Chicken is more expensive than you think
Chicken might not cost a lot of money, but money certainly isn’t the only cost in the world. There is also ethical cost, environmental cost and health cost and societal cost.
This post is heavily influenced by the work of Peter Singer and Jim Mason—and their book ”The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter”.
My goil is to condense some their material on chickens specifically, and add a few of my own points along the way.
If you want to learn more, I can’t recommend this book enough. It delivers excellence.
- Since 1970, the consumption of chicken has doubled.
- Chicken used to be more expensive than beef, but is today the cheapest form of meat available.
- More than 99% of chickens sold in the US come from factory farms (ref. the NCC—National Chicken Council).
Singer and Mason argue that the impact factory farming chickens has on society, can be divided into three groups.
1) The ethical impact on chickens
2) Enviromental impacts
3) How it impacts humans
I will only discuss the subject with regards to 1) the ethical impact on chickens.
Factory Farming and the Ethical Impact On Chickens
Right off the bat, a lot of people will try to argue that chickens are somehow stupid. Further more, they try convincing us that we shouldn’t have to care about those who are “stupid”, and that this somehow justifies eating them. It doesn’t—not even if they were stupid—which they are not. The reason we should care about them, is because just like you or I, they can suffer.
Chickens are not stupid.
- Chickens have been proven to recognise up to 90 of their peers, and to determine whether each and every one of them is either higher or lower in the pecking order than themselves.
- Research shows that if chickens learn to be rewarded with food by pressing a button, they will do so. Research also shows that if they reward the chicken with more food the longer the chicken waits before pressing the button—guess what—the chicken will wait longer (in this case 22 seconds).
Based on these two examples alone, it is safe to conclude the chickens aren’t some mindless drones who wander about aimlessly without a clue. Chickens are not stupid. You however, might be ignorant.
But again, regardless of stupidity or lack thereof, the ethical question is whether they can suffer—something there is absolutely zero doubt about.
Chickens have nervous systems similar to ours, and when subjected to harmful stimuli, they display behavioral and physiological responses in coherence with what you’d expect to see from someone suffering.
- When presented with two different living scenarios, one better than the other, chickens will work hard to position themselves in the better one. This means they are aware of their own suffering, and that they want something better.
- Abused and hurt chickens tend to prefer food that has been supplemented with painkillers, clearly demonstrating that they attempt to alleviate whatever ails them.
What is broiler?
A broiler chicken is bred with only one goal in mind; to grow as quickly as possible, in order to produce as much meat as possible. As a result, broiler chickens experience a lot of physical and mental anguish.
Almost all supermarket chickens are raised in sheds measuring 150 meters long and 13 meters wide.
Any guess as to how many chickens are stuffed into this space? A whopping 30.000. Basically each chicken is awarded about the size of a sheet of paper in terms of space.
When the chickens are young there is some space to move around, but when they are grown, there isn’t.
- It’s not possible for the chickens to move without bumping into each other.
- It’s often not possible for them to stretch their wings.
- It’s often not possible for them to get away from other chickens who attack them, which is bound to happen in such confinement.
- There is not enough space for the chickens to even think about being able to determine any sort of pecking order, or any order for that matter, in their lives.
Besides physical injury, living like this causes severe psychological trauma.
Giving chickens more space would result in less death, yet it is not economically viable, and so it is not done. Let’s not kid ourselves; money is what it’s all about, right?
“Limiting the floor space gives poorer results on a per bird basis, yet the question has always been and continues to be: What is the least amount of floor space necessary per bird to produce the greatest return on investment.”
- Industry Manual
I wonder what happened to the ethics of the person who wrote that manual. It’s appalling, to say the least.
The chicken shed: Bred to destruction
- Since the birds live in their own excrement, and nobody cleans it up, the first thing you’ll encounter is an intense stench of ammonia (as a result of their poop). This results in chronic respiratory disease. It also causes blisters and wounds—especially on their feet—since they walk in it all day. Most get watery eyes and some even go blind.
- The birds are bred in a way that makes them gain weight so rapidly that their bones and joints cannot keep up. Because they are so heavy, it makes it difficult to stand. Besides the pain of the weight on bones, joints and muscles—they spend a lot of time sitting in their excrement, further exacerbating the problems associated with that.
“Ammonia—a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It dissolves in water to give a strongly alkaline solution”.
Chickens are bred to produce the most amount of meat in the shortest amount of time. That’s it. It’s economics.
One study found that as much as 90% of broiler chickens had problems with their legs as a result of the way they are bred (read: weight).
Even if the chickens have enough space to move, many of them still won’t, simply because it hurts their joints too much. In the worst cases, their vertebrae will snap and they become paralysed. What happens when you can’t move? You can’t get food or water. What happens then? You die of thirst and hunger. But hey, at as long as you get your fill of nuggets, I guess it’s all a-okay.
Broiler chickens live their lives in chronic pain. Treatment of broiler chickens is
“the single, most severe, systematic example of man's inhumanity to another sentient animal”
One could go on forever when listing chronic illness in broiler chickens, but instead of doing that, I wan't you to consider the following.
Every time you give your hard earned money to the chicken industry, you are paying people to make sure that these animals live their lives in constant (chronic) pain. Is the taste of chicken really worth it?
Two men walk into McDonald’s.
The first man says: “I’d really like some nuggets!”. He orders some.
The second man says: “I’d really like some nuggets!”. But then he remembers that his tastebuds are no justification for the suffering that goes into making a those nuggets, and with that, he chooses not to order any.
It’s not an opinion, and it’s not subjective!
Animal suffering is not an opinion. It is not something you decide whether exists or not. I’m mighty sick of people who try to argue that humans are kind to animals, and that we treat factory farm animals well. They have convinced themselves, and try to convince others, that the animals we abuse, kill and eat have lived happy and fulfilling lives. I call bullshit on that.
Suffering is a very measurable metric, and it is accepted in almost all facets of society, so why should we throw it out the window when it comes to factory farming? If ever something made no sense, this is it.
It doesn’t matter how much you think you’re right—factory farming effectively refutes your claim—the animals are not treated well, and they do indeed suffer—and this is an objective statement. Want to challenge that? Then read a god damn book on what goes on in factory farming, then get back to me and I'll listen.
Above and beyond
We’ve barely scratched the surface of what factory farming is doing to chickens, and we haven’t even touched on the environmental issues. We haven’t said word one about how the chickens are transported to the killing floor to be brutally slain.
We haven’t addressed the issue where some people think there even is such as thing as “humane” killing—come on—what does that even mean? I know you think you know what it means, and I know you’re screaming something to me about it right now—but keep and eye out, and I’ll write an article explaining, in detail, why your logic is wrong and why you are wrong. Killing is killing, it only comes in degrees—it's not "humane".
If you're asking me if I think it'd be better if broiler chickens went extinct, my answer would be yes.
For the animals,
Putting shit in perspective
Capacity to suffer
Will animals go extinct if the world becomes vegan?
Faulty logic - It’s okay to kill animals because animals kill animals
To close your eyes will not ease another’s pain
Is it offensive to compare the holocaust with the meat industry?