Friday, October 1, 2010

My Poultry Education (A Rude Awakening in Mississippi)

I was asked the other day why, with my background, I didn’t go into the commercial poultry industry. I thought I would talk about my last poultry classes and the education I received first hand from the industry here on my blog. I have a passion for poultry, they are fun, beautiful, and provide very tasty food. I enjoy the birds first and the products secondary. They are funny, quirky and sometimes crazy. At least my hens are! I love watching them scamper through the grass and I love learning about them. I loved learning about them so much I went one of the top schools for poultry – Mississippi State University.

I studied poultry at MSU my senior year and was taken to both broiler houses and a layer farm. I had learned about the commercial industry and didn’t like the concepts of chickens in cages, chickens eating the offal from the broiler industry, etc. Before I even saw these facilities first hand I had rejected the concept of being a part of raising chickens in cages. But until I saw it with my own eyes, heard them chortling and cooing like my chickens chortle and coo, I didn’t have that big a problem with chickens raised in cages. The whole out of sight out of mind thing.

Let me be very clear, P E T A’s depiction of abuse and disgust is not true of facilities housing caged birds or the meat industry either. They are known for staging abuse to prove a point (confused? P E T A euthanizes more animals every year than humane societies, “greater good” I guess). By USDA standards they were sufficiently cared for. The facility was surprisingly clean for all the dander and feathers that many hens would be releasing daily and it was almost odorless. A lot of research has gone into developing these facilities to have proper ventilation, odor and disease control. P E T A likes to film and with the tight security and biosecurity on farms today, I doubt any of their filmed farm abuse segments are real.

But, while walking through the rows of caged laying hens I did have to separate from the group as I started to cry. I couldn’t hold back my emotions regarding the chickens, not because of the chickens themselves, as far as I could see they were not deformed or cannibalizing each other. The reason I was crying was because I have chickens. They may not be treated as pets, they are farm animals, but I still respect them and value their job highly. I didn’t feel the chickens were respected properly there. And what was worse, I was in a class filled with people who had no emotional reaction to this. They were not horrified, many had worked summers in these facilities or have family who run them. When asked if I was crying I had to say I was sensitive to the ammonia (which there really wasn't much of because they really do regulate these houses well). I feel they should have earth beneath their feet, not wire, and they should have room to flap and roosts to rest on. It was frustrating to me.

I do believe there is a valid reason for confined animal operations and to some extent genetically modified organisms. Don’t de-friend me just yet. We can’t feed the world or even our own neighbors. Our global population isn’t well nourished, so I understand that until we can feed all of our people we need to find creative and scientific ways to care for everyone better. But that doesn’t mean I agree with chickens being dubbed (they still have all of their beak but the tip so debeaking is not an accurate term) so you can shove more of them in a cage and I certainly don’t agree with shoving them in cages.

I do apologize for my long winded tangent(s). Yay chickens!

Anyway, I decided a while ago that I really wasn’t needed or wanted in the commercial poultry industry. I don’t want to be branded a pot stirrer and I certainly am not one to keep my mouth shut. So I have sought out on my own to redefine poultry for Forest Grove, one egg at a time.

Thank you for your support and continuing to read my blog.

Speaking of eggs… gotta go hatch some,


1 comment:

  1. Yay chickens!
    I thoroughly and completely agree with you. It's a sad state of affairs and we do what we can in our tiny corner of the world to make it better. Carry on!