September 30th, 2009

A (female?) chicken in every pot

[WARNING: the following post may put you a bit off your feed.]

On this thread I noticed a discussion in the comments section about chicken. Inquiring minds wanted to know whether we eat female birds only, or males and females equally (and by the way, “chicken” refers both to female birds and to the generic species as a whole).

Sorta-kinda-trusty old Wiki has the scoop, although the following may be more (much more) than you wanted to know:

In the United States, laying hens are butchered after their second egg laying season. In Europe, they are generally butchered after a single season. The laying period begins when the hen is about 18–20 weeks old (depending on breed and season). Males of the egg-type breeds have little commercial value at any age, and all those not used for breeding (roughly fifty percent of all egg-type chickens) are killed soon after hatching. Such “day-old chicks” are sometimes sold as food for captive and falconers birds of prey. The old hens also have little commercial value. Thus, the main sources of poultry meat a hundred years ago (spring chickens and stewing hens) have both been entirely supplanted by meat-type broiler chickens.

And speaking of too much information: please don’t watch this video (I certainly didn’t)—but apparently it demonstrates how male chicks are killed not long after they hatch.

22 Responses to “A (female?) chicken in every pot”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    So that is where the expression “spring chicken” comes from.

  2. jon baker Says:

    Around my parent’s place its the predators that eat most of the chickens. Dad got chickens thinking he could leave them out during the day to catch grasshoppers and only lock them up at night. But it seems there are predators that come up in broad daylight around here- including bobcats and maybe a feral tomcat as well.

  3. anna Says:

    meh i grew up on a farm. nothing much about animal death will bother me after that.

  4. Artfldgr Says:

    grinding them up is the most humane way. its not pretty, but its humane.

    a long while back there was a movie made, quite famous, and it consisted of filming a conveyer belt where female workers were sexing chicks (an interesting thing in itself if you know).

    you saw a chick basically try to run against the treadmill, but it was not wanted… and so it was to end up with the shells. it took a long while, and they showed it to us as children. at the end was a mashing machine… instantly crushing them… but running like a pile driver machine at the end.

    while disgusting, this is also humane.

    crushed or ground, either way, the time it takes is faster than the time it takes for nerves to carry signals, and the brain is torn apart way before it could process whats happening. add to that the ignorance of an animal, and its not torture.

    and what happens to black sheep? their wool cant be dyed, so they too have little economic value compared to the white ones.

    dont worry… the greenies and others dont know that capitalism i incredibly good at using every little part you can. between the companies own ends getting rid of stuff, or going to the renderer. every part is used if they can find a use for it.

    its funny, but thats one of the reasons the left said the indians were so superior. that they used every part of the animal, no part was wasted. well, this isnt true as not all parts have uses.

    however, in the modern age, every part has uses.

    quite literally…

    you would be very surprised to know where cows go and in what products they are in. they are in plastics, cosmetics, glues, asphalt, paints, siding, and much much more…

  5. strcpy Says:

    Yep, and the video is produced by a “animal rights” group that is telling you to be a vegan.

    The grinder they used was not the one I expected, it was a screw type and probably really shouldn’t be used for this. I’ve seen more than several types that, as stated above, kill them as near to instant as you can get. It sounds “bad” but it is one of the more humane ways to kill even on an individual basis.

    I have to wonder how long they searched and how long they filmed to get the footage. They never really say but imply it was easy and constant.

    There are also no really nice sounding ways to kill something – it is an inherently violent act. Slaughter houses of any kind can not hide what they do. In fact, if we want to kill something (especially in large quantities) in a way that does not damage the meat you are going to tend toward more inhuman ways. That is the nature of the way our lives work.

    People get outraged at this type of thing but then can not live without said items or live with the price necessary to avoid those practices.

  6. fmt Says:

    Which is where the expression “You can’t make an omelet without grinding up some chicks” comes from.

  7. jim Says:

    70 years ago when I was a child my dad raised a lot of chickens. He had an incubator where a couple of hundred eggs could be hatched at a time. About half of the baby chicks were male. I remember watching my father and older brother kill these unwanted male chickens by pulling their heads off. I vividly remember that one tiny quick spurt of blood as the bird’s tiny heart made its last thump. These dead chicks were tossed across the street into the weedy vacant lot where raccoons dined on them that night and buzzards the next day. Life’s short and hard for most male chickens.

  8. Adagny Says:

    “please don’t watch this video, (I certainly didn’t)…

    Neo, you’re bad, wicked.

  9. Foxfier Says:

    This doesn’t sound very accurate to me… right up there with when the same folks try to tell me that dairy calves are killed at birth. I’ve had several different animal righters tell me that the corpses are “just thrown away,” as well.
    (Absolutely untrue. Dairy calves *are* the primary source of veal, same way that dairy cows are a primary source of McDonald’s burgers, but there’s a large difference between the two.)

    The information you quoted doesn’t seem to be on the page anymore–probably got removed for lack of decent sourcing, since the only place I can find anything like what it claims is on various animal rights sites.

    This article, for example, says nothing about wasting the time and resources expended to hatch the male laying chicks by destroying them.

    Here’s a better quote:
    For strictly meat birds, many hatcheries offer specials on cockerels. These may be “heavy breeds” or “egg layer cockerels”. The latter are the ‘unwanted’ from hatches of Leghorn-type egg-laying chicks; the hens are in demand for eggs, but not all chicks are female. Compared to the heavy breeds, these will take a little longer to attain “fryer weight” but they can be good cheap eating. Heavy breeds can be butchered as fryers or grown a little longer for “roasting” birds.

  10. F Says:

    I used to raise poultry. I bought some day-old chicks from Hy-Line. They were good chicks. I knew when I got into the business that it was a business, not a welfare agency for chickens. Sometimes I treated my own birds a little rough, and at the end of the 6th week, when the broilers were processed, they all died. All of them. I certainly wasn’t in the business of buying a day-old chick and feeding it for 6 weeks, then turning it out to live a rich and rewarding life somewhere else. And my poultry was very well sought out by my customers, who paid a little more than twice as much for my birds (free-range birds) as they would at the supermarket. I didn’t want them to die a painful death, and I took no pleasure in the processing (it was hot, dirty work processing hundreds of birds). But they all died. I would not have been paid for live birds, after all. F

  11. strcpy Says:

    “This article, for example, says nothing about wasting the time and resources expended to hatch the male laying chicks by destroying them.”

    I do not think it has been any secret that the male birds “go away”. There is a show running on cable called “How its made” and is Canadian produced. It’s not remotely political, they ran an episode that included chickens and went through sexing them and such.

    Their response was the male chickens were not valuable and went “elsewhere” (they didn’t show where the line went).

    Male chickens take longer to come to weight and sell for less – no farmer in their right mind is going to pick something that costs more (and raising them is the expensive part, even an extra few days growth time can be many many thousands of dollars in cost) and sells for less.

    That’s not to say the chicks go to waste any more than your calf example – they go into all sorts of industrial grade foods, fertilizers, and many other products. If you need chicken protein for something you would be crazy to use anything less. As such grind them up. Lots of money to made in dog food and cat food and other industrial uses.

    Where I think said video “lies” is showing a screw type grinder and sorta kinda implying that is the norm (while really only saying the “grind em up part” is industry wide). I will not necessarily say it was done here (I do not know – though obviously the grinder was the factory one I do not know how long they had to search to find the “right one”) either but those so called “animal rights groups” have been known to stage those videos too – purposely putting a chick where none would ever go and then interviewing one of their own “plants” saying it happens all the time (well, yea, because you guys have been throwing them over there). One group (and the broadcasting company that ran with their story) killed Food Lion and lost a big court case over that, though the damage had already been done.

    Grinding them up is pretty industry standard, however I have not seen the “remove their beaks” or the screw type grinder as being so. But then I’m not really a chicken farmer and all the people I know who are do so on a small scale.

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    oh… and dont forget to mention that male chicks turn into roosters, and roosters cant all be put together in one place the way hens can. you can fill a huge huge cheap metal “barn” and literally have thousands of them in each section.

    try to do that with roosters and see what will happen…

    there is a reason they are called cock fights and not hen fights.

  13. SAB Says:

    These videos are made to target the delicate psyche of children. My own child has stopped eating meat (feels sorry for the animal). Now I have to search for nutritious protein alternatives and it has made my job as a parent just a little bit more difficult to say the least.

  14. strcpy Says:

    “roosters cant all be put together in one place the way hens can.”

    In the more rural parts of the mountains here I think the rooster farmers keep the plastic barrel companies in business all by their selves. Of course what they are keeping them for is a “secret” I suppose. I always wondered as a kid because they are all tied to a short rope to their plastic home and they never seem to have them for sale.

    As I understand they actually keep track of bloodlines and certain ones can sell for a lot of money. If you can overlook the bloodsport aspect of it then it is kinda fascinating what the people do. Not that I support such “sport”, but the processes around the fights are interesting. There is also a HUGE deal of misinformation about what goes on there too – I recall hearing macabre stories of fitting razor blades to their feet and all sorts of stuff – none of it true, the roosters are too expensive to do that with (I always wondered who got the job of catching said rooster after the fight – sounded dangerous to me, but that was back when I was naive enough to believe “news” sources).

  15. Tom Says:

    A small symbol of our national feminization is that cockfights are now illegal in all states. Louisiana was the last to ban; law passed 99 to 1.

    Why it should trouble us to let two chickens try to kill one another is quite beyond me.

  16. Foxfier Says:

    Artfldgr, strcpy –

    Several years running my parents bought 200+ roosters of laying breeds and raised them, in the same barn, for fryers. It _doesn’t matter_ if adult roosters are violent when kept in the same area, because eating chickens don’t live that long.

    Imagine a woman and three kids processing fifty chickens a week for a month at a go, and that– plus the feed- was a pretty decent price for that much chicken, even if we couldn’t stand to look at the stuff for a while afterwards. ^.^

    Cock fighting is disgusting. Full stop. There’s no redeaming characteristics to it, it attracts a bad crowd, and tends to be involved with drugs as well. Objecting to animal cruelty isn’t feminist, it’s basic decency. (Also rather required by Christianity– can’t be a good steward if you don’t care for the stock.) The stupid part comes when folks try to expand “cruelty” to “not treating animals like people”– it is a rather feminine trait to project human traits onto animals.

    Maybe the “proper” cockfights wouldn’t use razors, but I know the Mexican Cockfighters in Surprise Valley sure did, in every wave that came through.
    Didn’t even bother to remove the razors after the fighting was done– they were usually still attached when the cops busted ’em during daylight hours.

  17. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Roosters want to fight. When I was growing up, my mother had a small flock of poultry that rambled around, one of which was a belligerent little bantam fighting cock. He was about the size of a cat, but believed himself to be both gargantuan and invincible. He attacked pigeons that landed in the barnyard, cats, reflections of himself in hubcaps, and pretty much anything else that moved at his eye level. He did not attack people who were standing upright, but if he found you sitting or lying down on the grass outdoors, he would jump on your head and attack your hair with his spurs. Maybe the hair looked like feathers to him? One day he found my father kneeling on the ground laying flagstone beside our newly-installed swimming pool, and leaped onto his head. My father, who was not an animal fan at the best of times, furiously knocked the rooster away — and naturally, he landed in the middle of the pool, where he promptly sank. My father had to jump in fully clothed and rescue him. This incident was not a subject you brought up with my father afterward, if you were smart.

  18. fmt Says:

    lol, mrs whatsit.

    Foxfier, dairy bull calves of the smaller breeds may not be killed at birth but generally are within a few days, though they get used for this and that. They are known as “bob calves”. Holstein calves generally get raised for veal or as steers. In New Zealand, unwanted calves get bopped on the head at birth, and, I presume, thrown away. Feed is precious in NZ, and they aren’t about to waste it on a bull calf.

  19. Angst Says:

    I’m reminded of a message I saw posted at the top of a ski lift in Aspen last year:

    “The younger the chicken, the sweeter the meat – The older the violin, the sweeter the music.”

  20. Artfldgr Says:

    since mrs watsit told her family rooster story, i guess i can tell mine.

    my mom had a pet rooster she raised from a chick. the slaughter houses would let you take a fallen egg, and hers hatched. when i was a child grandad would go to the slaughter house to pick up the family turkey, or a bird for a special.

    now remember this is ny city, bronx… not farm country.

    well, eventually the rooster got older and did what roosters do when they see the sun. cant have a rooster in an apartment building even if you are the superintendent.

    so once the complaints got too much, grandad did what you do to chickens that have run their course. you do that thing with the fingers and wring the neck, pluck the feathers, and dinner.

    mom never forgave grandad for making a dinner out of her pet rooster. 🙂

    but i am glad he took me to the slaughter house to get the family turkey. i felt bad of course, but i also understood better why you didnt waste stuff. dont put on your plate what your not going to finish. be thankful that you have something. say a prayer for the animals. etc.

    there is a pollo vivo place in the neighborhood. i want to go there to get chicken but wife wont let me. she doesnt like birds (eats them though), and to her the thought of that is too much. to me thats odd, but no big deal. i did drop by one afternoon, and they had many different types to choose from, and of course unlike the store you pick your own.

    of course if you know nothing about animals and such its just a random choice of somehing obviously not sick. but clear eyes, and good color, etc. will get you farther. if i did that, i would bet that she would say the chicken tastes better and just like back home in indonesia. (of course because thats how they do it in indonesia in the local areas).

    to examine supermarket chickens takes a different eye. look at the part you think is their elbows/bacwards knee. see if its been cut off. some suppliers dont care and the chickens fatten up so fast that they end up walking on their knuckles and that gets damaged. broken bones that are black at the breaks are different than ones that are not. it meant the animal was alive and bled when the bone was broken.

    i guess its the same with cuts of meat. my wife has wanted to buy meat and i said no. i said they are curling up one cut of meat to make it look like another. people dont know anymore. i am no expert, but i sure can tell certain things.

    all that, and i can build a cabin, program a computer, but nevar kilt me a baire… 🙂

  21. Artfldgr Says:

    Eggscruciating! Roberta the hen dies after laying enormous egg

    Read more:


  22. OmegaPaladin Says:

    Let’s be honest. The video is showing something cute being killed in a disgusting fashion. That’s not to say it is not worth doing for the result, but it is at least regrettable. I don’t plan on consuming less chicken because of that, though.

    And rendering is all nice and good to talk about unless you have lived downwind of a rendering plant… Oh, and it helps transmit mad cow disease.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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