Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Had Me a Stroll Through Some Turkey Houses

I walked around inside several turkey houses yesterday for the first time.

Amongst these thousands of ugly animals, I kept thinking, 'what's all the fuss about this being inhumane?' It certainly is not. In fact, the grower has huge incentive to keep the birds in the best of health, otherwise the animal dies and is a loss for the company.

When talking to most people who live in and around cities, the feeling is that animal rearing facilities are horrible hell holes. This attitude is also in force in the book Omnivore's Dilemma which I read a year ago. In the entire book, it's just assumed that "industrial" animal-rearing facilities are cruel. I disagree.

First, broiler chickens and turkeys are not raised in cages. They are raised in open-floor housing that's nearly double the size of a football field -- huge. They do pack a massive number of birds in that space, as you can see in this picture, but as soon as you walk amongst the birds and they move out of the way, you can see that they have plenty of room to walk around. The only time these birds are in cages is the few minutes when they are put on the truck to the slaughterhouse where they are very quickly killed.

Most poultry raised in tight cages are for eggs, so, ironically, if you are an ovo-lacto vegetarian -- but not vegan -- your ethical choice is arguably worse than someone who eats meat but not eggs. How ironic. (BTW, I do not believe that keeping layer chickens in cages is cruel).

I also visited a house where they had just introduced 2-day-old turkey poults. These little guys have to be taught how to eat, drink and sometimes stand. I noticed that several of the baby birds had fallen over and I thought they were dying, but apparently these birds just aren't strong enough to stand on their own so it's the farmer's job to stand them back up by hand and get them tromping around again. It was sweet watching the farm manager give such care -- kind of like the time I was in the Philippines and the shrimp farmer actually gave little massages to the shrimp he thought were suffering from cramps.

I have yet to visit a slaughterhouse but I have seen video of how meat animals are killed. This also is entirely humane to any reasonable person.

People -- especially those in urban areas -- should feel fine about the meat they eat. Maybe most people are squeamish and delicate about this, but if they visited a poultry house, they would see that it's perfectly humane and as professionally-run as possible. If you're unsure how you feel, get over it or become a vegan; those are the only two legitimate choices.
Having lived in the heart of a chicken industry region, I don't exactly agree with you, but at bottom I suppose you could argue that unless you are a pure vegan, it doesn't matter how they're raised: if you're eating them that's sort of the most inhumane thing you can do.

The killing facilities may be humane -- however you define that -- but they don't do very nice things to the people who work in them, many of whom have alcohol or drug problems; however, I don't know enough about that to know if it's cause/effect or just a symptom of the skill set required for work in the chicken plant.
The other point is what are they feeding/injecting them with. If half their food is ground up turkey parts and they are on heavy steroids to make them "healthy" and grow faster, I am not sure how that is a good thing for the consumer?

I think it DOES matter how they are raised -- especially as a meat eater. We tend to consider how animals are raised from a human aesthetic view, which has very little to do with what animals are comfortable living in.

Now, you could argue that no animal wants to be killed, but animals cannot anticipate their own death as they're being loaded onto trucks and into the slaughterhouse. The moment of death is instantaneous and humane for 99.9% of them. If you disagree with this statement -- "killing animals is always wrong" -- then the existing system is not very objectionable.

Certainly 50% is not rendered turkey. All poultry in the US get mainly corn/soy diets.

Not sure about steroids. They don't need it. These animals have been genetically engineered to grow heavy breast meat.

The grower is also constantly concerned about disease. There are all kinds of issues and problems. My dad could answer these questions better than I can.
That pic reminds me of the thousands of Canada Geese I saw walking around at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge.

I think that is how birds like to be on the ground -sort of bunched up like that in a massive flock.

It probably lowers their stress level and makes them healthier.
Neither turkeys nor chickens grown for meat have had steroids in decades, probably the last was capons around 1960. They don't use antibiotics either unless the Vet determines that the animals are suffering and will die otherwise. The poultry industry across the world can not afford any of these "bad" things - in fact it's a wonder they are able to stay in business at all in this country. If you think about it the price of chicken/lb, of pork, milk etc. in purchasing cost is about equal to what it was in 1960. Truly remarkable achievement - how many other industries can make that claim.

- Damon's Dad.
Thanks for the info.

Just off topic, Did you ever hear the rumor that KFC has genetically engineered chickens with 4 breasts and six legs! That always made me laugh, It was also rumored that is why they changed their name since they no longer serve "Chicken".
KFC changed their name because they didn't want to be associated with Kentucky...OK I made that up. Anyway, I was sort of making the point earlier that non-meat eaters may eventually resort to the argument of raising another animal for consumption...but I'm neither vegetarian nor vegan, so I'm not making that argument myself.
That's what you do on MY BIRTHDAY?! Punk...

They're delicious, specially with ketchup. I think we can share a lot of things to share: articles, magazines, imagines and also books, I brought some books from England about this issues and I know you can add some information about it here.
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