Chicken: the dangerous transformation

Honestly, from the title of this book, I was expecting to read about the transition from chicken from a butcher or something (I’m sorry, I actually didn’t really think about how people used to eat chicken before) to processed foods. I was not expecting all that this book encompassed. Chapter one talks about why we eat so much chicken and where that comes from. I thought it was interesting that chicken consumption ramped up during and mostly after World War II and that it was seen as a civic duty so that the Troops would get more choice cuts of protein. However, the chicken remained popular because it became more affordable and was thought to be a healthier animal protein. I found the industrialization of chicken really interesting, at first, it seemed like a viable way for people to make money, whereas before it was just something some people did on the side. Especially for those in more rural areas. I was not expecting at all that there would be so much drama in chicken. I thought it was nice to see that the “vertical expansions” of companies like Holly Farms resulted in job security for their community and a reliable source of poultry. Yet, just as fast, the industrialized chicken was soured. While I was reading, I felt bad for Holly Farms when Tyson basically usurped their chicken-making power. But I felt even worse for those who were completely disregarded during the merger. Families that had been working for years were let go with no notice. Maybe being let go wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t been explicitly lied to and given a false sense of security, on top of being required to take out loans to improve their equipment. Industrialized chicken production pretty much gets worse from there. I mean, honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting. Immigrants are exploited, maimed, overworked, threatened and the government doesn’t do anything about it because these companies spend a lot lobbying. Poultry plants have terrible conditions for workers, a disgusting complete disregard for how the chickens are actually processed (i.e. spreading of bacteria and microbes through vats that are supposed to clean but basically ensure contamination), disregard for environmental impacts because the fines are nothing to them. I am glad that the end of the book mentioned a possible solution with the Friendly Chickens but it makes you really think like this all could’ve never happened and maybe we’d be better off. It seems like we’re just trying to go back to before companies like Tyson became a big name in chicken. However, I feel guilty because even though that’s fine for people like me (middle-class), it probably wouldn’t be a viable solution for those who depend on cheap processed foods to survive.

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