Broiler chickens - good book

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14 years 5 months ago #2824 by reggit
I managed to get through four books during my week away. One was the interestingly titled "Planet Chicken" by Hattie Ellis about the broiler chicken industry in the UK.

It has really put me off eating run-of-the-mill chicken meat (Kate, I'll be trying 5XRds butcher for an alternative supply), and I would be really interested if someone on here with experience of the broiler industry has read this (its a 2007 book) and has any comments.

The author argues that chicken has become such a cheap (read: unvalued) meat compared to others that it has been commodified to the point where chook welfare is much further down the scale than welfare of other meat animals.

Well worth a read, libraries should have it :D.

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14 years 5 months ago #77715 by sod
Replied by sod on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Dont believe the welfare bit is true from my experience in New Zealand, but the idea is for cheap protein for the masses which it does very well. Haveing said that the biggest loss is taste etc.There has been a thread on here all about this.

Having time is a measure of enthusiasm:rolleyes:

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14 years 5 months ago #77723 by reggit
Replied by reggit on topic Broiler chickens - good book
All I can find on the NZ situation is websites by animal rights organisations...would be nice to have access to some industry info to balance it out, if that is the case.

The main issues in the book were:

broiler chickens grown at such a rate that their health was compromised eg leg deformities and breaks etc

high density indoor raising as per battery hens

use of antibiotics to keep them healthy

method of killing doesn't work to a good enough level to be humane - the method outlined was stunning via electric current in a liquid bath that their heads are dipped into, and then throat cut using automated lines along blades - as percentage of chickens aren't stunned properly

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14 years 5 months ago #77751 by stacey
Replied by stacey on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Tigger - www.pianz.org.nz has some good info.

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14 years 5 months ago #77756 by oskatd
Replied by oskatd on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Yes, we buy chickens through work that are free range corn fed - not organic though, and the texture and taste of the meat is completely different from the tegel/pams supermarket ones. I don't think the issues are as extreme as in the UK, where chicken is really cheap. We always bought organic over there the other stuff was way too dodgy!

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14 years 5 months ago #77760 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Hi tigger, I wouldn't mind getting my hands on it, I'll try our library.

I wrote a bit about our NZ broiler industry on a thread just recently, to try and counter some of the misconceptions that were printed in arecent newspaper article. Yes, some/most of what is written is emotive stuff by the animal rights folks and is either untrue, overly dramatised and describing the very worst situations.

I do get a bit annoyed when I read this type of stuff-because this is what gets written and bandied about and the facts and realities of what happens is not 'newsworthy'
Tigger there are some websites which have a bit of information on them, like the PIANZ web site-Poultry Industry Association, the EPF web site, Egg Producers federation and the various animal welfare codes which I think are on the MAF website.

Whilst I agree that what you have raised as the main issues in the book do occur, just the way it is written gets me going!

No they are not fed antibiotics to keep them healthy, they are fed antibiotics to protect them from disease, if they get it. In NZ many of the antibiotics that used to be fed are now prohibited, it may be different in UK, but they have been through this too.

Yes, they do grow fast, they are selected genetically to do so, but it doesn't mean they end up breaking legs-that wouldn't be economic and Growers margins are pretty slim. The breeding stock is specially selected for structure and carcase qualities-far more so than breeding stock for say fat lamb or pork production. The Male lines have growth tests and leg X rays before they are allowed to enter the breeding pens.

Yes, they are kept in high density, but are free to mover around inside the shed. Birds, especially young ones do tend to flock close together andsit around in a mob. Remeber they are only 5 weeks old when they are killed, so still only babies.

The killing method described is one used by thousands of processing factories on millions of birds world wide-if their was a better method it would be invented and installed. OK, I believe some birds flap while hanging on the line and miss the electric stunner, but still get their throats cut. Our factory used to have a guy sitting in a the darkened box to cut the throats of the ones that missed, lovely job? Is this any worse than soemone wielding an axe or strangling a bird and not killing it in a backyard situation?

I read a piece in a newspaper article sent to me from the UK-that Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had got on the chicken bandwagon.

"During the process of catching and transportation tens of thousands may die as they are packed together even more tightly than in their sheds"

I take real objection to statements like this, firstly because if tens of thousands did die it would be an economic disaster, the grower doesn't get paid for DOA dead on arrivals and he would be dreadfully upset and secondly,all animals travel better when packed close together-look at sheep and cattle trucks! So what exactly do they propose-each chicken should rattle around in its own little box? These are the kinds of statements in the books that make my blood boil as they are written to stir up the unknowing to a fever pitch.

Yes, I know all about the lack of taste and cheap meat etc, but the picture painted is so negative and raises this animal welfare issue about birds not seeing the sun and running around in the mud-do they really need to when they are warm and fed and watered for their short lives?

Sorry to have rattled on Tigger....
oh, and another thing-did you see the Jimmys farm on Saturday with the fox killing over 100 hens, all his quail, ducklings etc etc. More fool him for just going out and buying more, without protecting them better, but see what the animal welfarists have done in UK by banning fox hunting!

sorry about all the spelling mistakes-I can get quite worked up about my favourite topic, just read through them please:)

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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14 years 5 months ago #77766 by reggit
Replied by reggit on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Thanks Sue, I was hoping you'd weigh in on this one with some experience :D as I said, a UK book and not sure what the situation here was.

What I did like about the book was the analysis of the reasons (again UK-based) that it is so hard for organic/free range producers to get a foot in the door as far as processing and market share. That was what went back to the perception of chicken being a cheap meat and eating it not being a real occasion any more, whereas once upon a time it was a bit of a treat. Maybe part of that is (excuse the pun) chicken and egg with the issue of the meat not being as tasty...?

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14 years 5 months ago #77781 by sod
Replied by sod on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Thanks Sue that is what I was trying to say only you do it much better. I think we have to about these things, the more cost to produce less profit so would anyone think lots of antibiotic and deaths would work.. Dont think so

Having time is a measure of enthusiasm:rolleyes:

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14 years 5 months ago #77789 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Broiler chickens - good book
The broiler industry in UK is actually very similar to that in NZ, in fact we even use the same breeds/strains of birds. The one advantage NZ has is that we have far less diseases that the UK must vaccinate and treat for- so our birds are luckier in that respect.

For anyone that wants to grow and fatten free range or organic meat chicken, which we all acknowledge tastes better, and sell it in farmers markets or butchers etc, then go for it!
As long as they comply with the rules and regulations set out for the large processing establishments, put there to protect the consumer.

If people can afford to buy their product then good on them, I'm sure there is a market, but at a price. But are these folks knocking the commercial guys and criticising the methods of production as a sour grapes sort of reaction because the mass produced chicken is cheap though young and tasteless, or because they are jealous?!

Chicken may be a cheap meat in the UK, but it is all relative. I always though pork was cheaper when I lived there, but that was a long time ago. The pork industry is a whole new topic, which I know little about, but have to despair about some of the antics on that TV programme!

I suppose my point is OK it is a cheap meat, and I agree broiler chicken can be tasteless-but it is versatile and a good source of nutritious protein.
If people want tastier birds for special occaisions, go and buy corn fed/organic/free range and rare breed chook-if you can find it, and create the demand.
But don't knock the folks who are producing meat at a price the majority can afford. I don't agree with the knockers who say that the welfare of these birds is neglected for all the reasons stated. Growers get paid per kg of first quality live weight-not the dead, dying and damaged-so it is in their interest to look after their charges for their short lives.

Here I go again, now I better get off my soap box-but it is an interesting subject and a case of the consumer gets what they pay for-if they can afford it-someone will produce it!

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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14 years 5 months ago #77793 by reggit
Replied by reggit on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Thanks Sue [:I] it sorta links back to the other thread where we are discussing the processing of meat and who can/can't do it and what restrictions there are on smaller processors. I was really surprised to see a very small abattoir on my trip to Dunedin, usually they are major facilities!

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14 years 5 months ago #77795 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Yes, the meat issue and getting small numbers of stock killed, for resale, is another of my bug bears! I would dearly love to sell our Murray Grey beef in a small way, as I'm sure you would like to sell your Wiltshire lamb, if you had enough!?

The fact it has to be killed and inspected first, makes it slightly more difficult for the small producer. Unless you have a 'large line' of animals going through the abbatoir they are not interested in ensuring you get your same one carcase back!

I know there are some smaller establishments around, I think there is one 3 hours truck ride away-but that hardly improves the meat quality aspect of what you are trying to achieve, which is to produce tasty, tender stress free meat!

Yes the smaller producer does have a harder time and has to do the whole job from breeding, growing, processing, packaging and marketing-a time consuming and expensive excercise compared to the large company run operation that produces chickens.

So the consumer that wants the superior product has to pay. The difference is similar to McD's as compared to a top of the range restaurant.

The red meat industry does not quite have the same integrated structure but the principles are the same. The Angus Pure and Hereford Prime are sort of starting to get there, but I believe even they struggle to move the cuts which are not restaurant quality after all the fillet and porterhouse is sold!

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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14 years 5 months ago #77797 by reggit
Replied by reggit on topic Broiler chickens - good book
Yep, that is what I am getting at, Sue...I don't see the point of raising animals in a premium environment (be it organic, stress free, whatever) and then shipping them off to a mass processing unit...sort of negates the point of it all [:I].

I must find those stats for the UK and US as far as abattoirs went, it was mainly to do with charging rates for the meat inspectors and regs as far as having an inspector on site at all times, whereas small operators might only want to process a couple of days a week as opposed to full on. I would love to see comparative info for NZ - heck, I might even contact that one I found in Dunedin and get the low down!

(anyone down there know the place I mean? Somewhere between Dunedin and the Catlins I think, from memory painted a dark green colour...:D)

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14 years 5 months ago #78557 by LittleLSB
Do you mean the one in Milton???.... If so its South Kill

I haven't used them but believe that the situation is (and I'm happy to be corrected) that the meat isn't inspected so the rules are the same as for homekill with regards to not selling/bartering it. Also they just kill and dress - you have to take the carcass somewhere else to get it butchered or DIY.

Perhaps if you start another thread the more experience Dunedinites will fill you in. I'm just going off what I've been told.

Just an aside about poultry - I would imagine that commercially farmed free range chickens are killed and processed in exactly the same way (probably even in the same facility) as the intesively farmed birds. The brand of free range chicken available in my local supermarket is actually owned by one of the big players in the market.

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14 years 5 months ago #78738 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Broiler chickens - good book
In reference to the last post from LittleLSB, and back to poultry, yes, some of the 'bigger players' as you put it do also have Free range facilities for growing chicken and they are killed in the same premises as the barn reared birds. They therefore have the economies of scale to produce them a little cheaper, but still more expensive than indoor housed.
The same birds on the same feed, just allowed to run around outside and live a little longer. The benefits are the killing/processing and marketing set-up is already in place.

The small producer who must buy or breed his chicks, then grow them, process them and market them himself is the one that will find the expenses mount up as they must be killed in a facility which passes Food Safety standards of inspection.

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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14 years 5 months ago #78754 by Sue
Replied by Sue on topic Broiler chickens - good book
I just looked to see if the book was in our local library, no luck.
So googled the title and read the reviews. One comment I found there that disturbs me is that it talks about the chickens that are reared for meat, then talks about liberating them from their cages and setting them free!!

Here is an excerpt from the critique, admittedly by someone from the animal liberation front,

"So how can we reverse this trend and make our chickens -- and our meals -- healthy again? Easy, Ellis says: Keep the chickens happy. Take them out of the battery cages and let them go free range and you'll see a range of improvements. They'll be less likely to panic, which means they'll be less likely to injure themselves through wild flapping or other frantic activities. They'll be less likely to turn on each other when they have space to move. They'll be less likely to catch diseases they can pass on to each other or people.

In fact, chickens don't even have to be free range to be happy, Ellis says. They can even be barn-reared or kept in "enhanced cages," as long as they are able to engage in natural behaviours such as perching, pecking and dust bathing, which chickens actually need to do to stay healthy."

So one minute it is talking about birds kept inside and smothering and having huge breasts which mean they cannot walk and then, lets liberate them from the cages and they don't have to Free Range to be happy, they can even live indoors! Hello, that is where meat chickens live, not in cages!

The piece about living outside and engaging in natural activities to stay healthy also is a laugh!

As you know I am fairly closely connected to lots of things poultry. At present in this area my OH is dealing with several problems in commercial Free range operations. He has had to go and post mortem dead birds, take bloods from live ones and recommend treatments.
In all three cases birds have caught diseases that would probably not had such a major effect on the flocks, had they been housed indoors-and in one case, had they been vaccinated.
The diseases are namely Coccidiosis (in 26 week old pullets newly allowed on to Free Range)
Egg Drop Syndrome or EDS and Epidemic Tremors.

All these diseases are relatively common, especially in outdoors kept and small backyard flocks as well and can cause significant production failure, like a 50% drop in eggs and in some cases death. These farmers do not have battery caged birds, but they are all suffering economic loss, by producing eggs from a system that is not always in the best interest of the bird.
Remember this is one of the reasons that people started keeping birds indoors in the first place!

Sue
Labrador lover for yonks, breeder of pedigree Murray Grey cattle for almost as long, and passionate poultry person for more years than I care to count.

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