Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chicken Feed

Did you catch the story in the N.Y. Times yesterday about what scientists found in Factory Farmed chicken feed (called Feather Meal)?  Man oh man.  Let's see ... Arsenic, caffeine, Prozac, Benadryl, antibiotics banned over 5 years ago.  WTF are they thinking?  Let me blow your mind and tell you they actually (in their noggins anyhow) have reasons for including this stuff (from the Times article):

'It turns out that arsenic has routinely been fed to poultry (and sometimes hogs) because it reduces infections and makes flesh an appetizing shade of pink' 
'Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose'
'Researchers found that most feather-meal samples contained caffeine. It turns out that chickens are sometimes fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so that they can spend more time eating. (Is that why they need the Benadryl, to calm them down?)'
And even when the 'regulators' do get around to banning substances it seem that the industry feels no need to comply anyway (again the Times article):
'One study, just published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology, found that feather meal routinely contained a banned class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. These antibiotics (such as Cipro), are illegal in poultry production because they can breed antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that harm humans'

Lovely.  And this coming on the heels of the Pink Slime debacle.  You know, you just know, that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.  It reminds me of when I did some research on Mad Cow Disease when it was in the spotlight back about 10 years ago.  If you ever have the time, it's a fascinating story of how transmissible spongiform encephalopathies came to be discovered by the way.  My point is, as you probably know, Mad Cow arises from feeding practices that include giving bovines blood and other 'material' from, well, from other bovines.  Cannibalism.  So, supposedly that was banned in cattle feed some time ago too.  Was it enacted though?  I don't have any facts on the matter, I'm just saying that here we have a situation where the Poultry Industry clearly isn't following policy (or Ethics) so it doesn't take a huge leap to believe it could be happening elsewhere also.

So the CAFO's (concentrated animal feeding operations) in this country are using suspect practices and indeed very questionable ingredients.  I knew that.  You knew that.  Why are they doing this then?  Profit.  And because they can get away with it.  People like cheap food at the grocery store.

Can the system change?  Can we as consumers give rise to a shift in these practices?  Perhaps to some degree.  'Voting with your dollars' is a term we've all heard and it's true to some extent.  If we choose not to buy products from CAFO's, or limit them drastically, we'll grab their attention to say the least.  Will it change overnight?  Will our buying patterns get them to stop cutting corners with dubious money saving measures?  Probably not.  But it can't hurt to hit them in the wallet ... to whatever extent we're able to within our individual situations of course (I know we can't all afford grass fed animals).

Anyway, another big point I have in this little rant is - where is the frigging Ethics in business anymore?  Somebody is actually making the decision to put arsenic and caffeine in chicken feed.  Think about that.  Now think about how in the world we can try to create an environment, a society, where that person would be like 'you know, this just isn't right'  What can we do to breed more ethical decisions into our culture?

That question sets up for a whole separate post, but I do have some ideas.  It's NOT in more regulations and ethics classes in schools.  It IS in teaching right and wrong to our children through their everyday actions with the adults in their lives.  It will take everyone in our society looking out for each other and our future generations.  I believe it is the Iroquois Nation that has a saying to the effect (not the full quote):

In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation
 Amen to that.

1 comment:

Andy Alex said...

Good Post! Chicken are omnivorous and can feed on vegetables,fruits,organic grains,fish,worms and meat.It is interesting to know that they are given coffee and tea in order to keep them awake so that they can spend longer time for eating.Different types of poultry feeds are available as bulk and bagged mixes.