Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Piggies

We have two hogs now, both purchased from an Amish family whose chicken butchering services we've been using.  It was a very hot day when they arrived, so we showed them the water right away.  This one knew just what to do with it.

Hogs are omnivores just like people, and are known for eating people who pass out or die in their pen. Our hogs don't seem to feel the need to wait for either event, and are both interested in eating me no matter how lively I am (they gnaw on my leg when I'm in their pen). So I guess we're even, now that we both want to eat each other.  Hopefully I'll eat them first.

Our broiler chickens have all gone to Freezerland now. We're quite happy with the breed, a newer variety called "Freedom Rangers". They dressed out to a nice 4-5lbs at 11 weeks, and are quite tasty. Although one kicked the bucket (heart attack?), we had no health problems with them whatsoever, aside from the few I ran over with the portable pen.

The more common Cornish Cross (the meat bird raised in the US, aka "Great White Mutant") is known for twisted feet, high mortality rates, and poor foraging ability. But they also finish out in 8 weeks, which means much lower feed costs. We may try those next year just to see how our experience compares.

While I'm on the subject of home-raised chickens, I read recently about a Utah family whose daughters were found to have extremely high levels of arsenic, well above what's considered safe according to the EPA.  How did they get it?   It turns out that their family was using conventional chicken feed for their backyard flock of layer hens, which was essentially the same feed being used by comercial poultry growers.  The commercial poultry growers now add ARSENIC to their feed, achieving the same increase in growth rates that poultry growers have been getting with antibiotics placed in the feed. 

So guess what?   Eat any "regular" grocery store or restaurant chicken lately?   Not only are you getting your RDA of arsenic, but you're very likely getting a dose of FORMALDEHYDE, which is also used in poultry feed as well as in "sanitizing solutions" applied directly to the meat. 

So let's see here... that same old chicken you buy at the grocery store now has:  antibiotic resistant bacteria, arsenic, and formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) in addition to the usual load of salmonella and campylobacter (66% of all grocery store chicken has one or both types of these infectious bacteria).  In addition to that, conventionally raised chickens are being fed a diet of corn and soy, both of which are most likely genetically modified to produce their own toxins, as well as being heavily sprayed with endocrine disruptors like Atrazine (60% of the US corn crop gets this) which are known to cause cancer as well.  Anyone wanna go to KFC?

Arsenic in your chicken is yet another fine example of corporations displaying psychopathic behavior, as is very well documented in the movie "The Corporation".   If you haven't seen it, go and rent it.  It's well worth watching.

While you're gnawing on that chicken leg, let's talk about what makes these corporations behave the way they do.  That's also your fault, btw.   You know that IRA or 401k you have?   The one that has recovered to about 75% of where it was back in '07?  Yeah, that's it.

Let's say you've got a couple stocks and a handful of mutual funds.  If the funds are anything like the mutual funds offered by my employer's plan, they're full of morally and ethically challenged companies like Monsanto, Halliburton, Wal-Mart, ConAgra, and Exxon. 

You've invested in these companies, which makes you their master.  Only you don't really exert any control over them.  You're not actively involved in their management, so you exert no moral or ethical pressure.  You're really just there for one reason, which is to get a little money.  Sure, you may want them to act morally, and within the confines of the law.  But you're really just there for the cash, and these corporations are designed by law to provide it for you.  Whenever a decision is made that will affect your bottom line, they have no choice but to select the option which they believe will result in the greatest return on your investment.  They do need to follow the law (or at least not get caught if they don't), but there's no requirement for them to behave ethically.

And really, it's not that hard for them to follow the law when they often write it themselves.   The congressfolk they bribe lobby usually don't have much of a problem with the industry writing its own laws.   


Anonymous said...

Ugh. I am growing the Freedom Rangers this year and I am really disappointed by them! I can't believe I am typing this but this is Year Four of raising meat birds (wow time does fly) and so far we've raised a type of Cornish Cross (from the hatchery in Zeeland), Slow-Growing Cornish and Red Broilers from Privett Hatchery in NM, and this year the FRs. I have horrible mortality: 5 out of 25 in just 2 weeks. And they've got the spraddle leg thing really bad too even though they're on good feed supplemented with boiled eggs, etc. Grr. The Slow-Growing Cornish have really been my favorite: the roos finish at 6lbs at 9-10 weeks and they're great at free-ranging. My best mother hen is Chicken Patty, who has successfully brooded and ranged 15 chicks so far. I don't know, maybe this is just a bad batch. Can't figure it on the spraddle legs at all. The first two weeks they're on terry towels, then wood chips then out on grass, so their surface isn't slippery. And they're not growing too fast: our mutt chickens hatched at the same time and many of them are bigger even if they're out with their mamas. Sorry to clog the conversation as I do get your larger point (really!) but...I had to whine. :)

David Veale said...

Maybe our experience with the Freedom Rangers is beginner's luck. I've heard so many horror stories about the Cornish Crosses, but I also know folks who seem to do alright with them. We were definitely not disappointed with the rangers though, so at least we have a baseline to go with.

Anonymous said...

Yeah it was the Hubbard White Mountain Broiler from Townline that I won't repeat. It was so regrettable, every possible problem, and yeah, some even croaked at 7 weeks! I had three whose legs were so bad that I had to lift them into the coop (the rest of them were in the chicken tractor). All for, what, saving you 2-6 weeks of work for the other birds? No thanks. I will go slow.

This is our first year raising our own meat birds (from an egg bird rooster) but we don't have "enough" to satisfy my husband's yearly consumption needs so I got the FRs, after seeing them offered by someone on the EatLocalSWMI list. I dunno. I am hoping maybe our egg birds just get extra busy next year so I don't have to do the tractoring, etc. You, though, well, have a real farm! so, good luck figuring it all out...your customers are waiting.

terri said...

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