured poultry, offers numerous benefits to farmer, the consumer, and the environment. Rotational grazing implements the key principle of biomimicry, in which the farm uses nature as a template for farm method design.
This is not a new concept. Every species of livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, chicken, ducks, and turkeys) all rotate in the wild. They move to fresh green pasture, eat and soil the area, and then move on (only to return once the manure has been absorbed into the soil and plant/insect life has returned). Nomadic populations were also rotational grazers. They used herding animals to move their cattle and sheep from pasture to pasture, forcing them to constantly move their camp to accommodate the livestock.
The environmental benefits of rotational grazing are not to be understated. Rotationally grazed animals dramatically decrease soil erosion potential, require minimal pesticides and fertilizers, and decrease the amount of barnyard runoff. Pasturing livestock in a rotationally grazed system reduces the amount of nitrates and pesticides leaching into groundwater and also cuts down on the contamination of streams and lakes.
All About Pastured Poultry (And the Health Benefits Associated With It)
Primal Pastures implements a modern-day style of rotational grazing developed by Joel Salatin (American farmer, lecturer, and author) that allows chickens to be chickens, foraging and pecking for grass and bugs in their natural habitat (chickens are NOT vegetarians, contrary to what companies who play up the “vegetarian-fed” angle would like you to believe).
By using a 12’x10’x2’ tall floorless “chicken tractor” (like the one pictured above) that is rotated every day to fresh pasture, farms like ours can take full advantage of rotational grazing for poultry while providing massive benefits over the industrial system, including:
- Natural habitat (grass)
- Natural flock size (75-90 birds per flock, same as nature)
- Natural distance to feed/water
- Reduced feed costs (20% pasture consumption)
- Environmental benefits
- Protection from heat/predation
- 1/3 of the Cholesterol of factory raised chicken
- 1/4 of the Saturated Fat (toxins in factory-farmed chickens accumulate in the fat)
- 2/3 more Vitamin A
- 2 times more Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 7 times more Beta Carotene
In addition to their natural diet of bugs and grass, Primal Pastures chickens are also supplemented with organic, non-GMO, soy-free feed. This healthy diet combined with plenty of sunshine, fresh pasture, and space to move around produces chickens far more nutritious and delicious than anything available in stores.
Hey, you with the short attention span – read this!
If you’ve barely scanned over this post (like most people do on the internet) take a few seconds to read over the summarizing points below before wandering off to facebook or peopleofwalmart.com:
Check out Eat Wild to find out how to get your hands on some delicious pastured poultry from a farmer near you. And here’s one more picture of happy, healthy chickens for good measure. Enjoy!