Chicken

As a person who eats chicken frequently, I was dreading the reading of this book and it surely did not disappoint. In chapter 1, Striffler talks about how chicken was not as popular in the United States before World War II as it was after. The processing of chicken created a more accessible meat product for the public to consume. Mass marketing and mass production implemented a sort of efficiency surrounding chicken that makes sense for America, since we are so obsessed with spending less time and less money. Americans became infatuated with the new “branded chickens,” which were mass produced and catered to people who wanted cooking to be easier, and for those who do not want to cook, you can get chicken in minutes at places like KFC. Later in the book, Striffler talks about the chicken industry and why it gained so much traction. Chicken is marketed as healthy meat and it is versatile in many ways, so the idea of chicken being available for cheap was appealing to many people. Chicken was molded to fit an industrial model with large processing plants and chickens being raised in poor conditions in large numbers. This was the best way to make it available to the public at lower prices. After WWII, the creation of easily accessible chicken products became a market that many people could become involved in. The people who raise the chickens were connected with those who made chicken feed, the chickens were passed to the processing plant, etc. One company facilitates all of this movement, like Tyson. Much like any other large company that is producing a product for people to buy, poultry companies took over the long chains of people and organizations needed to process chicken in this modern way. Striffler also talks about work in this book, which was interesting to me because he was a worker for a poultry processing plant at one point. I was not shocked to learn that Tyson and other companies mistreated their employees and hired them in under-the-table ways. It is not a foreign concept in America to hire workers who are in the United States illegally in large numbers and pay them less than they deserve. This offers cheap labor to Tyson and other large companies, which makes the whole process cheaper and more beneficial for the people in charge. The working environments are toxic and inhumane, and chicken has become an industry where only the wealthy company owners profit, much like many others. The well being of workers is not a large focus in the movement to make food cleaner, but it needs to be. We have come full circle as a society, because it is clear that today, people are willing to spend more money on a higher quality chicken. They want to know that the chicken was treated well in its life and was processed with the least amount of chemicals and the most amount of care. The industrialization of chicken after WWII has finally worn out for some, and quality has become more important to consumers than price or speed. However, I feel that Americans will never be able to let go of processed chicken, even though some of them can afford to search for the higher quality meat. For some, it is a matter of poverty and processed food is simpler and more accessible. For some, it is the ease with which fast food chicken products are available. This movement towards better chicken is a targeted one, because not everyone can afford to purchase organic free-range chicken every time they buy groceries. So, the industry will continue flourishing as fast food restaurants need suppliers for their chicken paste.

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