I get it, I really do. When you think about it, eating meat is gross. There is NO nice way to die, even if you are a chicken.
And I get the vegan thing, a bit. I get that you don’t want to “USE” animals to create products for consumption, and I think that is justified.
I too have dabbled into vegetarianism, and we try to eat meat free, and meat reduced frequently. We do not base our meal around animal protein, but when we do, we do it with a clear mind.
I am surrounded my chickens all day long. Living, flapping, crowing, personality filled chickens. Big, small, black, brown. Some who are pushy and clever, others who just want to be left alone to dust bath. We even have some who, no matter HOW short I trim their wings will STILL find a way over the garden gate and to my seedlings.
I know each chickens name, and while I may not eat them, I would eat their cousins. Any day.
Before you decide to join the ranks of vegetarians and vegans across the globe, or get turned off by farms and companies who make chicken products, I want to tell you a little bit about what I, a chicken loving human, have learned about these fowl.
Chickens breed. A lot.
A hen at maturity will produce about 5 eggs a week, 7-9 months out of the year. IF there is a rooster on the premises (or like us and you have 6) these eggs will be fertilized. Which means, every single egg I eat has the capability to be a chicken. I currently have 3 “broody” hens. All they want is to hatch ALL THE BABIES. Often we will have a hen sneak off into the forest to hatch, like this gal who had over 30 eggs under her.
Hens make babies, (with roosters) that is what they like to do. And with each baby, there is a 50% chance of a rooster. And more than a few roosters means CHAOS to the world.
So, because hens make babies, we MUST eat the roosters. Or we need to massively decrease the chicken population in the world… but we will STILL end up with too many roosters. It’s math people…
Chickens Are Weak
I know, this sounds like a real BAD reason to say we should eat them, but if you look at the science of animals, it makes sense.
If you ever went to summer camp you might have played the prey and predator game. The group is split up with the majority being prey, some being predators, and then there is usually 1 hunter (man). It is basically a game of tag, but can only work via the “food chain”.
These “prey” animals are built differently than the predators. Their hearts are weak, and when they are stressed or fearful, they just “give out”. I believe that this is a kindness bestowed onto them, to allow them to go quickly.
As prey, humans are not the only ones eating fowl either. Racoons, crows, eagles, mink, small and large cats, coyotes, etc will all snack on a tasty chicken leg if they have the chance.
Chickens are prey. Sad but true
Chickens Are Super Growers
Did you know that a meat breed chicken can grow to maturity within 12-14 weeks. The chicken you are eating in your stores are young, and grown quickly and with not a lot of wear and tear on the land if done right.
It takes a cow 18-24 months, acres of pasture, and additional feed.
In the time it takes 1 cow to grow, 8 or more chickens could have been grown from the “egg”. In very little space, with very little money.
Chickens grow quickly, reproduce rapidly, and are cost effective. Cheaper chicken and all.
Also, there is a BIG difference between a meat chicken and an egg layer. Egg layers will take much longer to reach maturity (18-22 weeks until they start laying ) and will have much less “meat on their bones” An egg laying chicken is usually only good as a stewing chicken, but even still is hardly worth it. All the videos, memes and happy, fluffy bumb pictures you see are of heritage egg layers.
Meat chickens are mean. They will destroy each other if they are not processed at maturity. They are not the friendly chicken of your dreams. But, at local farms, especially ones who process themselves, chickens are never a product, each is respected and well treated… even the nasty ones.
What Can You Do?
I know, it still kinda bites to eat a cute little chicken.. but you can’t quite get over how GOOD they taste. So here are a few tips to manage your feelings with your appetite.
- Eat less of it. Seriously. You do not need that huge chicken breast. Our family of 5 will eat 1 breast of chicken for a meal. Slice it length wise and you end up with some beautiful pieces and no chicken over consumption.
- Buy local, or from free ranging farms. Obviously chickens grown in small batches are usually better treated and raised. But if you don’t have access, just eat less.
- Eat less mammals. Mammals take a long time to grow and produce, and it takes a lot of product to grow them as big as we want them. I am not saying STOP eating mammal, I am just saying, eat less.
- Eat more eggs, and don’t feel bad about it. Each egg can become a chicken (if fertilized) and by eating it before it hatches you are saving a chickens life (and still getting amazing protein)
- Choose to eat eggs from companies that have an outsource for their roosters. When an egg company hatches chicks, they have no need of the males (because they don’t produce eggs) and this is when you see all those horrible videos of chicks being processed. Some smaller companies can send these males off to be grown for meat. It isn’t the most affordable way to grow meat, but your local farms will do it.
- Appreciate it. Seriously. Just appreciate the meat on your table. If you are having a hard time doing that go buy yourself a tomato seed, plant it, raise it, tend it, nurture and when that tomato is ready to harvest, stop for a moment and see how much you appreciate that 1 tomato and all the work you put in to get it. Appreciate what is on your plate.
- Don’t stop loving chickens. Chickens are cool. There are different kinds, but all of them should be loved for what they bring us, both joy and sustenance.
Eat the chickens, eat the eggs. Think about the source of your food, spend the time choosing wisely. In fact, do this for EVERYTHING. Don’t blindly go about and consume, understand WHAT you are consuming, WHY and WHERE it came from.
Basically, be a good earth team player.