How to Put the Hammer Down on Big Chicken

The AI [Avian Influenza] virus is most often transmitted from one infected flock to another flock by infected birds, people or equipment.

North Carolina State University

In yet another amazing display of smoke and mirrors, the British government has banned free range chickens, and therefore, free range eggs. This rather transparent ploy came as many large indoor factory farms suffered bird flu outbreaks, which the government blamed on free range flocks, which strangely enough, were not experiencing the same levels of infection. Free range eggs, however, had taken over two-thirds of the consumer market in the UK, with five large grocery market chains selling nothing but free range eggs. Now that market share will be shifted back to factory farmed eggs.

This is the politics of Big Chicken–if you can’t beat the competition, have the government shut them down.

And it isn’t just free range chickens that are taking the blame–there are also those pesky wild birds. The following quote came from the NPR website, under the title of “A worrisome new bird flu is spreading in American birds and may be here to stay.” Here’s what one of the people who head Big Chicken in the US has to say–

“So I think I am kind of holding my breath this month,” says Denise Heard, director of research programs for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.

The virus has a number of ways to get from wild birds into poultry, says Heard. Since the last outbreak, the industry has worked to educate farmers about how to protect their flocks.

“Wild migratory waterfowl are always flying over the top and when they poop, that poop gets on the ground,” she says, explaining that the virus can then get tracked into bird houses on boots or inadvertently moved from farm to farm on vehicles.

Heard says there currently seems to be less spread of the virus from farm to farm than was seen during the last major outbreak. Instead, there are more isolated cases popping up, perhaps because wild birds are bringing the viruses to farms and backyard flocks.

NPR, April 9, 2022

There is just enough truth here that it makes the idea of 5 million chicken mega-farms being composed of “bird houses” more than particularly hilarious. Migratory waterfowl do in fact suffer from bird flu, but they don’t die at nearly the death rates that battery caged chickens suffer. The slip-up comes when Ms. Heard says the virus is “moved from farm to farm,” which will be obvious when spring migration ends, and the disease just keeps on trucking.

My crystal ball tells me the next scapegoat will be backyard flocks. After all, of the more than 13 million diseased and culled poultry that Iowa had in March 2022, 53 were from backyard flocks. Just do the math. The interwebs is already full of do’s and don’ts for local chicken. Big Chicken gets a pass.

However, don’t expect anything from Big Chicken except higher prices, windfall profits, and the same low quality products. Therefore, I am proposing a Joel Salatin, aka the world’s most famous farmer, style solution to the problem: do nothing, as long as part of the nothing includes buying none of their products. Salatin, who is the right kind of conservative, in that he works to conserve the environment, says you can protest, lobby, and write all the letters that you want, but if you still buy those McNuggets regularly, Big Chicken just doesn’t care.

So the next time an industry plays the old look over here, not there, game, just assume they have something to hide. I know where my eggs come from, and its from our big chickens, but not Big Chicken.

With Five Million Chickens on One Farm, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Actually, there were two farms in Iowa that had more than five million chickens each. Were. Iowa, the largest egg producer in the US, obviously is interested in quantity rather than quality. Now they have 10.3 million fewer chickens because of just two mega-farms, all in the space of one month.

Factory farms are justifiably notorious for the use of battery cages for chickens, that are too small for the chickens to even turn around. Disease will spread throughout an entire population of birds in no time due to the overcrowded conditions. But the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture thinks he has found the true culprits in this story–wild birds.

The theory is that asymptomatic migratory birds transmit bird flu to chickens that are locked up tight from both reporters and wild birds. As imaginative as I usually am, I am at a loss to see how this transmission occurs, short of crows with crowbars. Even sabotage by the Animal Liberation Front sounds more plausible (ALF has the most unintentionally humorous website on this planet).

Anyway, the numbers, via the Iowa Capital Dispatch

March 17–5.3 million chickens to be culled from one farm

March 31–5 million chickens to be culled from another farm

I foresee more to come. Those pesky wild birds are everywhere.

Send Ukraine Aid, and Russia US Factory Farmed Chicken

Talk about chemical and biological warfare! I am taking my idea from Steve Ellis, the founder of the Chipotle restaurant chain. In the early 2000’s, McDonalds owned a 90 percent share of Chipotle. That was when they made the mistake of inviting Mr. Lee to tour one of their chicken producing farms in the South.

To get to the point, Lee said it was absolutely the most disgusting sight that he had “ever seen in his life.” Soon thereafter, McDonalds sold off all of its stake in Chipotle.

The trick is to make a great diplomatic offer of free chicken to Russia, to be supplied by McDonalds. In fact, also re-open all the now closed McDonalds in Russia. Both Vlad and Ronald McDonald will be happy, as well as all the cardiac specialists in Russia. Their business will boom.

A modest proposal, endorsed by both Big Pharm and Big Chicken. I know of a couple of senators that I can likely get on board as well, like the one from Alabama who said we absolutely have to help the Uranian people-his spelling, not mine.

2021–In Praise of Chicken Excrement

Black Gold

When you get up early on New Year’s Day to feed the chickens, and the low temp is 67 F, something is seriously wrong. That something is Anthropogenic Climate Disturbance, aka Global Warming. It’s fine now, but the summer will be when the bill comes due.

There is one constant, however–the wonders of chicken excrement. Americans in general treat chickens like a protein machine, caged, abused, and thrown away and eaten at a very early age. Our flock of eight ramble around all day, eat greens and high protein food, and we get eggs by the dozen. Better, possibly is the giant piles of excrement, which I compost. I am just beginning to use it as fertilizer. It could be the GOAT (greatest of all time.)

Chicken excrement and I go way back. When I grew up on the old farm, that was our main fertilizer, and sometimes the only one. As it turns out, industrial scale chicken production produces industrial scale chicken stuff. We had tons of this stuff at a time, which means we had tons of vegetables, and pounds and pounds of beef–we fertilized the pastures with chicken stuff, and even had to buy a giant stuff spreader to be able to do it.

So the moral for this new year is, what goes around, comes around. I have been fertilizing my mustard greens with chicken stuff, and feed the greens to the chicks, and the egg quality just gets better. I composted my garlic plants (forty in total,) and they took off like weeds. I just layered my young asparagus patch with several inches of compost. I better get the asparagus steamer ready for spring.

Film at eleven.

ISA Brown Chicks

At about Two to Three Weeks Old

I went to my local chicken purveyor with the intent of buying four Rhode Island Red chicks to add to my flock. They had a grand total of one Rhode Island Red chick. Therefore, I went with a descendant of theirs, the hybrid ISA Brown. Et Mon Dieu, the chicken turned out to have been developed in la belle France.

Technically, all chickens are hybrids anyway, though many breeds have been established for many years, and one generation looks much like the previous one. Apparently that is not true with these birds, though that could easily be just Monsanto like agit-prop disseminated by the company that owns the patent on this bird. Considering that it has been around since 1978, someone has obviously bred some of these fowl, and it would be interesting to find some stories based on first hand experience.

At any rate, the story began in 1975 with the French Ministry of Agriculture, the head of which was determined to produce a first rate bird for commercial Big Chicken. The project was headed by the firm Institut de Sélection Animale, which is where the name ISA comes from. Three years later, these birds were the result, a hybrid of many varieties, though which ones are considered a trade secret; but the most notable one is the Rhode Island Red.

As a bird designed for Big Chicken, these chicks mature quickly and lay eggs at a fast and furious rate. They are variously said to be short lived, or disease prone, but it is hard to believe that Big Chicken would fall in love with a sickly bird: disposable, yes, but sickly, no. A few small owners say they can live as long as eight years, if given proper care, instead of stuck in a battery cage. As it turns out, this variety has become a favorite with backyard chicken growers, though my chickens are actually in my front yard.

One of the best things about this bird is that it is a sex-link chicken, which means the sexes are different colors. Therefore, if the chick is brown, it is a hen; if it is white, it is a rooster. Thus, these four are definitely hens.

After a week here, they are already flying around the brooder, though there isn’t much runway space in that plastic container. I still put a lid on the insulated contraption to keep them from flying around our basement, or getting burned by the heat lamp.

The Heat is On

I have already found them on the top perch, or just cold chilling, sitting on top of the water or feed jars. This morning all four were practicing flying at the same time, which resulted in some spectacular crashes.

Chances are good that my in-laws are in line for some free eggs, as we already regularly have three dozen sitting around our kitchen. Eggs, that is, not in-laws.

Chickurkey a la King with Morels

Chickurkeys are not Easy to Capture

What we have here is a dairy-less Chicken a la King with turkey added, and fancied up with morels. I am carefully rationing my years supply of morels, because they are renewed yearly only on December 24. This seemed like a good time to use a few.

Ingredients

3 dried Morels, reconstituted and sliced (Porcini or Oyster work also)

Morel Water

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 tablespoon Flour

I sweet Pepper, chopped

Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper

1 cup cooked Chicken and/or Turkey

The cooking is simple. Make a blonde (light colored) roux with the oil and flour, stirring constantly. Add the chopped pepper, and stir for another minute or so. Add the morel water, filtered through a paper towel, and the chicken stock, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer until the sweet pepper taste becomes apparent–I let it go for around ten minutes, and add more stock if necessary. Finally add the cooked bird, and warm it all the way through. Best if served on toasted baguette slices.

Though I am far from being a calorie counter, this strikes me as a healthier dish than the normal butter and milk a la King. It certainly tastes better than one with canned mushrooms. Good cage free organic chicken doesn’t hurt, either. For the best chicken satire ever, see this old video from the days when Steven Colbert still did The Colbert Report. This is not a spoiler, but he has a pet chicken named Shirley, who is boneless, and lives inside a paper towel roll tube.

Starting with Chickens

Right Profile–My Best Side

Despite the fact that we have every vermin imaginable around here, from raccoons to rednecks, we are venturing into the chicken growing hobby. The birds live inside a coop inside a bigger coop and another enclosure. They will eventually have some free range time, if the foxes and hawks don’t get them first. We have an entire population of light phase red tail hawks, and assorted accipters as well.

So it isn’t easy being a chicken. These five week olds are Barred Rocks, and we plan on adding a couple of Rhode Island Reds. These are for egg laying, though if it comes down to it, in the words of young Lily Kingsolver, founder of Lily’s Lovely Layers, “We’ll only kill the mean ones.” Enough said.

Cage Match! Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas, Sue Massachusetts over Chicken Cages!

Chickens

Five Southern states dare defend their rights to torture animals.

Once again chicken cages are a hot political topic for Southern Attorneys General. Though Indiana is lead dog, so to speak, on this subject, brave Southern politicians are taking their stand on our rights to squeeze chickens into cages the size of tissue dispensers. Though 77% of Massachusetts voters don’t want our crap eggs and crap chicken meat sold in their fast food places, what right do they have to say no to Big Ag and their evil minions in the South?  This is Alabama’s second shot at this issue–the first case against California went down in flames.

So where is Mississippi on all this?

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