Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Where was Your Chicken Grown

If seeing chickens raised in confined, inhumane conditions on an industrial farm disturbs you, then why would you choose to eat those chickens?

I posted that question on Facebook after watching an interview with Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Righteous Porkchop and advocate of animal welfare agriculture.

Toward the later part of the middle of the interview, Nicolette makes a comment along lines of ...

Source your food from places you'd be wiling to visit. If you wouldn't want to go there, you shouldn't be eating food raised there.

If you eat animal protein, as I do, Nicolette's challenge is very confronting.

I tend to avoid visual material that documents the inhumane treatment of animals on factory or industrialized farms, and for sure, I wouldn't visit a factory farm; I simply cannot tolerate seeing animals suffer. But I do choose to eat animal protein.

Chicken is a staple in my diet. I eat it at least once or twice a week. It's a tasty light meat, which lends itself to being prepared in a myriad of ways and it's budget-friendly.

This past summer I house sat a small urban farm where owners Barb and Morris raise chickens for their eggs. That's Barb above, holding one of her baby chicks (also to left).

The chicks pictured here, are now full-grown, egg-producing hens.

During the day, the chickens roam free, scratching for feed in their quarter-acre yard, pecking at kitchen scraps, and flapping about in dust baths.

At night, they go into their enclosure, where they snooze and roost on railings.

Barb's free-range chickens live, as Nicolette would say, "a life that respects their fundamental nature."

And when given that opportunity, Nicolette also says those animals tend to be healthy, which means this system of farming, doesn't require all kinds of chemical imputs, and it therefore produces healthier food.

These days, I buy eggs that are labeled Certified Humane which means the eggs come from hens raised according to stringent Animal Care Standards.

Increasingly, many of my friends are bypassing the store --and labels-- and going to the source, buying their eggs direct from urban, backyard farmers, like Barb, whose eggs are no more expensive and they're the real deal: eggs from free-range, happy, healthy hens!

Sourcing humanely-farmed chicken has been a little more challenging. I look for either the Certified Humane stamp or the AWA label.

Food labeling is a minefield of misinformation and confusion, so familiarize yourself with the real meaning behind the labels on chicken and egg cartons at your local market.

I'm eating less chicken and meat these days both for budget and health, as well as for ethical and environmental reasons.

(Nicolette does a great job of explaining how and why factory farm manure is an environmental hazard. Fast forward to the 4 min and 37 second segment of her interview.)

But when I do choose to eat humanely-farmed chicken, I thoroughly enjoy it. Here are just a few of the simple and delicious chicken dishes I've posted on this blog:

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