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Ethics and Work of Raising Chickens


Teddy Devico
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I love butchering chicken. It is very relaxing and fun. Every week I get an organic chicken that is free range and was never injected with hormones. If there was a local farm near my home that raised chicken I would 100 % get from them, but there are none so I must buy from the supermarket. Chickens that are not free range live their whole life's inside. They never see grass, sky, sun, etc. Imagine living in a world where you were kept inside locked in a cage for your whole life. The chickens are absolutely miserable. And by the way they are fattened so much that they cannot even walk. It is an absolute disgrace! Never buy chicken from big corporate companies like Perdue or Tyson. They torture the chickens, lock them up and fatten them into misery. For your information these chickens taste horrible. There is no flavor in them. There is no chicken flavor. The first time I ever had a real chicken that was properly raised it blew me away. It actually tasted like chicken. I repeat never ever buy chicken from Perdue or Tyson again! Support your local farmers who are passionate about what they are doing. What do you guys think?

To see the rest of the post with pictures go here http://teenchefteddy.blogspot.com/

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My m.i.l. raises chickens in Las Vegas for the eggs. When butchered, they're only fit for coq au vin.

But I know of only a handful of people here in the Mojave desert who have the space, lack of HOAs, and ability to raise their own.

My biggest problem is for many people, the choice is "buy Tyson" or "eat something else." And the "something else" is just as bad/unethical as Tyson chicken. There are a few stores that sell halal and real free range birds. But they're very expensive -- probably beyond the means of most of my neighbors.

I think our biggest problem is lack of choices -- there may be a dozen brands of a similar product on the shelf, but they're all made by the same company -- like Luxottica eyewear, Foxconn laptops, Hormel pork, etc.

I think we need to quit subsidizing mega-farming industries, so family farms can once again compete.

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Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I've stopped buying anything but free range chicken, pork and eggs, which means that we don't eat chicken and pork/bacon etc as much as we used to. Not because I cannot afford it, it just seems to have worked out that way. That's fine, I've found as a result that I've added a whole lot of different dishes to my repertoire. :)

Beef and Lamb I hear you say? I live in NZ where the beef and lamb is all free range and grass fed.

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Just a couple of clarifications for people who are unfamiliar to raising meat birds.

Free range is different than pastured.

In the US Free range means that the birds have access to the outside. Unfortunately 99.99% of the genetics are some form of Cornish Cross. If these birds actually did walk outside and away from their chow they would be either blind or lost. They actually only do three things: eat, crap and sleep. They are at full butcher weight at 7 weeks and if you have ever raised them you can't wait to kill them.

Pastured birds are placed in small batches (usually in movable pens)on grass pasture. They pick at grass and bugs along with their feed mix. They have much better flavor.

For more info: http://www.apppa.org/

Most pastured birds are sill Cornish Cross since they are available and they develop large breast in a very short time.

There are small numbers of flocks that were originally bred for the Label Rogue label. These birds range in flavor and breast size. They naturally like to roam around, but they take 10-14 weeks to reach butcher size.

A few years back we made the mistake of mixing the flocks together. They have a large area to roam with a hay bale house. The French birds loved pecking at the bales and generally were a pleasure to have around. Unfortunately they are quite smart and they figured out how to escape us when we were rounding them up for butcher time. They would use the Cornish Crosses' to block us from catching them, they would duck under brush and generally do a great job of getting away. I really hate livestock that is smarter than me.

We usually did 50 birds a week. We could gather CCs in 10 minutes normally but the other birds necessitated getting in the pen at 3am while they were sleeping. After we grabbed the first 10 so they were all up and the rest took at least another hour.

Currently I can't have animals because of time constraints, but even so, it would be impossible to turn a profit with little or no feed expense. We could take a truck 100 yards to the feed bins and grind it for free. Our cost would still exceed the current market.

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Interesting! I guess free range will mean different things based on the law of each state/country. This is an example of free range chickens here http://www.te-kinga.co.nz/farming/FreeRange in NZ. If you drive around you see paddocks of free range chickens like this - normally brown or red shavers for commercial use I think. Although not every farm is like this - I would say the majority are similiar ( for free range) I've noticed a growing trend in the supermarkets for free range eggs here. If you went into a supermarket here 10 years ago, you would be struggling to find free range eggs. Now I would say 2/3's of the eggs on the shelves are free range. Chicken meat is still a ways behind though, with the majority of the chicken still not free range - but it's definitely a changing trend.

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One of the big misunderstandings regarding poultry is the difference between egg and meat production. The link you show is happy free-range hens. They live much different lives than meat birds. The key word is "access".

In New Zealand the definition of free-range is quite similar to the US. According to the Code of Welfare 2005:

"A system providing birds with access to an

extensive outdoor area and which typically

includes housing (either fixed or moveable)

similar to a barn, aviary, or perchery without

cages."

According to the Egg producers of NZ 88% of eggs are produced in cages. Egg laying hens will roam around, while meat birds will normally not. Hens will "work" for 2-3 years while 99% of the meat bird breeds will not live much more than 8 weeks. They get too fat to survive.

With meat birds 90% of NZ is controlled by three companies. A small operation has a difficult time with the breeding and processing efficiencies, plus very little of the meat bird production is likely to change with current biosecurity concerns. Typically a grow house will have 60,000 birds hatched on the same day. They are also transported in that group and processed together. They are counted for security and traceable purposes as one lot. If you truly free-range meat birds every animal is a different lot, so bookkeeping is greatly increased.

I'm not sure how much price difference the economy is willing to accept, but typically the "nice to the animal" versions are 3-4 times more expensive at retail with eggs and meat. That is the main reason for producers to try and trick consumers into thinking their products are being raised by sweet little old grandmothers on the small family farm.

One of the large organic producers touts that they feed their birds a "vegetarian" diet. All commercial chicken is fed a similar mix of corn and soy. They all add some mineral supplements.

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Stan, does the 3-4x multiplier generate a proper profit for producers, or is that the price at which you can't turn a profit at the current market? When I lived in the middle of a city in another state, it was easy to get nice-to-the-animal meats in one place at my local farmers' market. Now I need to drive a little bit more of a circuit to gather everything, but there's the advantage (as far as I'm concerned, anyway) that I get to go to the actual farm. Meat and egg prices here and in my former city are roughly the same--and at your 3-4x multiplier. As a consumer, it would be nice to know whether that price point incorporates most of the externalities.

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Faith,

Currently it's difficult to calculate what a fair profit on chickens is since there is currently almost no profit. Companies like Tyson are making their profit on the processed food products.

A small chicken producer just can't keep their costs low enough to overcome the price spread. They pay an extra 50 cents or so for the baby chick, a little extra for processing extra for packaging etc. A friend with a specialty processing plant just shut it down. They hadn't made any profit in a few years. There are two almost brand new chicken houses nearby set-up for a Kosher plant. With just under a million per building in them they could be had for less than $200K.

The recent Salmonella outbreaks crashed the egg market. That may be good for the specialty producers, but it is still a tough sell in this economy to pass up .69 per dozen eggs.

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  • 2 years later...

If you're a lazy sod, don't get any animal. Aside from the work, laying hens outlive their egg productivity. So you either need to plan to keep a non laying bird or be prepared to slaughter. Animal shelters in the US are reporting a huge upswing in surrendered chickens; spur of the moment backyard hobbyists lose their enthusiasm and abandon the birds, apparently not realizing that chickens can live 8 years+.

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As others have noted, and based on experience - predators can be an issue. As noted with any animal under your care you can't just decide to stay out after dark and not have an arrangement for someone to get the hens into the coop. If you buy chicks they may say all hens but can't guarantee so you have to deal with getting it down to one rooster or no rooster. This is hands on "animal husbandry". The internet is full of chicken coop ideas like the tractors - but it is work.

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Chickens are about as carefree as livestock gets but I personally wouldn't keep them if they can't roam free during the day or at the very least be kept in a bottomless portable pen that's moved frequently.
If birds-of-prey are a concern get a large breed like Delawares or even Jersey Giants.
Keep them locked up at night in housing that's secure from predators.
I would set up a treadle feeder to protect their feed from weather, wildbirds , vermin and from becoming soiled.
I have plans for roll-away nest boxes to protect eggs from damage or becoming soiled if you're interested.

Also, if you do take the bottomless portable pen route---- aka a chicken tractor or ark----I"ve designed one that's almost impossible for foxes and the like to dig under----no detailed plans but I can explain how it's done.

~Martin

Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Zoning is not an issue. We have acres and are zoned Ag. Predators are an issue ...lots of hawks and foxes. <br /><br />But a shelter/ fence ought to protect the birds. <br /><br />How much does one need to do on a daily basis?

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In my experience they don't require a lot of work. Fairly secure place to be locked up at night, yard to scratch about in. On a daily basis it was more about throwing down some feed, making sure the water is fresh and locking them up safe each night. I used to scrape out their roost area once a week or so, more in summer, less in winter. And as a bonus all those kitchens scraps have a good home.

Here weather isn't an issue but you will obviously need to do more if you live in an area with properly cold winters.

And foxes are wily things, and good at fence climbing. Learn from my scattered feathers...

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  • 1 year later...

This post was moved from the Breaking Down and Boning Poultry discussion.

 

 

 

 

Okay, haresfur, I'll bite, even though it looks like we will shortly be moved to an older thread.

 

I don't own detachable poultry shears that can go in the dishwasher to be sterilized.

 

I always cut up my poultry with my favorite filet or boning knife, which is kept as sharp as a razor. I pretty much use no other knives in my kitchen, although I own a bunch of them.

 

When I need to cut something huge like a watermelon, I use the largest of my "Old Hickory" carbon steel knives. They need a lot of maintenance.

 

Not so, my stainless steel blade, full tang, fillet or boning knife. I still would never put it in the dishwasher.

 

I learned really quickly how to butcher chickens, feathers on and freshly killed on my grandma and grandpa's farm.

 

My first task assigned was to run down the chickens aided by my younger male cousin Doug, who looks and sounds exactly like the actor Lucas Black from "Crazy in Alabama" from 1999, and more recently from "NCIS: New Orleans," the TV series.

 

Well that didn't work out too well. I tried my best, and was very young and spry at this point, but Oh God. My grandfather taking the caught chickens from me and grabbing them by the head/neck, then flinging them around until said head/neck twisted off was too much for me after a couple birds. The body flew off the neck and frequently got up and ran around. I have witnessed first hand where the adage "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" comes from.

 

I couldn't hang, so I went inside with the other women folk. They were skeptical that I could learn to cut up chickens, but I was VERY motivated so I didn't have to see anymore chickens running around without heads. IT'S TRUE.

 

I could handle it once they were dead, and I knew I had to contribute to the extended family's concerted effort to put up meat for winter. I think I learned this task faster than I've ever learned anything, because, I had to be useful to avoid going to the kill zone again. I became an expert chicken butcher in just a few minutes.

 

I don't think my hands have the strength anymore to cut through poultry joints with scissors, but if it works for you, that's great.

Edited by Mjx
Note added. (log)
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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Chickens are about as carefree as livestock gets but I personally wouldn't keep them if they can't roam free during the day or at the very least be kept in a bottomless portable pen that's moved frequently.

If birds-of-prey are a concern get a large breed like Delawares or even Jersey Giants.

Keep them locked up at night in housing that's secure from predators.

I would set up a treadle feeder to protect their feed from weather, wildbirds , vermin and from becoming soiled.

I have plans for roll-away nest boxes to protect eggs from damage or becoming soiled if you're interested.

 

Also, if you do take the bottomless portable pen route---- aka a chicken tractor or ark----I"ve designed one that's almost impossible for foxes and the like to dig under----no detailed plans but I can explain how it's done.

 

~Martin

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The movable pens were just for summer.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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  • 4 months later...

Let me make it clear first, I am against caged chickens. I was raised on a farm.

 

Has there been a study that shows caged chickens are miserable? How do we know? Just common sense?

 

What  about dogs and cats in tiny city apartments?

 

I know there will be millions of miserable people if price of chicken goes up.

 

dcarch

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dcarch,

 

I also was partly raised on my grandparent's farm where chickens were free range with a free access chicken house with nesting boxes. Hogs were also free range. Nothing like sow crates or battery cages in evidence. Cattle, when we had them, were pastured, but had a barn for milking and cold weather. They wanted to come into the barn at milking times for the grain and the relief they got from milking. You cannot go on a vacation or even take a sick day with a milking herd without other arrangements to see to the herd's needs.

 

I have also been into a commercial chicken barn. This was back in the 70's. It was a part of the operation of a dairy farm in Vt. I was a friend of the family, and welcome at the facilities, at least the dairy barn and the home, but I didn't find out about the chicken barn until over a year later. Seems they were ashamed of it, as well they should have been. I finally convinced one of the son's to give me a tour after a lot of persuasion.

 

When you open the door, you are hit with a wave of ammonia that will hurt your nose, lungs and eyes. The chickens are stacked in cages where there's barely enough room for their bodies, one on top of the other. You want to be in the top tier if you are one of these unfortunate chickens. If their is a system for waste removal like there was in the dairy barn with mechanized gutters, it was not in evidence, and was not even close to adequate. Even my curious, young self was not up to an extended tour in that hellhole, but I saw enough to have no doubt why the family was ashamed of it.

 

Okay, chickens, may not be the brightest bulb on the chandelier, but I sincerely doubt they are ammonia breathers or enjoy being bathed in their fellow captive's wastes 24/7 unable to even move much. And yes, that is common sense and decency, as no one can know the tiny mind of a chicken.

 

It is possible to raise chickens much more ethically; they've been doing it for centuries and centuries all over the world. It just cuts into huge American agribusiness corporations and stockholder's profits to do so. They hire lobbyists to keep their torturous but highly profitable practices in place.

 

Kudos to Walmart (not my favorite corp. by any means) who has recently done a very good thing by announcing they will move toward more ethical treatment during the raising of the animal proteins they sell megatons of each year. As the largest grocer in the U.S., they have a lot of clout and the potential to be a very good influence on the supply chain. 

Edited by Thanks for the Crepes (log)

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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A few days ago, I bought chicken leg quarters at $0.69 a lb. Whole chickens at $0.99 a lb. Do you know how many people and children will be miserable if they can't buy chickens at these prices? Can you see a way to free range farm chickens at these prices? Already, beef prices are much higher ever since the "pink slime" incident. Wait until people find out chicken slime is in many foods.

 

Yes I have seen commercial chicken farms. I would like to know exactly how unhappy the chickens are in those conditions. There must be a way to test their stress hormone levels, blood pressure, etc. and other ways.

 

Yes I have seen very happy free range chickens. In Hawaii, true free range (wild) chickens are everywhere.

 

dcarch

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Here in Arkansas, Heifer International has set up a "food hub" which both supports small farmers by buying their produce, and offers healthy food to lower-income consumers who might otherwise find it unobtainable. It's a fairly new program, but it's showing signs of taking off. Details here. I'm fortunate that I'm acquainted with one of the producers, and I get my chickens directly from him. I get four at a time, whole chickens, frozen; they're between 3 and 4 pounds and he charges me $12 apiece for them. Slightly more expensive than grocery store, but well worth it to me, and truthfully probably NOT that much more expensive if you take into account what you're paying for the additional saline solution they're injected with before they're packaged for sale.. His are tractor chickens, and I don't know the breed, but they have a very smooth skin, not the "goosebumps" you're accustomed to seeing on chicken skin. Great taste, and it seems to me that a smaller portion serves to satisfy than with supermarket chicken. I generally roast them whole.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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dcarch,

 

I appreciate the concept of "a chicken in every pot", but it has come at a terrible cost not only to the food harvest animals. The consumer suffers too. The lobbyists for more profitability for their rich and powerful handlers have brought us all laws that allow injections of chemicals we do not need for nutrition to hold the water they add so can up the weight you pay for. In my area they have "diapers" under the cut up chicken pieces and even smaller ones under whole ones lately. Whole is still your best bet.

 

I complained to my local equivalent of the "weights and measures bureau", because one grocery had a practice of having a pint and a half of reddish-tinged water floating on top of the diaper on family-sized packs of chicken parts. Believe it or not, I practically don't, and was very surprised, this local grocery stopped having the extra liquid you had to pay for. I still can't conceive that a government agency actually acted in the consumers' best interest. But there you go, it happened.

 

I can't stand the taste of cheap chicken anymore. They've just gone too far. It's so adulterated and the bones can be thin and/or broken. The organs are often not healthy-looking to this layman, especially the liver, the powerhouse waste removal system, and I have often found it to correspond to thin misshapen bones. I also realize that the liver I get in my gutted whole mainstream chicken may not be the liver that came out of that particular bird, but I have found this too often, that I believe maybe the batch of birds wasn't raised at all well. Anecdotal evidence I know.

 

If I were rich, which is far from the case, I would conduct my own scientific study about stress hormones etc.

 

The fact is, that people who have a huge economic interest in abusing food animals and ripping off consumers for profit, not only are not going to do a study on there own, but they are going to fight tooth and nail against anyone who threatens their monetary returns.

 

I don't understand why you would defend Tyson and Holly Farms after actually have seen their obscene and embarrassing operations.

 

Please watch this Academy Award nominated documentary, "Food, Incorporated":

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1286537/?ref_=rvi_tt

 

for information about it, and this link to watch it totally free, and legally on this one:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D5twy--km0

 

If you can watch it with an open mind, and then want to spout scientific studies about lesser being food animals, I guess I'll just have to agree to disagree.  :smile:

 

Best regards, dcarch

 

Do you think the chickens are ammonia breathers?

Edited by Thanks for the Crepes (log)

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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dcarch,

 

I appreciate the concept of "a chicken in every pot", but it has come at a terrible cost not only to the food harvest animals.

 

It is important (and ethical) to also consider the 49 million hungry poor people in the USA.

 

 

The consumer suffers too. The lobbyists for more profitability for their rich and powerful handlers have brought us all laws that allow injections of chemicals we do not need for nutrition to hold the water they add so can up the weight you pay for. In my area they have "diapers" under the cut up chicken pieces and even smaller ones under whole ones lately. Whole is still your best bet.

 

That will not change unless the general public are smarter in electing our political officials. Don't blame the corporations. 

 

I don't understand why you would defend Tyson and Holly Farms after actually have seen their obscene and embarrassing operations.

 

I didn't .

 

dcarch

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