Not All Chicken Is Created Equal

I wasn’t always sensitive to chicken.  We often ate chicken for dinner as I was a child. In late highschool, I became so sick that I couldn’t eat any food, but white rice, for 2 months. 

However, despite that I believed my body was accepting chicken, I was still suffering from other symptoms.  A doctor’s visit revealed that I was deficient in every single vitamin and mineral.  I suffered from migraine headaches and sore joints.  My ankles were sore, my knees were sore, my lower back was sore, my elbows were sore, and my neck was sore. My neck was so sore that I couldn’t turn my head to the right because I would get shooting pain down to my shoulder blade if I did.  I had acne on my neck. I had small blister-like bumps on my knuckles and elbows.  Those bumps hurt and itched.  When I would get diarrhoea, it ended in hemorrhoids the next morning.

My guts had to relearn how to digest food, but chicken seemed to return just fine.  In fact, I ate chicken often during my pregnancy while following the Brewer diet for the Bradley method of childbirth. 

The GAPS Diet

My solution was to try the GAPS diet.  The GAPS diet is a temporary elimination diet to discover a person’s food sensitivities.  The menu strips down to a diet of broth.  The gelatin heals and seals the gut to prevent undigested food from entering the bloodstream through the intestines.  My choice of broth?  Chicken.  Organic chicken, nonetheless.

After starting this diet, my migraines, joint inflammation, and diarrhoea had cleared.  I felt back to normal aside from the occasional blister and acne that I couldn’t explain.  For the most part, I had figured out pretty much what my body could and couldn’t handle.  I stayed on this diet strictly for 6 months drinking chicken broth every day until I felt I knew what my body could handle.  Then I began following a loose version of the GAPS diet drinking broth only once a week.

One day about 6 months later, I had a bowl of soup from chicken broth that made it feel like someone had punched my stomach.  The reaction started 10-15 minute after my first bite.  I was writhing in pain for several hours until the pain finally subsided. 

My Reaction

Not knowing what caused it.  I thought that maybe the raw sauerkraut had gone bad because I started buying it at the store instead of making it at home.  The next day, I ate a bite of eggs fried in the chicken drippings and it felt like the pain came back immediately.  The next week we were having soup again.  After I tried it without the sauerkraut, I was still writhing in pain!  I watched my children happily eat the soup with no ill effects, and I began to wonder what was wrong with me.  I began to avoid eating the soup.   A friend invited us over for dinner.  She served chicken.  I didn’t have a problem until I got to the drippings.  Then I was in pain the rest of the night.  Nothing but a hot bath helps alleviate this type of pain.

Out of necessity, I became vegetarian for the following year. 

I had already learned that I could have goats’ milk from my own goats, but not from the grocery store — you can read more about dairy journey here.  The common catchphrase for healthy eating is to “shop the perimeter” of the grocery store, meaning to cut out all the boxed and canned foods.  Forced to take that a step further, I had to skip the meat and dairy as well which only left the produce section.

My Decision To Farm

When grocery store shelves emptied of what little I could eat in March 2020, I decided it was time to be my own farmer.  I picked up Joel Salatin’s book, You Can Farm.

To my amazement, I read the following passage:

“One of our chefs changed restaurants and of course took us as a main supplier with her, introducing our food to this new place.  The first time she got broilers, the staff worked them up in preparation for the dinner hour and began commenting: ‘Our hands aren’t sore. Why is that?’

“The ‘sore hands syndrome’ is common in food establishments that handle poultry.  The juices have enough manure and chemicals in them that after a couple hours working with chicken carcasses these penetrate your hands, producing sore, hurting reaction.  It is an accepted norm in the food processing industry.  But with our birds, even after working with them for hours, no soreness develops.”

You Can Farm, pg 382

The light bulb went on at that moment.  I thought maybe it wasn’t me after all.  Maybe it was simply the chicken, despite being “organic.” 

Further, Joel Salatin explains:

“The poultry industry is in a dither over new standards that will require them to wash off all visible manure from carcasses before the birds go into chill tanks.  Now we know why TIME magazine in 1994 reported that chill tanks had 12 inches of fecal sludge in the bottom and up to 10 percent of the weight on supermarket birds was fecal soup insoaked during the chilling process.”

You Can Farm, pg 441

A Visit To Polyface Farm

Knowing Joel Salatin’s open door policy, I went to see him at his farm, Polyface Farm.  I bought loads of chicken.

I feared testing the new food.  Timing was crucial.  If I had a reaction, I needed to be in a position that nothing was going to depend on me for the next several hours. After I cooked some of Salatin’s juicy chicken, I took a bite.  I waited 10 mins.  I took another bite. A half hour passed.  Slowly, I finished my meal.

I never had a reaction. 

I was sold. 

On a deeper level, I understand that it was not only about feeding an animal pesticide-free food (AKA “organic”), but also about how it was raised, butchered, and processed. 

Chicken Houses and Its Problems

Chicken houses are a form of Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFO). This means that each chicken house holds an average of 2,400 birds. That’s a small town in one little building. The concentrated nature of these feeding operations pose several health risks to both human and animals.

Antibiotic Resistance

Because animals are in highly controlled environments without access to fresh air, sunshine, or grass, many farmers opt to continually dose their animals with antibiotics to prevent too many of them from dying. All of the pathogens that weren’t eliminated from the antibiotics are breeding stronger off spring. Farmers will routinely use more and more antibiotics each year to control outbreaks at the expense of loans and taxpayer money.

Pollution

The amount of urine and feces that Concentrated Animal Feed Operations produce is significant. The animals are fed a diet high in grains that are otherwise unnatural creating an exorbitant amount of methane gas — not to mention ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide. Vehicle pollution becomes miniscule when compared to the pollution distributed from the abuse of animals in these feeding operations. Sitting in traffic doesn’t burn your eyes and hurt your lungs like being near a chicken house does.

These large-scale chicken farms are popping up near residential areas in western North Carolina, especially in Surry County. That worries residents Terry and Mary Marshall. “Your throat starts to hurt — you know you are in it,” Terry says. “It smells like a lot of ammonia, and sometimes, just dead rotting meat

The waste is a combination of manure, feed and carcasses — which can cause harmful gas emissions. Mary says there are dust particles in the air and it can be hard to breathe. “We had some friends over to the house,” she says, “several people one night, and it was so bad, they had flashlights out in the front yard and you could see” the particles.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/01/24/463976110/when-a-chicken-farm-moves-next-door-odor-may-not-be-the-only-problem

Further, because there isn’t a proper waste disposal system in place, the surrounding landscape suffers as antibiotic, vaccine, and hormone laden feces impact the surrounding environment.

Poor Quality of Life

These animals do not have the freedom to run around and enjoy the earth as we do. Their muscles become flaccid and weak. They’re bred to grow rapidly and given growth hormones which results in broken legs and blistered breasts from all their weight rubbing on the filthy ground. Often times, the industry debeaks these birds so they don’t peck each other to death — a common symptom of nutritional deficiency. The air is filled with fecal dust which lands on everything in sight — included their food and water.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the industry is working on breeding beakless and featherless chickens.

Inhuman Treatment

Animals that get sick when living in CAFOs go straight to slaughter serving the general pubic sick animals. These operations function as a business which means profits must take a priority. Some facilities use routine antibiotics in the feed to prevent illnesses from forming in the first place. If a veterinarian does not have access to a facility, then the animals may suffer throughout their entire life before becoming part of the food chain.

Ideally, animals would be in such a way that promotes their health in the first place. The healthier the animal, the more healthful the animal is to us as well. It’s not simply investing in the well-being of the animal, it is also investing in our health as well.

High Stress

Animals living in stressful environments are prone to disease sickness. Further, the adrenaline released in the muscles of stressed animals contributes to poor quality meat.

Hurts the Farmer and the People

Concentrated Animal Feed Operations hurts farmers big and small. Small farmers have a hard time competing with the ridiculously low prices of food. Don’t be fooled into thinking that lower prices help people afford food. In reality, these companies are being subsidized by taxpayers like you and me to produce food that is literally killing America.

However, it also hurts bigger farmers too. Many farmers line up at the bank to get their million dollar loan to set up these chicken houses exactly how Purdue or Tyson demand, only for their contract to be ripped from them. Now they are millions of dollars in debt without a livelihood.

The people are suffering from the products that these chickens produce.

The only benefactor is the government and the government backed mega-corporations — not the farmers and not the people.

The Butchering Process

In a conventional abattoir, these birds are electrocuted before slitting the jugular vein which prevents the heart from pumping the blood out of their system.  This leaves black clots of blood all over the carcass. Do you think that chicken pieces are a convenience?  Selling chicken parts remains the primary way for the industry to hide bruises and clots by cutting them out.  You are paying more money per pound for a waste product. 

Sometimes the automatic jugular cutter doesn’t slit the birds’ throat, which means they are thrown into the scalder alive.  That’s right — they scald to death.

Then the evisceration happens.  It is sloppy.  Organs and entrails are popping leaving the livers covered in disgusting bile and feces all over the carcass.  The whole thing then goes in the chill tanks — feather and feces and all.

Being raised in chicken houses under a fog of manure without any sunshine, fresh air, or pasture, their legs are weak and their muscles are flaccid.  These flaccid muscles absorb the “fecal sludge” for you to ingest at your nest meal.

Mystery Meat

According to Reuters, “Tyson Foods Inc received approval from U.S. and Chinese authorities to export American poultry to China…”  TheFactSource states, “American farmers will be able to ship poultry to China for processing and packaging. The processed products can be shipped back to the United States, and be labelled as ‘American raised chickens’. The meat does not need to be labeled as processed in China.”  Basically, these birds will travel nearly 12,000 miles live to reach China and another 12,000 dead just to return to your local grocery store.

You are not going to know how those birds were raised, how they were butchered — let alone where they were butchered — or anything along the way. 

Not All Chicken Is Created Equal

By knowing your farmer, you know who raised, butchered, and packaged your food.  Know your farmer; know your food. 

Government facilities remain unknown and secretive, let alone facilities on the other side of the world in China.

The government might try to claim that it’s healthier and safer to process poultry in a federally inspected facility, but my body tells me otherwise.  My body tells me that it’s healthier and safer to process it at home on the farm.  No amount of organic certifications could give me my health back.

Source your meat from your local farmer. It is better to purchase from a pasture-raised farmer who uses soy in the feed, than to purchase “organic” mystery meat from the store.

Go to your farmer’s market to meet farmers.

Happy eating!

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